Here’s a true fact about me: I’m obsessed with TV crime shows. Cold Case, CSI, Final Witness, Dateline: Real Life Mysteries–you name it, I’ll watch it. Weirdly enough, I didn’t develop my appreciation for crime shows until late last year when I decided to live on my own.
Settling on a one-bedroom townhouse snuggled in a “quiet” part of town wasn’t a tough decision for me. Sure I could’ve saved some money with a roommate, but I didn’t want to go down that road again–I now have an ex-best friend and slew of other dramatic roommate stories I never want to repeat.
Initially I anticipated some loneliness. What I did not anticipate was fear.
Living alone can be scary. Blame it all on the crime shows. Blame it on my small 5 foot frame. Blame it on the fact that I was raised in an urban community where crime was the norm. But for some strange reason when the sun goes down, any little noise can send me into anxiety. Each night before I fall asleep I check my locks twice, I make sure the blinds are closed, and I always make sure my metal bat is at arm’s length.
But as frightening as living alone can be for a 24-year-old, it’s also liberating. I don’t have to speak with anyone when I come home from work if I’m not in the mood. I control the A/C unit. Most importantly I can run around the house naked.
And it seems like I’m not the only one who enjoys the single-living lifestyle either. Even in an unstable economy, more and more individuals are choosing to live in a single-household.
Meg Favreau is the senior editor of Wise Bread, a website dedicated to frugal living and personal finance. Though it may not seem “frugal” to live on her own, Favreau says it’s important enough to her that she saves in other areas so she can afford rent. “I’d definitely move in with a significant other,” says Favreau. “But for now, I really appreciate not having a roommate.”
In fact, the number of “singletons”–a term New York University sociology professor Eric Klinenberg coined in his book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone–increased globally from 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011, according to the latest statistics from market research firm Euro Monitor.
Sweden has the most number of single dwellers in the world, with 47% of its population living alone. Norway comes in a close second, with 40%.
In the U.S., about 27% (31 million) of Americans live alone the Census reports, most of which are women–17 million compared to 14 million men to be exact.
While the majority of single U.S. dwellers are middle-aged adults, those between the ages of 18-and-34 are quickly catching up. Not to mention these young singles are becoming important assets to the economy. Young singles have disposable income which can in-turn revitalize some cities since singles spend more money socializing with friends at restaurants, bars, and public events instead of hanging out with roommates, family members, or with live-in partners at home.
But why has this phenomenon of single dwelling occurred in the first place? For the middle age generation, some attribute it to the increasing divorce rate. Experts explain that fresh divorcees look forward to their own space, something some of them have never had in their lives. But for the young professionals, living single and becoming an early homeowner may be the result of its “affordability.” Tammy Jo, a real estate agent in the Grand Rapids area in Michigan, explains further:
“I have had a lot of singles, both men and women, buying homes this year,” Jo said. “The key is that they are comfortable making the payments on their own (within their budget[s]) and that they would rather have a home than being stuck within the confines and regulations of an apartment complex.”
The communications revolution, which allows people to “connect” and stay social via social networking sites and text messaging even when living alone, could also be a driving force some experts say.
For me (a fairly recent college graduate) living alone and having the means to provide for myself without any assistance reflects that I truly am an independent woman and have reached my personal level of success, for now at least. But while independence is glamorized and encouraged in the States, that’s not the case in other countries.
In Iran, there are many women–mostly divorcees and young students–who crave their independence and want to live on their own, but due to tradition and religion can’t obtain single apartments as easily. As noted in an New York Times article, some even have to go through great lengths to “trick” landlords into letting them rent an apartment, like wearing fake wedding bands.
Lucky for me, living single is socially accepted and wonderful. I don’t need to compromise. There are no fights. And, of course, I can walk around naked. But I still make sure I sleep near my metal bat.