Solo dwellers, we have our book! Eric Klinenberg’s book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, will be published tomorrow. My advanced copy is already dog-eared. At Living Single, I explained why I think this book will become a social science classic, read by students, scholars, and smart readers everywhere for years to come. At my Single at Heart blog, I shared 12 of the surprising facts you can learn about living alone from Going Solo.
At some point, I want to make the case that the single-at-heart spirit is what we need to understand next. Among some who are single-at-heart, living solo is not just convenient or preferable – it is the only way to live their lives most fully, meaningfully, and authentically. Not to get too corny, but they can’t “be all that they can be” unless they live alone.
I also want to make the point that living solo is not always a matter of living lightly. Some singletons provide significant long-term caring for people who are disabled or seriously ill. That they do so while maintaining their own place probably makes their challenging work more doable, emotionally.
This post is for delighting in the stereotype-busting and myth-upending work that Eric Klinenberg offers us in Going Solo. Readers of Singled Out and Singlism know that I love data and statistics. When I want to stick a fork in a myth, I look for relevant studies. Klinenberg draws from other research, too, but he also gives us compelling real-life stories of people who are living in myth-defying ways.
In the chapter on “Aging Alone,” he takes on the “myth that older women who live alone are constantly searching for a new husband” (p. 165). One of the stories is about Ava, who moved from Long Island to a housing coop near Coney Island after her husband died and her children had left the nest. Starting anew in a place where she knew no one, Ava developed wonderful friendships and created a full life.
Then Ava met Victor, a man she had known from long ago, and they began to see each other often. They both revel in the time they spend with each other, but they keep it real – by choice, they see each other only on weekends.
Ava does muse about what it would be like to live with Victor. Here’s what Klinenberg says about that:
“She considers how busy she is already and recognizes that, like so many of her female contemporaries, she’s more interested in having someone to go out with than in having someone to come home to. Inevitably, she concludes that she’s better off going solo. ‘Also,’ Ava jokes, scanning her tidy apartment, ‘I really don’t have much room here for a man. I mean, I have no closet space! Where am I going to put him?’ (pp. 166-167)”