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« In Which I Could Tell You But Then You'd Be Dead | Main | In Which Tess Discovers That There's No Place Like Home »

In Which Tess Longs For A Home of Her Very Own

Catch up with the first part of Tess' house-hunting series here.

House Hunting

Part Two: Living Alone

by Tess Lynch

little house

The other night the old owner of our condo stopped by unexpectedly. I felt a little embarrassed, since we hadn't cleaned and were lazily eating Trader Joe's mini quiches without napkins on the living room floor - well, really embarrassed, because we were also watching Intervention and I was sitting amongst like ten different empty glasses, and had In n' Out on my shirt - but seeing her was really nice. She complimented our cats, said she hoped we'd enjoyed our place, and was just as pleasant as when I remember buying this place from her.

zulu home!

Two of our neighbors escorted her over to our door, and told us they'd be sorry we were leaving, that we were "sweet kids." It was so nice, it made me sad to leave our bright green walls and really awesome bathtub behind.

I remember leaving my first apartment in Providence, where I was so excited to be living alone and had an ancient claw-foot tub, and then there was the second place, in Wayland Square, where I used to be able to walk to the grocery store even in blizzards, and where I spent all of one summer once just because I had spent my TGI Friday's tips on a wall-unit air conditioner, and could eat Brigham's ice cream (truly the worst casualty, for nostalgia's sake, of the recession) in bed to stay cool.

I've been trying to save myself from being too bittersweet and like someone's old Irish grandpa who hums "Oh, Danny Boy" all day, I've been concentrating on the following:

Image from Domino Mag: Small Spaces

There's something incredibly divisive about the idea of living alone. Recently, a friend of mine made the brave decision to leave Los Angeles in the near future - where we'd gone to high school together, where her family lives, and where she currently lives with her sister in a really, really damn cute apartment (atrium!) - for Chicago, and was thinking of living alone. She was kind of excited, and I got excited for her; living alone for four and a half years was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Rosy Little Things: The Little House

I wouldn't trade my current cohabitation for anything, but living alone does have its downsides.

For instance, having to invite people over any time you want to hang out seems weirdly formal and as though you need to ply your guests with some kind of food, drink, or exciting recreational drugs.

You really can't have more than one pet, because the amount of time you would need to put into taking care of them, were it just you and the animals, would make you resent them.

And, of course, the "cooking for one" triple-bummer of

  1. having to both cook and clean up afterwards,

  2. unavoidably making way too much food, eating it all, and not wanting the leftovers but feeling horribly guilty about throwing them away anyway, and

  3. refusing to use silverware because no one is watching and there's really no reason not to just use your hands to "pick" at a chicken, but then having this weird out-of-body vision of yourself as a person who is kind of disgusting.

Not that that's really disgusting. It's just walking the line between informal and disgusting. That's all.

Solitude: you are a delight

But back to the good stuff. Living alone - like learning to drive, taking tequila shots, appreciating the importance of tipping waiters well, and balancing your checkbook - is a rite of passage the value of which cannot be overstated.

When I first decided to give it a whirl, I was a freshman in college and at the end of my rope trying to get a "psycho single" because, even after changing roommates (thank you Molly Lambert!), I found I couldn't sleep without a Sominex and a really stiff mixture of $11 vodka and Crystal Light. I started working at Ben and Jerry's to get a place off-campus (reality check: $7.50/hour won't pay your rent), worried for a couple of months about my decision to move a mile away from everybody murdering my social life, and bought a futon at the Salvation Army.

I won't lie: it was very strange. There was no one around, and since we were only a few months into school, I didn't know enough people intimately enough to invite them over all the time. This actually ended up being great, because it taught me how to make friends even though there weren't people constantly offering up their hanging-outage.

It's kind of empowering: you have no plans unless you get your ass of your futon, clean the bits of chicken off your shirt, and make plans. Otherwise, you're just hanging out with yourself.

Which brings me to the other great thing about living alone: learning how awesome it is to hang out with you, because you are your own best (sometimes only) friend. And I dig not being able to do that, because my quality of life has drastically improved since I have lived with Peter, but that's also because I love him.

Even though I love my friends, I wouldn't want to live with them, because it's too easy, and I'd worry that when I moved out, I'd never want to see them again. Or the other way around. But maybe I'd worry less about that because since I've lived alone before, I know how totally rad I am to hang out with. I am the only person I survived living with for more than 10 seconds. That must mean I'm mad chill.

Anyway, thinking you're mad chill is something that has no price. And nothing teaches you that like flyin' solo. So, if anybody out there is thinking about it, I'm telling you that you should sacrifice the bedroom door and find yourself a great shoebox and make it your own.

Tess Lynch is the contributing editor to This Recording. She lives in Los Angeles. Her highly influential and important blog is here. Her tumblr is here.

portrait of the author looking pouty


"Playground Love" (vocals by Gordon Tracks) – Air (mp3)

"Clouds Up" – Air (mp3)

"Bathroom Girl" – Air (mp3)

"The Word 'Hurricane'" – Air (mp3)

"Highschool Lover" (theme from The Virgin Suicides) – Air (mp3)

"Ghost Song" – Air (mp3)

"Empty House" – Air (mp3)


Cheney got wicked mad.

Dan Murray and Hotel Chevalier.

A win is a win.

Reader Comments (4)

this is incredibly relevant to me right now-- im moving into my very 1st studio apartment in 2 weeks & am so excited about all the things mentioned here. i cant wait to discover how chill i am!

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersarah

i lived alone for four years in college and it was the best thing in the world. now, since college when my parents paid the rent, i've spent the last four years not living alone, trying to accept the fact that i may never, ever be able to afford to live alone again for the rest of my life. it's horribly depressing.

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteryvonnegeorgina

I have to say that out of all the blogs I have come across on the world wide web... you, my friend, have the BIGGEST blog roll I've ever seen.

Holy mother. How do you get any work done with all this reading to do?

August 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterso@24

a) Sarah, go get yourself a teapot and a great cheap bottle of wine and prepare for awesomeness.

b) Yvonne, you so will. You can live in our guest house and be our uncle jesse, and we'll be really quiet and you can pretend we don't exist.

c) blogrolllllllz

August 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTess Lynch

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