For a long time, I wanted to live alone. I wanted to experience complete and total responsibility. I wanted every bit of it—the feeling of independence on a good day, the crushing loneliness on a bad day. When I finally found myself holding the keys to my studio apartment, the thrill was something else. This was it—the most solid proof of my adulthood. It was like all the elements of the universe had finally aligned.
And then I saw a spider.
Long story short, there was some crying. After that, I used the shoe. Actually I used two shoes. I strategically placed them around the spider and trapped it into walking in the right direction. After half an hour, it reached the door.
And that’s the story of how I walked a spider out of my house.
I wondered if living alone would make me weird. I already have a slightly skewed idea of what’s normal. I use others’ words as cues to tell my own stories. (It doesn’t matter that they’re in the middle of saying something important.) I don’t care if people think I’m sullen and rude but I’d NEVER leave the apartment without smiling at it.
You see where this is going. Living alone will not help the situation. I decided to take a break from worrying for now and take a walk.
It was a scorching, ridiculously dry day. Or as they call it in California, “day.” I’d just moved from Boston the previous week, but I wasn’t really expecting culture shocks from the transition. I’m not American. Inter-state culture shocks do not exist for us foreigners. All the little shocks converge to form one massive shock, in the form of a seven-scoop ice cream sundae.
But then I decided to approach a popsicle cart— the heat was vacuuming my throat shut and I needed some saving.
“Today we have hibiscus with honey-infused melon, blueberry-lavender delight and mango rice. What can I get ya?”
“Sure! One lemon-cucumber-jalapeno-mint? It has real mint leaves.”
And that’s when the rest of my throat closed up in protest. While grocery shopping later that day, I also learnt that people eat flowers. Yes, the same people who think it’s disgusting to accidentally bite into an orange seed.
No one in Boston ate flowers. Lobsters that looked suspiciously alive, yes. But not flowers.
I thought about this sadly as I walked home. I wondered why I thought every part of the country would be the same. I wondered why I wanted to live alone. I wondered if living alone would truly toss me over the edge—from mildly amusing to the creep on the bus everyone avoids.
And then it came to me in one glorious and not-at-all-cliché stroke of inspiration. Everybody is weird. Whether it’s the average millennial who looks at a bouquet and thinks “damn, grocery shopping’s not done yet” or the student who feels the need to hug clean kitchen counters because “they’re so pretty,” everyone has a version of themselves they want to run screaming from.
As I saw it, there was only one way to keep myself from crossing over to the dark side— guidelines. If I wanted to live alone and still remember how to behave around people in a closed setting, some rules were all I needed.
- When there are people in the apartment and you’re doing the dishes, leave pants on. When there are people in the apartment, the dishes can wait.
- If a guest says something like “my life is so unfair,” it’s not an invitation to rant about the real meaning of unfair. It’s tempting to say “Your life is unfair? Bartenders serve margaritas and martinis and wines in fancy glasses that look great in pictures. Meanwhile, my Pepsi comes in a plastic glass with a straw. That’s not just mean, it’s illogical. I’m sober. I’m least likely to shatter your stupid glass in between slurs. And how do you reward those odds? By making me feel like your ten-year-old cousin.” No one wants to hear these random thoughts. They’re only to be voiced out dramatically when alone.
- It’s considered weird to sit in the closet when there’s a perfectly good couch in the living area.
- No one understands that it’s a personal achievement to be able to eat an entire meal out of a chopping board.
- When someone says “What a cute place you have here!” don’t try to hug the apartment.
Now that I know how to behave when I have friends over, the only thing left to do is make friends. I remain hopeful.