A friend of mine sent along this link about Eric Klinenberg’s book, “Going Solo,” which I still haven’t read. I found this passage particularly interesting:
Klinenberg goes on to explore the forces and factors that have sparked the transformative social experience of living alone, which has in turn changed not only the way we understand ourselves and our most intimate relationships, but also the way we structure our cities and orchestrate our economies, demonstrating that solo living affects the lives of nearly everyone in the social ecosystem. He points to four key developments driving this cult of individualism, championed by Emerson and Thoreau: (1) The wealth generated by economic growth and the social security provided by the modern welfare state (“Put simply, one reason that more people live alone than ever before is that today more people can afford to do so.”); (2) the communications revolution (“For those who want to live alone, the Internet affords rich new ways to stay connected.”); (3) mass urbanization (“Subcultures thrive in cities, which tend to attract nonconformists who are able to find others like themselves in the dense variety of urban life.”); (4) increased longevity (“Because people are living longer than ever before — or, more specifically, because women often outlive their spouses by decades rather than years — aging alone has become an increasingly common experience.”).
I’ve been thinking a lot more about the costs of solitary living vs. living in groups or in partnerships because of some of the blogging I’ve been doing at bitch. Particularly in light of some of the stories that have emerged about academics & aspiring academics who are receiving food stamps while earning doctorates and admitting in public that I 1) have a change/Coinstar addiction and 2) am actually a closet business nerd.
One thing I’ve been repeating to my friends is a quote from Claire Bidwell Smith’s book, The Rules of Inheritance, that both haunts me and provides food for thought is this concept of not being anyone’s Most Important Person. I think that has economic consequences and emotional ones. I think they must be mitigated by all the people who are living alone and who are single.
I wonder how other people do that. I’ve been so blessed that I have relatives, and friends who are just like family, who serve to support me in a myriad of ways. Some of them are other single women. Others are partnered. I don’t take them for granted. At the same time, I’m still working on how to navigate having the solitude & space to create with being accessible & available physically and emotionally for my communities in real life and virtually. It seems that those of us who live alone and are single have to put more effort and intention into this journey.