I was six years old. My older sister had decided to move out of the bedroom we shared and into our den, so that she could have her own room. I remember feeling hurt by her sudden move. Had I done something wrong? Who would comfort me at night when I had a bad dream? Wouldn't she get lonely without me? At that young age, I didn't understand the need for personal space.
When we moved to a bigger house a few years later, I was excited to have my own room. My mom said I could decorate it anyway I wanted to. I chose blue carpeting and a white canopy bed. My new bedspread matched my curtains AND my wallpaper, and they were all covered with bouquets of spring flowers. My bedroom was a veritable floral explosion. But I had plenty of room for my stuffed animals and ceramic figurines, and a door that locked. At that age, that was all I needed.
I stayed in that overly floral room until I left for college, where I had to go back to sharing a room. I had several different roommates over the years, and luckily I got along with most of them. We shared clothes and advice and hairspray. We talked about boys and grades and parties. We occasionally got on each other's nerves, but we were all so busy with classes and activities that we didn't spend much time in our rooms (except for late at night, when we gorged on pizza and ice cream.)
After graduation, I moved into a big group house in D.C. with five other roommates. Six people, two bathrooms, no air conditioning. Summer was brutal. But living there was a great transition from college life. We had frequent parties, which were famous for multiple kegs and potent Jell-O shots. Our house even earned the dubious nickname, "The House of Sin," since three guys, three girls, and numerous drunken evenings is a surefire recipe for sinful activities.
When I grew bored with D.C., I moved around a lot and always had roommates. Living with others kept my expenses down and made my transition to new towns much easier. Sure, we had occasional disagreements about whose turn it was to clean the bathroom or take out the trash. But for the most part I got along relatively well with all the people I lived with.
It wasn't until I moved to San Francisco that my luck with roommates took a turn for the worse. My first two roommates tried my patience in every way possible. They were spoiled, inconsiderate, and huge partiers. I quickly grew tired of asking them to turn down their music at 2 am on a weeknight, or to wash their dishes, which piled up in the sink week after week. I was only 26, but even then I was too old to deal with that nonsense. I left the princesses behind, and moved in with two more mature, much nicer girls. But our apartment was small and we all had boyfriends, so six people in a tiny living space left me feeling claustrophobic.
I moved out a few years later, and had one more stint living with two roommates. One of them was sweet and low-maintenance, but unfortunately she was always away on business. Of course it was the clingy, whiny roommate who was home ALL the time. She even worked from home, and would force herself into my room every night to quiz me on all the details of my day. Looking back, I can see that she was just lonely and looking for friendship. But at a time when I was working two jobs, I needed to be by myself when I came home at night instead of undergoing a daily interrogation.
My big coup came three years ago, when I moved into a rent-controlled apartment with an acquaintance of mine. It was a sunny, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment (my very own bathroom!) complete with sweeping city views. Our schedules were very different, so I often had the place to myself. The one sticking point was our apartment's decor, or lack thereof. Even though my roommate was 35, her furniture was a mishmash of hand-me-downs, including a black lacquer coffee table, a cat-clawed futon (in lieu of a real sofa), and living room walls that were painted blood red. I asked her if we could redecorate, and while she was fine with the idea at first, it began to cause friction between us. The main source of the problem was that I had good taste, and she had none.
I finally realized that the time had come for me to live alone. Last December I took the leap, and for the first time in my life I live completely by myself. If you've never lived alone, it's something you must do at least once before you die. My new apartment is quiet and peaceful. I have a washer and dryer, free parking, and windows that look out onto my own private garden. Best of all, I've decorated it in the modern, minimalist style that I love. There are no tacky posters hanging on the walls or creepy knick-knacks cluttering the shelves (see previous roommate).
