Thursday, February 9, 2012

Going Solo

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.


Anonymous said...

Mary, I know you and have danced with you and had a wonderful meal at your home in Port Townsend. You are kind a gracious person. I consider you to be a catch and some lucky guy is out there waiting to be found by you, or him you.

Yes, we all know more as we get older and value our spaces and time to do as we wish but I feel there is and should be someplace in there for another who brings a feeling of completion in our lives even though is may come with a compromise. I fully expect that. The value of the relationship should more than make up for some inconvenience that my be endured. Actually I feel if your reaction is one of inconvenience to your lifestyle it is probably not right for you. When that person fills your glass to the brim you know that it right. I, for one, look forward to having a special person in my life again.
See you on the dance floor.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for being on the tour.

Ted Lehmann said...

Nice review Mary. I don't usually respond to reviews by others who review the same works I've done, but I like the way you personalized the reading while not making the piece just about you, a pretty tough trick. I look forward to reading other reviews you write over time. - Ted

Mindy Mitchell said...

Hello, Mary!
I will always call Seattle home even though I have lived in the metro DC area for nearly 20 years. It still feels transitional!

I am happy to run across your blog as I, too, am 60 and single...well, 61, actually. I can so relate to your posts. And I also think of myself as a 'catch' and when my marriage ended abruptly in 2007 I was certain I would pick up where I left off. Or something like that. But many years later I still hadn't found an adventure partner.

I tried online dating (and was none too happy about it) and ended up meeting a man who was not my perfect partner (as I was not his) but we have now been together for 2years and have written a book about it. I am not here to tout our book but I do spend a lot of time speaking to others about not losing hope and having the courage to step off into one's next great adventure.

I applaud YOUR courage and enjoy the way you express yourself. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly.

Mindy Mitchell


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