I first started properly thinking about all this around the summer of 2017. I had recently come out of a 12-year relationship and, not unrelatedly, had moved to Ireland to work on my PhD, that most solitary of endeavours. After years of coupled domesticity, I was living alone. Solitude is not the same as loneliness, of course – as Nelson puts it, “loneliness is solitude with a problem” – and some of this was OK: I read, I walked, I wrote, I went out and made new friends. But my isolation, coupled with the rawness of a recent heartbreak, frequently was a problem.
For me, as somebody living alone, lockdown has meant dealing with a relentless and often grinding solitude and so I’ve returned to the alternative living arrangements I pondered back in 2017 with a new seriousness. At the age of 41 I have decided that I no longer want to live alone, but what do I do about this?
Well, why not not live alone then?
Loneliness, then, is partly produced by the way we organise the world – and to address it we need to seriously rethink how we approach our public spaces, housing arrangements and relationships. This includes questioning our dependency on certain forms of relationship – the couple and the nuclear family – as units of social organisation.
Oh, it’s everyone else that must change, not you alone then, is it?