Until now, I've always lived with other people. For the first 18 years of my life, I was legally obligated to do so. After that, roommates replaced my family, easing me into adulthood via passive-aggressive Post-It notes on my dishes saying "wash me :)". I've endured nearly the full spectrum of roommate living: I've shared a dorm, lived in a two-bedroom with four other girls, blissfully suffered in an always-filthy "party house," briefly cohabitated an apartment with the girlfriend of the man I lost my virginity to, and, most recently, lived with a couple.
Of all these roommate dynamics, the last one was by far the worst. Living with two people stubbornly in love made me despise emotional attachment. Like Pavlov's dog, hearing the word "babe" conditioned me to salivate at the thought of living alone.
I fantasized often about what it would be like without them. No more silent judgment for having a different man in my room three nights in a row. No more walking in on boring-ass dinner parties where you and your "couple friends" sip on wine and play goddamn charades pretending you're enjoying yourselves (that's the real charade, if you ask me). It doesn't help that I'm weirdly possessive over my shit. I don't care how petty it makes me seem, but that's my grapeseed oil. My blood would boil at the sight of one of them using my Sodastream. Just because I said you're allowed to use it doesn't mean you're actually allowed to use it. Why is that so hard to understand?
Finally, I made the decision to just do it. I saw a listing for a studio in a neighborhood adjacent to the neighborhood I actually want to live in but can't afford, and put a deposit down that same day. Thirty-six hours later, I moved in. The owner of the building didn't even run a credit check. He called two of my references and apparently just asked them if I was a "good person."
I was so eager to move in that I failed to notice they hadn't cleaned the place at all. Stains covered the tile in the kitchen, and the oven didn't even work. I found mouse droppings in the cupboards. The shower head was (and still is) merely a pipe with holes in it. But I refused to let any of this bother me. As long as this was my place for me and only me to live in, it was perfect. I cleaned everything myself, bought an inordinate amount of mouse traps, got a new oven, and learned to love my PVC shower head (it actually feels a lot like a waterfall).
For the most part, living alone has exceeded my expectations. All the little things I can do now that I couldn't do with roommates make me feel immensely more at peace. I can put the ketchup anywhere in the fridge that I want. I can take my bra off while cooking in the kitchen and place it on the counter. I can masturbate on the couch and leave my vibrator on the coffee table. Not only can I leave the door open while pooping, but I can get up mid-poop and run to my phone with my pants still down without fear of anyone catching me. This is everything I've ever wanted—yet at the same time, something about it all makes me feel a bit pathetic.
As much as I love all the wonderful things I can do thanks to my newfound independence, I'm also finding that some of these things—many of which I've been doing for many years while living with roommates—suddenly feel pitiful. Because I am now a single woman who lives alone, I feel like I'm perpetuating a stereotype that I never before felt I was perpetuating.
I'm more hesitant to maxi skirts and eat non-fat yogurt. I have yet to forgive myself for buying crystals two days ago. I can barely get through the most recent season of Girls without hating myself—and it's all because I live alone. I now feel like the target audience those body-wash commercials aim for when they urge women to find their inner beauty while not forgetting to moisturize.
To make matters worse, my mom calls me about three times a day. Sometimes she'll lecture me on how to cook chicken. At other points, she'll remind me that she thinks my living alone is a bad idea. The way she sees it, this is the first step of my transformation into full-fledged spinster. The first night she called, she told me a story about a woman she worked with who never married or produced offspring. This woman lived alone for decades, and instead of acquiring a family she acquired an extensive hat collection.
"She had a whole room just for her hats. She called them her children," my mom said. "She wanted to be a writer, too." I responded by telling her I look good in hats.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder why it feels so bad to embody the cliché of a single woman. Why is it that a woman who lives alone is more likely to be depicted as depressing—or as my mother might put it, "doomed"? The fact is, I'm not lonely. I'm not miserable either. Not one ounce of me yearns for anything more than what I have right now. I'm quite happy finally managing to obtain my ideal living situation, and know that I'll be a lot happier once I just wear the goddamn maxi skirt on my way to the crystal shop unafraid of what it people think it might say about me.
Yes, there is a lot of chocolate in my kitchen right now. No, I'm not wearing pants while microwaving leftovers. So what? If you want to label me as pathetic, I will no longer try to stop you.
Follow Alison Stevenson on Twitter.