Dom Knight‘s recent article about living alone gave me pause for thought. I moved out of home when I was 18 and until early last year, always lived with dorm mates (never again), flatmates (maybe so long as they didn’t have alcohol or drug issues/a British boyfriend who’d move in rent free/don’t sneak into my room in the middle of the night pretending they think it’s theirs/or move out after two weeks), or a partner.
I’d never lived alone and suddenly I had to. I was 27, couldn’t budget and was so afraid of the dark that I checked my cupboards every night. Yet I survived and grew to love it so much that my mum recently told me that I might want to consider not living alone for too much longer because I’ll inevitably ‘turn a bit weird’ and I was all ‘Pfft, it’s like we’ve never met. You’re 28 years late to that party, homeboy’.
On that note, here is my take on the realities of living alone as a single lady:
Get a pet. This isn’t for companionship. If you get a pet that lives outside of water (water-dwelling ones don’t count. In fact, nothing that lives in a tank counts as any kind of pet. You basically just bought something that stinks and is boring), you’re not getting companionship, you’re getting a hairy child that can’t speak but can surprise poop and/or vomit. So what’s the point? The point is if you have a pet, any noise you hear during the night can be blamed on them. That strange bump? The cat. The window sliding open? Cat. The sound of the TV being passed out the window? Cat. Sleep on sweet babe, there’s nothing to worry about! I am over-qualified to provide this advice, having lived through two share house burglaries, both of which happened when I was home, once alone.
It’s much better to have a pet to blame it on.
Don’t trust pizza delivery guys. When I last lived with someone, we had a really odd pizza delivery guy. I can’t do it justice, but somehow this guy managed to undress you, bend you over the couch and roger you stupid with his eyes all in the time it took him to hand you your pizza and combination of sides. After one order, I had accepted my pizza and sexual eye relations, gone to the kitchen and gotten plates and returned to the lounge room, when I realised I hadn’t heard the delivery guy exit the building. When I looked through the peep hole in the door, he was pressed up against it, looking back. I vowed never to order pizza again and didn’t, until six months after I’d moved into my current place and was living alone. I thought, why not? It’s been six months, I’ve moved, surely I’m not going to get the same delivery guy!
I did and when I opened the door he spoke for the first time: ‘Ah! This is where you moved to!’
I no longer eat pizza.
Be wary of neighbours. I have some excellent neighbours. There’s an old Greek couple who are amazed at everything I do, from going to the gym to working in the city and I proudly tell them stories about each. There’s a lovely couple across the hall who I laughed with once like best friends when the husband hid under the communal stairs and jumped out to scare me, thinking I was his wife. However, I also have a psuedo gang member neighbour with neck tattoos, who tried to hit on one of my sisters and who got carried up the stairs by a large Tongan man on New Years Day and spent an hour giggling to himself in the hallway before he passed out.
All of the above are overshadowed by the presence of my downstairs neighbour who we’ll call Terrifying, because she is. Terrifying is obsessed with the details of my day-to-day life life. She sees me come and go, so I understand how she’d have gathered that I live alone and work during the week. I ill-advisedly lent her $2 once for cigarettes so she knows I’m good for cash and she knows how silky smooth my skin is because she once drunkenly kissed me after telling me she was going to put her cat down (the cat still lives). She was actually the last person I kissed in 2010 and I’m fairly sure she jinxed me.
However, none of this will ever top the first time I met Terrifying. I’d only been living alone for a few weeks and there was a knock at the door. When I opened it, I found Terrifying, drunk and holding an industrial-sized black garbage bag that was stuffed full of something.
‘Hello, I’m Terrifying from downstairs. I saw you hanging out your washing the other day and I noticed you have large breasts like my daughter. So I thought you might want these, they’re brand new, but my daughter doesn’t want them, she’s moving’.
Stunned, I found myself alone in my lounge room, clutching a giant black plastic bag I didn’t even remember taking from her. I opened it cautiously and found what must’ve been 30 bras, none of them anywhere near new, below them were some stockings and then further down, some undies. I slowly tied the bag in a knot, went into my bedroom, closed the door and freaked the fuck out. After the sun set, I crept down to the car park and hid the bag at the bottom of my bin.
Now when I hear her knock, I instinctively cover my chest and hide.
Don’t tell smug couples that you live alone. Once I was out enjoying some beers with a close friend of mine and her partner and a male friend of theirs, whose girlfriend was elsewhere. We’ll call him British, because he is. After many, many beers and a lot of good chats and laughs, we were trying to plan our next move, which would involve finding the absent girlfriend and like anything involving couples and feelings, the decision was taking a long time to make. I turned to British and made a joke along the lines of ‘Couples hey? You guys and your feelings and decisions!’ and he smiled and said ‘Well yes, it’s true, relationships have their downsides, but I guess at the end of the night, I’m going home with someone I love, and you’re going home alone!’
He was right too.
Be careful food shopping. I’m not talking budgeting here kids, although that helps because food shopping for one is expensive. No, I’m talking about being careful about the combinations of things you buy if your local supermarket staff know you’re a live aloner. For example, if it’s late at night and I need cat food, I have to be careful what else I buy. Cat food and chocolate or cat food and a gossip magazine are complete no-gos. When you’re a live aloner, especially a woman, you want people to at least suspect you haven’t given up on having a sex life. However, it gets tricky. If you are a notorious local live aloner and you decide to be responsible and shop for condoms on the off chance you do have a sex life, you can’t be in the mood for cucumbers in the same shopping trip. Never should condoms and cucumbers grace your basket at the same time. Ever. Not even if you’re buying heaps of other stuff. Condoms and cucumbers symbolise you’ve given up on life and news of this will travel fast.
Other than that, loving alone is pretty rad. For a start, there is no sharing, all the food is mine. Saturday morning is loud hip-hop dancing in pyjamas time and if I feel like doing the washing up just wearing undies, all I have to do is turn the kitchen light out to make sure no-one in the car park can’t see me. I also get to watch the bloopers reels of movies repeatedly and when I decided to rent Get Him to the Greek, I watched the scene where Jonah Hill imitates Cedric Bixler-Zavala about 850 times just because I could and it was the best part of the movie. I also regularly use my time in the shower to practise singing like Antony Hegarty and there’s no-one to mention the word ‘nutrition’ if I decide to eat a cookie while waiting for my toast to be ready.
I won’t lie, there are downsides. It’s really expensive to live alone in Sydney and there’s something inherently unfair about opening bills and having to pay them by yourself. When I find a way to get a cat to pay rent, I’m set though. Having to go to bed alone after reading a few chapters of Helter Skelter is possibly the worst thing I’ve had to do recently, although I’m not sure how much a housemate would really have appreciated me creeping into their bed in my weird combination of pyjamas and footballs socks, and I will also admit to spending one night lying alone in the dark inventing origin stories for myself and then Tweeting them.
Until it sends me either broke or bonkers (I have considered that maybe once upon a time, Terrifying was just like me and that perhaps I am Terrifying MKII), living alone is the way to go.