Some of my friends complain about all the things that have disappeared from their lives over the years. I remind them that these things didn’t leave by themselves. We chased them off.
Remember the midnight shows, they ask. Yeah, I reply, we bought televisions and stayed at home to watch them. What about the Sunday family dinner? Well, I guess we traded that for the football game and hamburgers from McDonald's, said I. You know, I really miss those fashion shows they used to have. I remember, I explain, hearing you complain about having to dress up and put on pantyhose to attend them.
Well, our lifestyles have changed a lot. At one time, all of our meals were eaten as a family, sitting around a table. Now we eat off trays in front of the television. Or we eat takeout orders we've piled on to our desks. We used to spend our evenings conversing with family, playing cards with friends or at work on our favorite hobby. Nowadays, we can usually be found at our computers, alone.
And that's the thing: We've traded time with family and friends for time alone. We'd rather spend time with strangers on a social network than with people we know and care about. What happened here? Did we get bored with each other and decide to run away from home? Or was it the possibility of having an opportunity to meet new people and discover they have lives more exciting and adventurous than our own?
Well, living alone represents a new trend for some of us. More people than ever have set sail on a life alone. The population of singletons (as they are now called) grew from 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011, or 80 percent in the past 15 years. Most of them are women between 35 and 64 years old. Eleven million of them are elderly. Why are so many people participating in this phenomenon? According to experts, they are living alone because they can afford to.
Much like the transformation that took place in the late 1800s when people moved off the farm into the cities, it represents a different way of living life. Divorce accounts for many of the singletons. These people coming out of unhappy marriages no longer feel dependent upon spousal support to maintain a household.
Many, who for years believed living alone was a one-way ticket to loneliness and depression, realized friendship and companionship were based on the quality of the relationships rather than where a person resided. For some people, relationships are stronger when they live alone.
Since we have only recently begun this new transformation, it's really too early to tell where it will lead. For some people, living alone is not a happy experience. They suffer a sense of isolation and feel they are cut off from human intercourse. They don't enjoy eating alone or shopping alone, and they don't have other interests sufficient enough to fulfill their lives.
Some people, on the other hand, enjoy living alone but being surrounded by community. Living by themselves enables them to enjoy their personal interests. People like artists and writers frequently live alone because of the volume of stuff they accumulate that is pertinent to their careers. Some of these people live alone because they enjoy working at times that are inconvenient for other people. I know one artist who paints all night.
But all in all, this is a pretty exciting time to live. It's very invigorating when you realize things are changing all around you. Even my friends who complain about all the changes wouldn't be satisfied if things remained the same all the time. They forget that they are always willing to throw out the old and take on the new.
In another year or two they'll be asking whatever happened to that old Ford we used to have to keep filling up with gas?
It's like they always say. The more things change …
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