Review Review

I haven't read this book, but Alice sent me the review with the query "What's your take on her comments about "Living Alone"?" So, herewith my take:

I agree with PB's concerns about how the book's author portrays living alone: as a sign of failure in relationships, as somehow unsatisfying and unmooring because our friends are all living in relationships and with children.  Here's one of PB's thoughts:
Klinenberg’s research is good but I am disappointed by his insistence on framing the decision to live alone as super courageous or in some way almost radical. Maybe it’s because living alone is so overwhelmingly my own natural preference that I just don’t related to what he describes.Demographically, yes. Emotionally, not really. I think if he was giving a talk on the subject, his “Wow, singletons are such PIONEERS, here’s what we’ve learned about these fascinating creatures” lens would probably cause me to get up and leave. Not because he’s offensive, but because I just can’t relate to that attitude. It actually makes me feel like a weirdo for living alone, when I never feel like a weirdo for living alone.
Now, PB is a minister, so her experience of her days and life is very different from mine working in a school.  When people ask me why I haven't had children (recognizing that I'm a little too old to actually have children at some point in my life), my response is usually "I work with [insert number of enrolled students] on a daily basis, I don't need to come home to more!".  NOTE: that is in no way a condemnation of those who both work in a school and have children!  I am awed by their decision.  But it's not for me.

Like my decision to not have children, my desire to live alone isn't because of some failure.  It's because  at heart, deep down, I'm selfish.  Really.  Living with someone means that you can't do what you want, eat what you want, sleep when you want, that you have to take them and their needs into consideration.  I've lived with someone (Thing One, for 12 years) and lived on my own (15 years bracketing that time) and living alone is better.  Except when I'm sick, when I absolutely want someone there to bring me tea and orange juice and toast and an extra blanket.  Other than that, I'd prefer to be alone.  Actually, the perfect set-up, the one I dream about, is connecting homes (eg, apartments side-by-side, a house with a granny flat) so I can have the best of both worlds.

When I speak with others my age who choose to live alone, mostly they're in agreement: living alone is essentially a selfish act, but also a brave one.  Some people need to be with others all the time, uncomfortable in silence and being alone (aka "left to their own devices"), and it appears that those are the people the author interviewed.

Back to PB:
Every day that I unlock the parsonage door and let myself in to the blessed silence, beauty and order of my home, I say a prayer for all those who have to open the door in fear or anxiety, rather than in joyful anticipation. Every day that I lived with boyfriends — no matter how much I adored them — was awkward and self-conscious for me, as I did not know how to find peace with another person in such close quarters.
So true.

Reading the comments, I learned that the author, Eric Klinenberg, is a sociology professor at NYU.  So no surprise that he takes a very negative view of living alone, that he sees negative social consequences and that his analysis is facile.  To give him a fair chance, I watched his AfterWords appearance.  He tended to praise with faint damns those of us who choose to live alone, particularly those of us who had previously lived with someone (apparently we'd prefer to live with someone, but life hasn't led us to the right person and after having failed once we're afraid to fail again... or something like that).

And now I've spent too much time and effort dealing with this book, the review, his interview and the whole concept, none of which actually deserved the time I've spent.  Back to my books and my solitude.

1 comment:

Alice in Infoland said...

"living alone is essentially a selfish act, but also a brave one." I knew you'd find a way to sum it up succinctly!
Bravo to you!