Author’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Fall 2013 Issue of Take Out, a handwritten paper zine.
In the six years since I graduated high school, I’ve lived in six different apartments, in two different states, and I’ve had over 15 different roommates. I like to think that I’ve become an exceptional roommate–minimal bad habits, streamlined living conditions, et cetera et cetera. However, when I moved back to Chicago last year, there was one point on which I was immovable: I wanted to live ALONE. I plan to get married someday, and I wanted to live by myself before I found the person I would share a home with forever (and ever).
But I gotta say… no one really prepared me for the all-out joy (and occasional sadness) that comes with living alone.
For one thing, pants are totally optional. You guys. This was ground breaking. Sometimes I would catch myself sitting on my bed, wearing pants and I realized that I could just take them off. It’s liberating.
The only annoying habits you have to deal with are your own. A couple years ago I lived with a roommate who would put the empty ice cube trays back into the freezer. Empty ice cube trays. Into the freezer. It drove me NUTS. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t take two steps to, you know, fill it up with water first. The only reason I didn’t confront her was a) I’m afraid of conflict and b) I had three roommates and I didn’t know who the culprit was.
But when you live alone… the ice tray is always filled with water before you put it in the freezer. And the toilet paper roll is always oriented over, not under. And you always know who watched your DVDs last, or whose turn it is to buy dish soap, or who left the light on all night, because the answer is always “you.” Or the ghost who lives in your closet. Maybe I need to get out more, but it’s surprisingly liberating to be the only person racking up the electricity bill.
The only downside is that if you gripe about the fact that no one washes their damn dishes after they cook dinner then your friends think you’re insane.
You have to deal with your own spiders. When I lived in California, I found no less than three black widow spiders in my garage. Three. And one of them had laid an egg sac. I made my roommates dispose of all of them (using fire, because black widows point and laugh at shoes and tissues).
Unfortunately, the first time I saw a spider in my studio, I realized that there was no one to kill it for me–I had to be a big girl and deal with it myself. I compromised by leaving my window open for 3 hours until it found its way outside because there’s no way in hell I would ever touch a spider.
Your apartment becomes an impregnable fortress of solitude. Not unlike, in the words of Penny from The Big Band Theory, “Superman’s big ice thingy.” The best part of living alone (in my socially anxious opinion) is that you can control who’s there. If you want to be alone, you can be alone. You don’t have to live in fear that someone will arrive home and want to (God forbid) talk about their day, or watch a movie you don’t want to watch, or cook brussels sprouts that make the entire house smell like cooked vegetables. You always have control of the remote, and you never have to close the bathroom door, and you never have to listen to music you hate unless you’re in a masochistic mood.
It’s almost as freeing as not having to wear pants.
…But sometimes you still get lonely. If you hadn’t guessed it already, I’m an introvert. I recharge my batteries by myself, and my energy is drained when I spend too much time with people and not enough time alone. Before I moved into my studio, I believed that I would never get lonely living by myself, because why on earth would I want to be around other people? Preposterous! But perhaps my most important lesson, is that it can be kind of lonely to live by yourself.
For the first 23 years of my life, if I wanted to pop open a movie, or have a couple beers, or cook dinner with someone, or share the stories of my day, there was a 60% chance (almost 80% when I lived with five other women) that there was someone home to hang out with me. And during the 40-20% of the time that I was home alone, I was able to appreciate it more because it was a moment in time and I knew someone would walk through the door in an hour or two.
That might be the reason why, even though I loved my year of solo-living in my adorable studio, I was more than ready to trade it in for roommate-living again. I’m writing this sitting happily next to my roommate, who is tearing recipes out of magazines while we watch episodes of Buffy. And I don’t mind trading in wearing pants, dealing with someone else’s annoying habits and sacrificing my fortress of solitude in exchange for companionship. And someone to help me kill spiders.