I've gotta admit, the last thing I expected in summer, 2005, when my marriage ended, was that way up ahead in 2012, I'd still be on my own. I thought of myself as a catch. (Doesn't everybody? of themselves, I mean, not of me….)
Not only am I still solo, but I guess I've become such an expert that they wanted my opinion when they wrote the book. And thus I was asked to review sociologist Eric Klinenberg's new book, Going Solo.
It made me feel better, and it made me feel worse.
I felt better as I read the statistics. I am not the Lone Ranger here. In cities like Seattle, 40% of households shelter just one person. Which I guess I should have known, since in my condo of eight, every unit is occupied by a single woman. For some reason, my hardest moments of singleness are when I think everybody else is with somebody. You know, like Christmas. I guess I don't have to worry about this anymore.
Women are more likely than men to choose to stay alone after the divorce or death of a spouse. Partly, they're loving a freedom new to them; partly they don't want to be caretakers for men who don't live as long. And it's easier for women to forge the connections with friends that make singleness work. We like to go out, which may be why the lead/follow balance is so often female-heavy at dances.
Klinenberg interviewed more than 300 people for his book, and some of the loneliest are apparently the meanest.
Thank God we are not like that!
But Klinenberg says even the mean folks are choosing to be alone, whenever they can afford it.
Money is the big factor in the huge rise in single living; we do it because we can, he says. We're healthy and prosperous enough to insulate ourselves from the annoyances and compromises of sharing a home.
However -- and this made me feel worse, and a little worried -- few of us are prosperous enough to afford the really appealing assisted living facilities we'll need. As a friend of mine said recently, he likes the ice floe option.
I'm not sure all this singleness is good for the human race. I think we get our rough edges smoothed when we live with others. It's a truism -- in other words, a truth -- that people who have never married are more prickly. So which comes first: you're prickly because you're single, or you're single because you're prickly?
Going Solo is more than a look at how various individuals tackle singleness. Think of the public policy implications: Do we need any more big suburban houses, ever? Don't we need lots more little apartments, with ballrooms and gyms and party rooms below? In fact, the urban singles trend is better for the environment than the sprawl we grew up in.
And speaking of how singles like to go out in the evenings? I'll be interested to see how many of us gather together to hear Klinenberg when he speaks at Town Hall on February 29 at 7:30.
That's leap day. In Britain, leap year is when, traditionally, the women get to propose. I guess that's not going to be happening.