How To Live Alone
by Alexandra Molotkow
Find a one-person apartment
You will most likely inherit one, so make a lot of friends.
Keep an open mind. Neighbors who party and fuck all the time — the neighbors you’re most likely to have in your 20s — can be a major source of comfort when you live alone. Even if you hate them; you will find it refreshing to hate someone who is not you.* If you choke on a noodle at 4am, there’ll be someone around to call an ambulance, and you’re never a brain in a jar as long as someone is being spanked next door.
*Not me, I love my neighbors.
Sex and dating
A studio or one-bedroom apartment is great for bringing dates home, but consider three things:
1) You have been nesting in your own byproducts. A new person is basically a black light for all the weird habits you’ve stopped questioning.
2) Even if you’re not weird or disgusting (impossible), bringing someone home can be gruesomely intimate. You are dunking a stranger in your world, which is somehow more uncomfortable than letting them hang out inside your body.
3) One-person apartments are small and typically anything that happens in one room is audible from the other.
Friends who are not single and do not live alone
Will love and envy and pity you and treat your apartment like a time vortex back to their single years, which you both will and won’t mind because you love, envy, and pity them.
This is tricky. If you live alone in a noise-friendly building, you’ll want to hang out there after the bar closes; you’ll also want to save money after spending most of it on your one-person apartment, and since you might never want to leave the apartment (more on that later), you’ll want to entertain friends.
You will also want to drink alone. Not because you’re lonely and miserable, but because you’ve been hanging out with yourself all day and by night you’ll want to be someone else. Also because there are no roommates to not drink in front of you. My advice is to only buy expensive booze. You’ll keep your friends happier, and be less likely to waste your drops on, I dunno, the sunset.
When I first moved into my old apartment, there was a house centipede infestation. They were everywhere and they were huge. I was too scared to get close enough to kill them humanely, so I used to spray them with Mr. Clean until they twitched and died. Once, a full three-inch mother came barreling out of the kitchen and I screamed and screamed and bashed him to death with the butt of a floor lamp but even then I couldn’t stop screaming because I couldn’t bring myself to clean him up and for weeks I found jagged legs in the sweaters I’d left on the floor.
Now when I find a centipede, I cup him gently and take him outside. Why? Because I started myself on a centipede desensitization regimen. I watched YouTube videos, changed my desktop photo at work, named the ones I found, did my research. The thing about centipedes is they eat other bugs, including spiders and bed bugs, which I cannot help you with, there is no silver lining there. A roommate is built-in moral support when a giant cockroach stands between you and the bathroom, or a big shaggy leg-haver won’t vacate the bathtub. When you live alone, you have to just TCB.
My bug advice (not applicable to bed bugs or roaches) is to chill and just observe their ways. It takes you out of your head, which you’ll need, and can almost be spiritual. Remember: the only reason insects aren’t pets is society, and when you’re at home you’re not in society anymore.
Managing the different Yous
When you live alone, you learn to distinguish pretty clearly between Good You and Bad You. Good You is a mensch; you never knew you had her in you. Bad You is winy, inert, and has the worst possible taste in things to care about. Good You’s job is to take care of Bad You, and sometimes it feels like raising a horrible child you wish had just SIDSed. You just have to keep her in line, for the rest of your life.
Stock your bookshelves, and you’ll never be lonely! Just kidding, you will definitely be lonely anyway. What you might not realize is that loneliness can manifest wonkily — as complete inertia, or extreme self-pity, or extreme self-hatred, or a tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects. When I lived alone, the words I uttered most often were why are you doing this to me? usually to a bowl that refused to wash clean or a piece of food that had fallen to the floor.
There is only one thing for that, which is to…
Leave the apartment
If you live alone, and especially if you work from home, be sure to leave sometimes. I know this sounds simple, but it’s not. If you’ve never lived alone, you have no idea how easy it is to never leave your own apartment. The body rarely sends pain alerts for staying in too long, like how the stomach stops sending fullness signals when it looks like you’re working on a binge eat, which you’ll do more now that you’re living alone. It is easy to enter a state of codependency with your apartment, which seems to have everything you need. You will find a million excuses to stay.
Really, when you live alone, you live in your head. You get to know yourself very, very well, which is a good thing, but also a terrible thing: you feel like a bad person, because you are a bad person, as well as a good person. Your brain becomes a noisy office full of thoughts as exciting and scary and exhausting as actual coworkers. Some of them are funny and surprising, others are sociopaths and sad sacks of shit, and there’s a lady who stands with her back against the wall screaming all day for unspecified reasons.
People talk about self-absorption as though it’s a social or moral failing, and it is. It’s also a state you get mired in by accident, as well as the natural mode when you’re by yourself all the time. Living alone is a privilege, but great roommates are underrated.