There is, quite possibly, nothing more blissful than living alone. Everything is where you left it, you have the quiet time you need when you get in from a long day, the bed is all yours, and no one is making your bills even higher. Most of us are willing to admit these are simple pleasures we enjoy or miss having. Living alone is a delight many people have never known, going from their parents’ homes to dorms, to shared apartments. To live alone is to foot the bill, entirely alone, and this is not feasible for everyone. Many couples cohabitate because is it more financially comfortable than living separately and seems to make more sense than paying two sets of bills. This is, of course, not the only reason; some want to be in one another’s company as much as possible, and some believe cohabitation is a natural step in romantic relationships.
Last year, I read “Why I’d Rather Live Alone” – an excerpt from Samantha Irby’s book of essays - “Meaty”. In five paragraphs, she uses humour and logic to explain her desire to live alone, even if she has a partner she loves and enjoys being around. The opening line plainly states she and her partner would ideally have “separate apartments in the same building”. She mentions other options that progressively increase the distance between the two residences. There is something about having enough proximity to make spontaneous quality time feasible, but not enough to consistently get in each other’s way that is both comforting and comfortable.
In Nassau, no one is very far away, but some people joke about “long distance relationships” when one person lives in Fox Hill and the other lives in Cable Beach. The exact distance we want – or are willing to tolerate – probably depends on traffic and the price of gas among other factors.
Samantha wrote what most people do not want to admit to themselves, much less say aloud. She does not want to share everything. Some things are just hers, and if she has to put a name label on her leftovers, so be it. She also points out that by living together, what used to be magic easily becomes mundane, or even annoying. In her words, “my funny runs out; my cute runs out”.
At some point, at home, we are a different version of ourselves. What we give to the world – even family members, friends and partners – is not always 100 percent authentic. There are times when we feel the need to try to be nicer, more upbeat, or whatever we think the situation warrants and the people around us need or expect. Home is the place to exhale and just be. Can you do that with a partner sharing the space? Can you do that without them getting upset about it, or imagining it is some kind of personal attack?
In 2016, Whoopi Goldberg said she does not plan to marry because she does not want anyone in her house. The topic has come up again with an article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail about older women choosing not to live with their partners, particularly after experiencing marriage and cohabitation. More people are choosing “living apart together” which is about having separate residences while in a relationship. In Canada, the proportion of people over 65 living alone after divorce or being widowed tripled from 1981 to 2016. Seventy-two percent of women over 65 reported they are satisfied with solo living. The Globe and Mail article highlighted the extra, unpaid, often unnoticed work women do when living with men. One woman said she spends three nights at her own house and the rest of the week at her partner’s. Another woman said she has already experienced living with a man and has no desire to do it again. She is happy to spend time together when mutually desired, and that is it.
There are many things to discuss when considering a relationship with someone else. Do you want to get married? Do you want to have children? Do you want to adopt? Do you want to own a home? Do you want to share your living space with anyone else?
We often assume that everyone wants the same thing, or we are all going through certain experiences to hit prescribed milestones, but that is not the case. As we talk more about different lifestyles and desires and are exposed to options we may have never considered, it is becoming increasingly important to ask questions and see where we are aligned. It is also important we do not lock ourselves into tradition and expectation – like love, marriage and children – before we have the chance to explore other options and find the right fit for ourselves. Who knows? Maybe some of our relationships would thrive if we let go of the idea that we have to live together (and we could actually afford to live separately).
Watching a shift in rigid beauty ideals
Last week, Miss Jamaica won the Miss World pageant. It has been the topic of many conversations all over the world. Toni-Ann Singh’s win represented a win for many other people. This is the second time Jamaica has held the title. Not only are Jamaican people celebrating, but people throughout the Caribbean see it as a win for the region. Headlines have also noted that Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Teen USA are all Black.
It has been particularly satisfying to see Toni-Ann Singh win Miss World at this time when we are having conversations about beauty and blackness. It seems to signal a shift in the often rigid beauty ideals. The beauty ideals of large machines like international pageants often define Black women outside of them. Eurocentric beauty standards have long ruled the pageant world, even prompting national pageants to choose women with lighter skin, longer hair or extensions, hair of specific textures and certain body types.
What does this mean for the women and girls watching these pageants, looking up to the winners and watching their journeys? Do pageants have the power to change people’s perspectives about women, beauty and charitable work? It will be interesting to see how national pageants respond to Black women holding five titles, and whether or not they will push the constructed boundaries of beauty.
One of the highlights of the Miss World pageant was Miss Nigeria Nyekachi Douglas’ reaction to the announcement of Miss Jamaica’s win. The video clip has gone viral, many people saying Miss Nigeria is the friend we all want. Nyekachi jumped, ran around and screamed in complete delight for Miss Jamaica. It was obvious she did not see a loss for her, but a win for Toni-Ann Singh and the people it would inspire and excite.
The best of friends celebrate each other’s wins, on and off stage. They may compete, but they do not count losses when friends win. When we are overwhelmed by the reward for our labour, have moments of doubt about the value of our work, or feel less inclined to celebrate a victory, the best of friends rally around us and remind us of the work we have put in. They not only encourage us to celebrate our wins and accept rewards, but they help make it possible. Sometimes they take the lead in organizing the festivities. One time may be a celebration dinner, one time may be a floral arrangement, and one time may be running around on a stage and screaming, “Yes, girl, YOU!” We all need this friend. We should all be this friend. In the world this kind of friendship creates, everyone could truly win.