Communal Living

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The New York Times article about shared living arrangements arrived at my gate at a time when I’d had the topic of quality time versus quantity time top of mind.

The article, “Looking for a Housemate, Not a Mate, in Later Life,” covers adult women who find roommates to share a house or large living space. Economics plays a role—sharing living expenses provides breathing room for people on fixed incomes, which can help older adults stay in their communities—as does the pull of companionship and the sense of increased safety.

I love it. How “Golden Girls.”

Why should the twenties set alone have roommates to share the costs and chores of keeping house? Why not find partnership, community, and even “family”—and all the support and nurturing they provide—without going the routine routes of marriage or romantic cohabitation?

One problem:

I never found having a roommate appealing, even in my younger days. I’ve contemplated sharing the extra space in my house with one in recent years, but my memory of past shared living experiences shuts down the possibility when it crops up anew. I’ve always enjoyed living alone. I like my space. As an introvert, I find interaction draining—even when close to the person with whom I spend time.

Oh, I like people. I just prefer quality over quantity. I’d rather focus intently on a person over feeling obligated to chat casually with someone who has entered the room, lest she perceive me rude. I don’t find hanging around another person relaxing. The sense that someone lingers nearby and may intrude at any moment causes me a modicum of low-grade, on-going stress.

Living in a close-knit, dense urban neighborhood gives me a strong sense of community and safety, though by no means does it help me with the expenses and hassles of keeping house. I’ll call it a good compromise (though if any of you would like to donate to my living expenses, drop me a line).

In contrast to me, my brother has always had a large set of friends. Often, he has a group in tow. His friends all know each other, mainly because he combines them so often. Though he has a beautiful family and doesn’t need platonic shared living arrangements, he might like them otherwise. At the very least, he’d take the life-of-the-party role in the retirement community.

I most certainly wouldn’t.

Would you go in for communal living?