Will I Ever Be Able To Afford To Live Alone?

Maybe. But also, maybe not.


One of my roommates told me recently that he’s moving out of our apartment. He and his girlfriend found a house for rent for a reasonable price. It’s a house — rare in New York — tucked away behind another house, near a park, not too far from where we live now. It sounds nice for them; but it also sounds nice for me. I love my roommate genuinely, but with his departure, the population in my household drops from four to three. More space for all of us, and one step closer to my silly little pipe dream of living alone.

I haven’t lived alone since my senior year of college, when a student loan paid for the rent on a very comfortable studio apartment in Boston with a teensy balcony and enough room in the kitchen for a table. I moved to San Francisco, then to New York and bounced from apartment to apartment with roommates at each one. It was cheaper and at first, it was nice to live with other people, to have some quiet reassurance that if I were to perish in my sleep or break a leg or something, one of them would come home and find me.

I’ve done the math; I could technically sort of maybe afford to live alone. If I just took a deep breath and committed to paying more money in rent, my budget would adjust itself around the shape of the new number. My rent right now is very low for Brooklyn and where I live; it’s been this way for six years. That’s why I still live with other people. That’s why I’ve never moved. It’s afforded me the ability to do stuff that I want to do without feeling panicky; it’s made it so that I can save money for my taxes. It means that I can live my life the way that I’m used to living it. This is a choice I’ve made that’s clearly working for me, only because I’m reluctant to embrace change. But, the thought of living my life a little differently — more “adult,” maybe? — persists.

I want the freedom to be able to walk around my house without any clothes on and not have to scramble for a pair of pants when I hear a key in the door. I want to be able to use the bathroom whenever I want. If I want to leave one dish in the sink for a week and a half (I generally don’t), I don’t want to be nagged to clean it. Most of my friends live alone or with their partners; when I ask them if they could ever imagine living with roommates again, there’s always a pause before they ruefully shake their heads. “No, not really,” they say. “Not at all.”

No one judges me for living with roommates; it’s only myself. Living alone is a box on the tenuous list of things that make you an “adult”, along with a retirement fund and a reliable tailor or dude to fix your shoes when the heel cap snaps off. Trying to think of this arrangement as some sort of quirky commune-esque living situation, like a late 2010s version of Anna Madrigal’s boarding house in Tales of the City helps. I have to stop placating myself; this is what it is.

Now that my roommate is leaving, we’re not getting another one. The rent will go up a bit but we’ll have more space. My bedroom — big, sunny, full of light — will be repurposed to the living room and I will move to a room towards the back of the apartment, the farthest away from the common spaces. Hopefully, with the door closed, it will feel like a space of my own.

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