Including the romance: We make dates. When he arrives, I am showered and combed and my lipstick is fresh. Some might say that this isn't real life, but it's our real life. When he kisses me, even after seven years together (on and off), it's new; it's our first date, or a second, or a third. There is never a moment when we are together by hazard, just because we happen to live in the same house. We spend time with one another because we want to.
Intrinsic to this is a kind of trust I don't always see in my cohabiting friends. I have to, and I do, trust that he is home on the nights he is not with me. And he honors me with the same. There's no resentment, no waiting for him to show up when he's been out late, no annoyance on his part that he has to come home because I keep wondering where he is. It is the purest form of shared life that I can imagine: he has his life. I have my life. We have our life. All three are whole and rewardingly complete.
I have a friend who serves as a partner in crime. When her marriage broke up three years ago, she found the emptiness overwhelming. But eventually she repainted a living room wall dark red and her hallway orange, reupholstered her couch in yellow tweed, and lost ten pounds. Together we have taught one another to do the stuff we always thought we needed men for: open doors when we locked ourselves out, replace light bulbs in complicated fixtures, repair heaters. Last week she tiled her own kitchen.
She, too, feels that she would never give up the freedom of living alone. Yes, some would argue that living with others is healthy, adaptive: one is forced to learn to compromise, to be tolerant, to share. But doesn't any well-raised child learn those things anyway? Besides, if you haven't mastered these things by the time you're my age, it's hard to have much of a life.
Having a space all to myself makes it easier for me to be patient and generous with others on those occasions when I do have to share a bathroom or closet space.
And when I don't, there is still someone important with whom to share the simple daily pleasures: myself. Last week I bought myself two large bouquets of purple roses. Today I think I'll go and get some daffodils, and spread them all around my home, wherever my heart desires.