Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One on Zero

The chart above shows that this post has a serious, quasi-academic quality

Way back in 1984, in the Pleistocene era, there was a movie called "The Lonely Guy." I always remember it as an Albert Brooks movie, but it was Charles Grodin who actually played the title character. Sometimes hard to separate one sad sack from another I guess. This was in Grodin's BBSBWCTS (Before Becoming a Smug Bore With a Cable Talk Show) period, when he was funny on screen, and I remember having some laughs and feeling the pathos of the story. Steve Martin was in it, too, so there's that.

Grodin plays Warren Evans, a man who finds his wife in flagrante with another man, gets divorced, becomes lonely and despondent, chokes on a toothpaste tube cap and dies, and is eaten by his cats before his body is discovered. Wait a minute, that's not right - this is a comedy with a Neil Simon screenplay - I think I was imagining it as a Coen Brothers movie or something. Sorry. The actual story has Warren rallying from his loss, becoming rich and famous, and getting a new girl in the end. (Not getting her in the end, literally - I mean, it's PG-13 or something - but you know what I mean.)

Anyway, I haven't seen this movie since it came out, but I remember the cute scenes of Warren sitting alone in the park with a hangdog look and it all being mildly amusing, but knowing the Hollywood ending would make it all right before the ninety minutes ran out. And watching it then, having no real grip on what it's like to be lonely.

After almost two years of living on my own, the last eight months fully alone, I've gained new perspective on the whole thing. Some observations:

  • When you live alone you can get away with all kinds of slobbiness - leaving hairs in the sink, dishes in the sink, (maybe the same sink), sleeping in your clothes with the TV on, sleeping in the sink with the dishes - the world is your oyster.
  • When you live alone you can turn your music up as loud as you want until the Police come, talk back to the radio when they play a stupid song, hang any fucking thing you want on the wall even if it's crooked, sing in the shower at the top of your lungs.
  • When you live alone you can have a brilliant exchange with yourself about how "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is now just as fakey and laughable 20 years later as the original "Star Trek" was 20 years after it came out, and all the while no one knows you've been thinking about "Star Trek" unless you slip up and write about it on your blog. Ooops.
  • When you live alone, you can come home at the end of the day knowing there are no surprises waiting for you. On the other hand, you can come home at the end of the day knowing there are no surprises waiting for you.

More people live alone these days. According to the Berkeley Blog:

Around 1900, a few percent of Americans lived by themselves; in 1960, 6% did; and now about 15% do.

These statistics tell us that the incidence of people living alone has risen 250% in 50 years. At this rate, in another 150 years 1,000% of people will be living alone, and at that point I think it will be really hard to find an apartment.

Most of the people who live alone are old, widows and widowers. Younger people waiting longer to get married are another group living alone. And then there are divorced men living alone - but the stats show those lonely guys tend to co-habitate again within a couple of years, due to the guilt they feel for leaving hairs in the sink and needing to be punished.

And so you ask, what have you learned from this experience of living alone? Do you have the insights of a silent monk? An ascetic? Of Thoreau? Sadly, no. The main things I've learned is I've got to like myself more if I'm going to be my roommate, and never buy a really big loaf of bread because the Goddamn thing will be moldy before you can eat half of it.

Another 150 years, I'll have it all figured out.


frank said...

My oh my, how I've missed your rare perspective on life. It's been several months (more like 15) since I've indulged myself with the wit and wisdom of your blog. Keep it coming... somehow I now feel much better about my life. F.O.Led

Anonymous said...

Molding bread? freeze half the loaf...better, split it into ziploc's of two slices each.