Home alone: the trend, not the movie

Mar 22 2012 - 2:16pm

Paradox of the week: if you live alone, you're not alone.

According to "Going Solo: The Extraordinary And Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," by Eric Klineberg, PhD, more than 50 percent of American adults are single (up from 22 percent in 1950), and one in seven adults lives alone.

Granted, the statistics are muddied by the fact that some survey respondents think they're living alone when they're really not. Take your average CEO, for example. ("What? You've been my roomie all this time? I didn't realize you were a human being. I thought you were a number. Ha ha. My bad. You're fired. Get out!")

The trend of living sans spouse, parents, children, romantic partner, or roommate has been labeled as the greatest demographic shift since the immigration wave of the 1890s and early1900s, the Baby Boom of 1946-1964 and the coming to their senses of Charlie Sheen's "goddesses" in 2011.

Society has viewed those in single-occupancy situations ("singletons," as Klineberg dubs them) as weirdo loners or objects of pity, but Klineberg finds them more socially active and aware of their self-worth than their traditional counterparts. Yes, these people may dwell in a "fortress of solitude" for x number of hours a day, but when they're at the workplace or parties or civic meetings, they're reinvigorated for sharing information such as, "Do you know what my cats did when I came home -- or at least what they would have done if they had been awake?"

Millions of wild and crazy Americans are out there thumping their chests over the fact that they can leave the bathroom door open, enjoy un-hogged bedcovers and sing Serbian translations of Culture Club songs in the shower.

The only drawback is the sound of the ghosts of their Viking ancestors weeping their hearts out.

Klineberg calls for bold policy initiatives to "embrace and support" the change. I'm sure more and more businesses will exploit the situation. Broken hips and heart attacks are so passe; medical alert bracelets will now be specialized into categories such as Big Hairy Spider, Pinned Under Stack of Bud Light Bottles and Need Someone Besides The Dog To Blame My Flatulence On.

Washington may be more interested in subsidizing the status quo than in embracing change. Society is not ready for the extinction of wacky roommates who double dog dare you to steal the Hollywood sign or ski jump a shark -- or at least pass the remote. ("Too zany to fail!")

Look for preachers to begin denouncing the phenomenon. After all, the family has been the building block of society, while singletons have been the "splintered Lincoln Log of society that sort of got kicked under the sofa ." Get ready for shouts of "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and a diet of Cheetos" and "Yea, verily, I will spew thee out of my mouth like that milk you left out on the counter."

One legitimate concern is that individuals will grow quirkier and quirkier without monitoring or "surveilling eyes" (as Klineberg puts it).

After years of extra "me time," just imagine the social interaction in, say, a courtroom, as the judge bangs his gavel. ("Dang'd if that feller in the black robe don't have an earwax remover thingie just like mine!")

Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades."

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