Living Alone as a Woman

So recently this article on loneliness and living alone as a woman showed up on Metafilter and created quite the ongoing argument between those who really like and appreciated it, and those who really, really didn’t.

You’re about to find out which side I fall on, really damn fast.  The first two lines of the article are

I am terrible at sharing the bed. When my boyfriend travels out of town, my first thought is how much space I will take up in the bed while he’s gone.

Well then.  This is where my sense of disappointment pops in.  I went into this article expecting to find a woman who shares my lived experience of living alone, being lonely, and being single.  And to be fair, nowhere in the title of the article does it mention relationships.  It was purely my assumption.  But the fact that the author mentions her boyfriend in the second damn line pisses me off.  It reads as if she needs to validate the fact that she isn’t *really* alone, someone desires her, she has a boyfriend after all.  She’s not like those spinster women.

But I try to power through the article, because as others on metafilter pointed out, you can write about the loss of being alone, and maybe that will speak to me somehow.

In popular culture we have “the bachelor pad,” and “the bachelor lifestyle,” but no such phrases for women. Women who live alone are objects of fear or pity, witches in the forest or Cathy comics.

And this is very true and it is my own fault for projecting but I wanted to hear from someone currently in that situation.  I wanted something to relate to and I don’t have that with this piece.  And let’s be honest.  I’m not alone by choice.  I would like a partner and it just doesn’t seem like it’s meant to happen for me.  I could be all tough and say it doesn’t matter, that I’m perfectly content, but that would be a lie. “Women who live alone are objects of fear or pity” Helena Fitzgerald says, from the comfort of the sidelines.

Living alone as a woman is not just a luxury but a refusal to bend into the shape of patriarchal assumption and expectation.

Why thank you. My loneliness as a bastion of feminism – I like it.  I’d like to say that’s why I enjoy my lifestyle, that I leave the dishes in the sink too long and never put my shoes away as a fuck you  to Patriarchy, but the fact is, and “refusal to bend” on my part is purely unintentional. There is a difference between those of us who live alone because life forces them to, and those who actively make that choice.  Although in the end I suppose I do make that choice though.  If I really wanted a roommate I could find one.

Loneliness felt like a project to which I had to commit all of myself.

Either Fitzgerald is mistaking loneliness for aloneness, or she is romanticising loneliness, because loneliness fucking sucks, let me tell you.  It does not feel romantic in the moment.  It does not spawn creativity for me, it does not feel, as the author states, “luxurious and comforting”.  Being alone gives me those feelings, absolutely.  Loneliness does not.

No matter how committed I am to the life I’m building with the person I love, some part of me reaches back to the fierce triumph of loneliness.

Again, I feel she conflates being alone with being lonely.  I get that she misses being alone in life.  I feel like if I ever did find a partner I would feel the exact same way.  But to write an article romanticising it when you’re no longer in it is like writing about war from the safe sidelines and not the trenches. Yes, her viewpoint is valid, but it is skewed by the fact that she is now outside looking in.

In the Margins

So I recently (as in half an hour ago) discovered the website The Establishment. And now my mind is blown.  How did I not know this site existed? I may never leave it and lurk there forever.

What’s so great about this website, you ask?

The Establishment is “a multimedia company run and funded by women that’s predicated on a simple, yet radical notion: the world is a better, more interesting place when everyone has a voice.”

This shouldn’t seem so radical, but it is.  The Establishment has on their front page right now articles about

And that’s just the short list.  There’s even a specific section for arts and creators.  I am fully blissed out. The Establishment focuses on the margins of society and I love it to bits.

It’s funny because I often walk the line of marginality (is that a word?) and the cultural “norm”. I am white appearing, upper-middle class, employed and those are all privileged positions.

But I am also a woman, a person with a disability, queer, and mixed race.  I am the very definition of a marginalized voice.

But I often struggle to find that voice.  Even though I am all these things I am certainly not unique.  I often allow other writers to be my voice about these things, which is a shame really.  As a writer, I feel I should be mining the feelings evoked by being all these things.

And let me tell you, there are some serious feelings.

I feel like I could write a book just about being me, but I struggle with where to start.  Is this blog representative of who I am? My marginalized voice? Probably not.  Do I want it to be? Most certainly.

So maybe it’s not about finding my voice but more about having something to say. It scares me to think that maybe I don’t have anything to add to the current discourse.  It worries about my fictional work, too.  How can I be a writer without something to say?

Maybe I just haven’t found the right topic yet. Lord knows I’m certainly full of opinions.

Camp Nanowrimo 2016

So just over a month ago a friend told me about Camp Nanowrimo.

What is all this nonsensical madness you ask? Well, Nanowrimo is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth which takes place in November and the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  That’s 1,667 words a day.  Ask me how I know. I have tried and failed at Nanowrimo multiple times.

Which brings me to Camp Nanowrimo.  What’s the difference you ask? Well with Camp Nanowrimo (which takes place in April and July) you can set your own word goal! I found out about this near the end of March and I was pretty excited.  Maybe I could succeed at Camp Nanowrimo if I could set my own word goal!

So I decided to take part and write 25,000 words in the month of April.  That’s 834 words a day. Yes, I counted.  Knowing your daily word goal is vitally important.  Going past it is always fine.  Not meeting it can be a bummer. But you need to know what you’re aiming for.

Another key difference for Camp Nano is that you don’t have to write a novel.  You can write fanfiction, poetry, short stories, whatever, as long as it meets your word count.  I decided to flesh out one of my characters via a series of short vignettes.

Here’s the synopsis:

Landon Bradbury is a man in survival mode, and has been all his life.  Retired from the military because of disabilities, he seeks to find meaning in his life and his new circumstances. As he struggles with past trauma and unwanted romantic feelings, Landon will learn who he is and where his place is.

Ok it’s kind of a shitty summary, but you get the point.  Landon is our hero, and he has Issues.  So I took the month of April to explore who Landon is.  It was a lot of fun, I have to say.  And I happened to win! So go me!

25,000 words in a month may be easy for some but it is not easy for me, especially when I have no real plot. That’s why the vignettes were so handy, I could write about

  • Landon at a funeral for his mother
  • Landon at the Therapist
  • Landon getting diagnosed
  • Landon and his love interest

and none of them had to actually connect or weave together! Mwahahahahaha!

I don’t know if I’ll take part in July, but I’m definitely glad I did this one.