Even though I'm an introvert, it still took me a few months to adjust to my newfound solitude. But now I absolutely love living alone. I don't spend much time at home, so when I'm there, it's great to find my apartment just as I left it. There's no chance that my roommate's geeky boyfriend will be playing computer games in my living room. Nor will I ever come home to find a hideous black and gold mirror hanging in my hallway. And while I am a neat person, if I feel like leaving clothes strewn on the floor or dishes in the sink, it will bother no one.
Virginia Woolf was a wise woman. There really is nothing quite like having a room of one's own.
a dilettante who grew up back east, then came to her senses and moved to san francisco. loves: strong coffee, warm weather, and good books. loves not: cell phones, emoticons, and bad drivers.
ABOUT KATIE MORRIS
more about katie morris
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
4.6.05 @ 3:35p
I have never lived alone. After college I moved in with a rotating crew of 4-5 friends, and after a few too many years of that, into an apartment with just one close friend. I recently slid from that into domesticity with my girlfriend, and that's definitely a work in progress. Had I had the money over the past 6 years or so, I would have loved to live alone, as I definitely like having some time to myself. But I feel like it would be a bit isolating. One roommate suits me fine, and if I do have to live alone again, it most likely wouldn't be a pleasant transition!
4.6.05 @ 4:17p
It could get isolating, but if you aren't home much and have a full life, it's worth it to not have to deal with crazy roommates. I'm telling you, do it at least once in your life.
4.6.05 @ 4:39p
I'll tell Heather to pack it up immediately! Thanks Katie!
4.6.05 @ 5:40p
No, don't go, Heather! Unless Mike really does leave his toenail clippings on the floor, as feared.
4.7.05 @ 5:06p
I don't like to live alone. I like to have alone time, so I do have a "me" room in my house that no one else goes into, but I could not bear to live alone. For one thing, who would kill the spiders??
4.7.05 @ 6:25p
I'll kill the spiders for you. Bugs don't bother me. It's rats I mind. Luckily, they seem to be scarce here on the West Coast (unlike D.C., where there were too many for my liking.)
4.7.05 @ 10:34p
Ugh, Katie, I'm so with you. I had a very bad experience with rats in my apartment. Scarred me for life.
I've lived alone. I've lived with other people. I've lived with someone who put an ad in the paper. I lived with my husband when we were just dating, but only for 6 weeks, then again just prior to our wedding.
But mostly, between the ages of 20-27, I lived alone.
AND LOVED IT.
Matt and I have different schedules, so we both get some alone time, and I think that's very healthy.
4.8.05 @ 2:21p
7 years of alone time -- that sounds blissful. Rats in your apartment? I've had roaches and mice, but never full-grown rats. That would definitely scar me for life. Ugh is right.
4.8.05 @ 3:21p
I loved living alone. It was the sleeping alone I didn't enjoy.
That first apartment alone is a real revelation. It's all yours! Enjoy it!
4.8.05 @ 4:33p
After a few years of living alone, I realized something: I like being on my own, a lot of the time. Making my own schedule, being spontaneous, having space to myself to read or to just stretch out in.
A lot of people in our culture are *uncomfortable* with solitude. I've been known to go to movies on my own, which to many people is unthinkable. (My own thought is that if you go with friends, you're not interacting much other than sitting next to each other anyway.) It's often a learned behavior to do things for and by yourself.
4.8.05 @ 5:03p
We've morphed from talking about living alone to BEING alone.
So read this old column of mine, bastards! That's EXACTLY what it's about!
Very relevant to this discussion, especially Brian's thoughts.
4.8.05 @ 5:49p
Mike, you're just itching for 11,000 reads, aren't you? But it's true -- some people are fine with being alone. I am obviously one of them. I'll go to movies, museums, the ballet by myself, and it doesn't bother me one bit.
4.8.05 @ 8:33p
KT. So glad to see you're writing again. Z
4.9.05 @ 11:13p
Yes, it can be liberating to live alone. I think the rub is not letting your solitude become your person.
Cheers, Katie, I am happy you're writing again!