During the years I spent interviewing people about their lifespaces, and what they loved most about how they lived, I expected to find the most compelling accounts of the joys of living alone from single people living by themselves. And they did have some insightful things to say. But also among the most elegant spokespersons for what makes a place of one’s own so attractive were the people I interviewed who were committed couples (sometimes married) who were living in places of their own. They were doing so not because external circumstances (such as jobs in different cities) forced their hands, but because they just really wanted their own space. Their stories are in How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century.
As part of my research for the book, I watched a documentary about a couple who started out in places of their own and wanted to stay that way, but were forced by financial woes to co-exist in one tiny apartment. The brief section I wrote about them was not included in the final version of the book, so I want to share it here:
Allen Sheinman and Collette Stallone, stars of the documentary Two’s a Crowd, would have been happy to stay in their own places forever, even though each was just a small apartment. They met in their 40s and married, each for the second time. Collette was in Greenwich Village; Allen lived twenty blocks north and considered Seventh Avenue the corridor connecting their homes. When Allen’s rent spiked, their hands were forced. Allen moved into Collette’s tiny one-bedroom rent-stabilized place where she had lived for 31 years. They managed to survive and even thrive by compartmentalizing time, space, and people. The living room was turned into Allen’s room, and a sliding door was added. He stayed in that room on weeknights. Collette kept the bedroom. She explained that “on Friday, Saturday, maybe Sunday, he can come into my room.” She proudly contrasts her routines with those of couples who insist on doing everything together: “We give each other a great deal of freedom and are not threatened…sometimes we go our separate ways on weekends, and we let each other have our own time with our friends.”
Here are some of my other writings on Living Apart Together:
How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century (especially Chapter 6, “The New Couples: So Happy Not Together” and Chapter 8, “There’s Nothing Sweeter than Solitude: Living Alone”)
For more of my writings on living alone, click here.
Living room photo available from Shutterstock