Bay of Exploits with Ed Riche: Living Alone

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We’re beginning to learn things from the Canadian census, the great national questionnaire the Harper Government tried to axe.

The previous administration had a difficult relationship with facts and viewed self-awareness as an agony. Look at Jason Kenney. For ideological reasons the Harperites couldn’t face the occasional onceover with a hand mirror after a shower. It was a fully-clothed or lights-out movement.

The Liberals and NDP are generally more data positive, even if there are some tough questions they are disinclined to ask.

One of the first realities the Census presents is that more and more Canadians are living alone. This may be worrisome. There are good reasons you should live with other people beyond it taking such effort to find someone who will have sex with you (don’t fool yourself).

Communal life needn’t be conjugal, the others aboard, helping you man the ship, can be friends, children, parents, even boarders, not necessarily spouses. (When I was a boy in St. John’s life-long boarders weren’t uncommon.)

I know plenty of single people who are never alone and some marrieds who always are. Longevity and well-being are irrefutably linked to one having a rich social network. And that means a web of real connections, not the illusion created by social media.

It’s useful to have someone around for smelling things to confirm they’ve gone off, “Throw. It. Away.” and for not scrutinizing blemishes while pretending they did, and telling you everything is fine anyway.

“Has this taken on a strange shape? It’s asymmetric isn’t it? It looks like a map of Cape Breton now.” “No, it’s fine.” Solitude is to hypochondria as hearing-loss is to paranoia.

Housemates can more candidly address sartorial conundrums than casual acquaintances. “Can I get away with this jacket and these pants?” “No, you cannot.” You sometimes need someone to ask “Did you hear that?” Particularly at night.

A spare body can let the dog out and give the beast someone else to follow around when you are in a mood. Others in the house bring their libraries. Colleagues at the office can recommend something “not like ‘horrible’ horrible” on Netflix, but a cohabitant is more likely to hand you a book and say, “Read this! She’s writing about you.”

It’s difficult to cook for one. Joints of meat or great burbling pots of stuff are out. It is much better to takeout Chinese or Indian as a group to get a range of dishes. An order of lamb vindaloo, dal makhani and rice “to go” is a billboard announcing bachelorhood. And the bottle of wine opened is finished by one if there aren’t two to share.

My pal Charlie, who has lived by himself for years, says there are benefits; you don’t have to answer to anyone or disappoint them and, as they say, “Hell is other people.” He reports that early in the journey, living alone seemed heroic. Later, when the television becomes your best friend, he says that position “is Krapp.”

Charlie was once made a gift of a cookbook with the title “One Can Be Fun.” Sharing digs makes it easier, necessary even, to “get over yourself,” something we could all do more of, but the single most important reason for sharing living space is having someone to reassure you that, after reading the news, it is truly the world, and not you, that is going insane.

About Author

Ed Riche

Edward Riche is a writer for the page, stage, and screen. His latest novel, Today I Learned It Was You, was published by House of Anansi Press in 2016. Find him at www.edwardriche.com or on Twitter: @EdwardLRiche

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