How to be alone on Valentine’s Day

betty ming liu Relationships 14 Comments

For the first time in my life, I am quite happy about being single on Valentine’s Day. There’s no whining, no resentment. No sadness or fury either. I am actually seeing my solo state as a blessing, a privilege and…..a status symbol? Yeah. Singlehood, believe it or not, is becoming trendy. 

That last notion comes courtesy of a new book, “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.” Author Eric Klinenberg says that more people than ever are making this choice. Since living alone takes money, the ability to afford this lifestyle shows a degree of affluence. Even more importantly — the expanding population of solo souls is redefining relationships, family, the aging process and our culture. 

The number of households with only one occupant now accounts for one out of every two homes in both Manhattan and Washington, D.C., says Klinenberg. In big cities like Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Franciso and Minneapolis, 40 percent of all homes are one-person dwellings. While the largest segment of singles living this way are middle-aged, increasing numbers of of over-65 folks are going it alone too.

The New York Times made nice charts to go with its story. Had no idea that living single was such a global trend that impacts so many of us.

Maybe the terror and stigma of being uno is finally diminishing — and with good reason. Here are three of  Klinenberg’s quotes from the Times article. I like all of them:

Living alone comports with modern values. It promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization — all prized aspects of contemporary life.

In fact, living alone can make it easier to be social, because single people have more free time, absent family obligations, to engage in social activities.

Those who decided to live alone following a breakup or a divorce could choose to move in with roommates or family. But many of those I interviewed said they chose to live alone because they had found there was nothing worse than living with the wrong person.

Does that last phrase hit home for anyone else besides me?!

The prospect of nesting with the wrong guy scares me more than living alone. My shrink says that I may feel differently if I meet someone wonderful. Still, an 18-year marriage, a divorce and more than a decade of middle-aged dating have worn me out. These days, I am content with doing my own thing. Being single feels safe.

Of course, that’s not the same as living alone. But my daughter  is going away to college in less than two years. Once she leaves, Mommy, the dog and three cats will be rattling around a bunch of empty rooms. Even though I’m a bit worried about loneliness and becoming too set in my ways, those are things that I can worry about later…

For further reflection, I recommend the Wall Street Journal’s review of the new Klinenberg book. Also worth checking out is his New York Times opinion piece, which includes some nice charts. I’m also very fond of my earlier post: How to have romance in your life when you’re not dating.

So let’s hear it for creating lives, routines and moments that actually please us. Taking good care of our own selves is an act of true love.

P.S. — Thanks for being my special valentine.  xox


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Comments 14

  1. Pingback: Moving through life with love

  2. Brian

    I was expecting a ‘how to’ class. Oh well. valentines day was the same for me again this year. I bought chocolates and a stuffed dog for daughter. She said she was expecting something different and her daughter took the dog back so she could buy pants (where is the receipt ?) Then she said “you should marry my sister” To which I answered “I don’t love your sister, I love you” Which went right past her to her daughter who somehow got it.
    How does that song go “There goes my old girlfriend, there another diamond ring”

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    betty ming liu

    thank, joel! nice to hear from a couple that’s happy to be together — but doesn’t celebrate valentine’s day. i guess i sort of celebrated…my daughter always wants me to buy her presents on feb. 14 so i found some godiva chocolate pretzels on sale at macy’s (two small boxes for $6!) and we just got back from sushi dinner.

    btw, i just read another interview with the “going solo” author in which he distinguishes between being alone and living alone. after thinking about this stuff all day, i would say that i’d rather live alone than with someone who is the wrong partner. but given the offer to live with a great partner, i would choose that in second over living alone. no matter how much work it is, a marvelous relationship is always worth the effort. :)

  5. Joel Friedlander

    Great to hear, Betty. We don’t celebrate this holiday, I guess we’re just not that sentimental, and I don’t think you’re missing much. After 26 years of marriage, every day there’s a reason to say how thankful we are. Enjoy yourself, you deserve it.

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    betty ming liu

    haha, amantha! i have a married friend who sits in the front hall closet to have the occasional beer. but i’m glad to report that she and her husband are very sweet to each other as they deal with a house filled with kids.

    and i like your mom’s quote, bria. i’ve been on both sides of that one. happy v-day to you both too. :)

  7. Amantha Tsaros

    Oh, Betty. You are so right. I would much rather be alone than in bad company. I enjoy my company so very much.

    It wasn’t until I really loved being by myself that I met my now-husband who thought I was so cool because I “let” him go fishing. Really, now. I need time to myself oh so much.

    Have a fabulous day. And you are so lucky you do not have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get time to yourself. :)

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    betty ming liu

    toby, i still believe in lasting love. but if it doesn’t happen for me, i can accept it. the community-building that you speak of is crucial to my life. and like you, i value the special brightness that comes from being around young folks.

    charlotte and christie, i agree that singlehood isn’t easy. but think of all the struggling couples that are trying to get through today. having been there, i never ever want to go that route again. now excuse while i go hug my cat.

  9. Christie

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been single for over three and a half years and there are moments when I long for a companion, someone to share my life with, but I trust it’ll happen when it’s supposed to. I needed to take this path towards self discovery on my own and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    If today is truly a day of love – find the love within. Don’t feel sorry for yourself that you don’t “have” someone. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Learn to embrace and accept what is.

  10. Toby

    Betty: I’m glad it works for you. We each have different requirements for happiness, certainly. For me, living alone would be a fate worse than death – litterally. There are, however, many ways to accomplish not living alone. Right now, in addiiton to my wonderful husband and the sundry “adopted” sons who are in and out most weekends, theres a kid (well, not a “kid” – he’s 22 – but from where I stand…that’s a kid) a perfectly wonderful youngster whom we had come to know living with us full time who was quite ill and needed to be extracted from an abusive home situation. Good, food, stress-free rest and proper medical attention and he’ll be fine. Meanwhile, he is another ray of sunshine in our lives. He thinks we’ve done him a favor. Ha! It is the reverse of that. Now I have someone else to cook for and fuss over, which I love to do and there was an available guest room, just going to waste. I long ago realized that one of my major requirements for a happy life was that I need to be useful and there are so many ways to accomplish that. Not living alone doesn’t necessarily mean marriage. There are a great many ways to put to use the space we call home and share it with others.

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    betty ming liu

    now you’re talkin’ girl! cheap chocolates for sale. maybe a good time to pick up red-colored items too.

    on another note, i’m chatting with a new reader on an earlier post about breakups and long marriages. bob raises great questions about relationships.

    the question now becomes this….the numbers show that more women than men are opting for alone-ness. of course, there are more women living longer. but beyond that, do women and men want different things from each other?

    or even more broadly speaking — if women of all ages can make their own money and are increasingly better educated then men, what do they want from a man? what do men want from women?

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