Thursday, March 1, 2012


Today's edition of one of my favorite news/political talk shows, Morning Joe on MSNBC, which I watch online, got me to thinking about this subject. There have been other recent reports on the fact that more and more Americans are choosing to live alone. In 1950, there were just 4 million, and many of them were considered weird or eccentric, and pitied for their lifestyle. Today, they number 33 million, fully 28% of all American households. Also, back in 1950, living alone for many was a temporary arrangement as the individual was actively engaged in looking to end that status, mostly through finding someone to love and cohabit with or marry.

But the biggest difference in 2012 is that many of these living aloners are quite happy with their situation and are not actively seeking to change it. The subject is the first big new idea that is changing our lives in a list of ten such ideas featured in the current TIME MAGAZINE cover story, which prompted the discussion on Morning Joe this morning. It had me thinking about my colorful and varied living arrangements through the years. I have often lived alone in the past, but was very willing to change that status. I've only lived with three women in my life, for several years each. One was just a good friend, the other two were relationship partners, and with one of those, Maggie, I lived on a houseboat and traveled around the U.S. and Canada in a customized motorhome.

From 1994-1996, I lived in a commune with nine women and four other men. This was not nearly as confining as it might sound, as I had my own large bedroom in a large 9 bedroom house, and there was a lot of respect for personal privacy. My next abode was in the forced community of prison, where I was usually assigned a cellmate, having no say in the choice. The best of times during those worst of times was when I bribed the housing clerk at Folsom State Prison to have a cell all to myself for an entire year. It cost me $15 worth of Ramen noodles a month and was worth every noodle.

And now I live alone in a rented room in a house on a tree-lined street in a small town a few miles south of San Francisco. The terms of my parole forced me to live in this county where I did not know a single other human being, so I will be deciding in the not-too-distant future on some major changes in my status, perhaps even relocating overseas.

The biggest difference in my looking at how I want to live my life in the future is that living alone is now a viable option. I know I can do it and thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, all of my various permutations of living arrangements have had some advantages as well as some disadvantages--even prison. And with the exception of prison, I am open to any of them happening again in my next phase of life.

We often hear that writing is a "lonely" profession, and I would change that to an "alone" profession. The two are not synonymous. I am alone, not lonely. The distinction is important. To check out the difference, I consulted the Urban Dictionary online, and came up with this depressing set of synonyms for "lonely."

Pretty depressing, wouldn't you say? Obviously "alone" is a whole different experience, and one to be honored and cherished and appreciated.

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