a home of one's own

by caro cooper

This chortle-inducing rant comes straight from the pages of frankie issue 85, on sale now.

solo living big

A good friend recently moved out by herself for the first time. She has a cat, so she's not really alone, but if it were Census time she would be ticking the box marked ‘one-person household’. Meanwhile, I've lived alone on and off for 10 years. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes because the sound of my flatmate’s key in the door sent shudders down my spine. I’ve lived alone when single, in a relationship, and in the weird, murky dishwater of ‘it’s complicated’.

Some people don't like saying they live alone. They say they live ‘independently’ or use some other wording that reads like a nursing home brochure. I'm not afraid of alone, the word or the state. It's different from lonely – which is what people are really scared of – though in a Venn diagram the two would overlap. Living alone is liberating, fun, productive and, yes, sometimes lonely. But then, sharehouse living, family life and coupledom all touch that circle of lonely, too. I've lived with partners and felt more isolated than I ever did living by myself – and I had to listen to them whine, to boot.

The first time I ever moved out on my own, I looked around my box-strewn studio apartment, complete with a Murphy bed, and called my friend. “I’ve made a terrible mistake,” I sobbed into my Nokia. She said, “Give it time.” She was right. I tried to tell my cat-owning friend this – don’t expect it to feel natural straight away. It’s some kind of detox, of people and noises and presence. But, in their place, new things will grow.

Living alone, I learn more; read more; listen to more podcasts; relax shamelessly. While co-habitating, my middle-class guilt prevented me from sleeping a Sunday away. I needed to get up and ‘do brunch’. Now, I can spend the weekend in bed eating TeeVee Snacks, but tell inquiring colleagues I was gallery-hopping with attractive friends. Unlike me, though, many solo dwellers I know go out more, see more people, and do more things than ever. It can be a social motivator, or it can be a comfortable couch of solitude. Sometimes both in one day.

Living alone is freedom for your peculiarities. You can listen to talkback radio at five in the morning; fart proudly; clean when it suits you; and use all the hot water. You can eat the same thing every meal without judgment. That was one of the things I disliked most about sharehouse living: people commenting on what I ate. To me, food is like genitals – don’t touch it, sniff it or comment on it unless you’re invited.

But for all the freedoms, there are also practical realities to consider. No one will find you for ages if you slip in the shower. Food goes off fast, so you’ll be eating stale bread five out of seven days (unless you chuck it in the freezer on day one). You need to be a decisive problem-solver when your washing machine floods the apartment or you set fire to the carpet. And you should probably keep a baseball bat under your bed. Just in case.

Ten years in, I still haven’t nailed the art of living solo. Things still surprise or confuse me. A minor illness can make living alone feel like the saddest, most isolating thing in the world, while a trip home at Christmas can make it seem so right, so perfect for your mental health. For all the baseball bats and exploding washing machines, there’s also the peace, independence, and joy of stale cheese jaffles in bed at 6pm, with a box of biscuits, an episode of
 and zero judgment. Live free.

Pick up a copy of frankie issue 85 to read even more rant-y goodness. Nab a copy here, or subscribe from $10.50.

Rad pic by Lukasz Wierzbowski. 

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