In my project on the different ways that people live in the 21st century, I have been doing in-depth interviews with people who live in all different ways. (I’m also collecting survey responses here.) To mention just a few examples:
- some live with friends, all under the same roof (and I’m not just talking about college students here, but people across the age spectrum),
- some live with parents or extended family, not (just) for financial reasons but because they like living that way
- others have their own place but live in a neighborhood with other people who actually want to be neighborly and may even share a house in common where they sometimes gather to share meals, as is true of cohousing communities
- some couples – including even some married couples – are totally committed to each other but they also want their own personal place and space, so they live separately
- some people want places of their own, not in communities, that afford them lots of solitude and privacy
Sometimes people end up living a particular way because of constraints – for example, they are sharing a place not because they want to but because they cannot afford to live alone. When we can choose to live as we wish, I think that one of the things we are doing, psychologically, is searching for the ideal mix – for each of us as individuals – of time alone and time with other people, of solitude and sociability. Of course, there are many other needs and wishes that go into choices about how to live.
When I do the interviews for this project, there is a question I ask toward the end that is one of my favorites: “If money were no object, and you had the resources to do whatever you’d like, how would you live?” This is a question of pure fantasy. Don’t worry about any real-life constraints. Just tell me your ideal living situation.
A frequent participant in discussions on this Living Single blog, logic001, recently posted this comment in response to the post about the least appreciated perk of living alone:
“The more I have thought about it, the more I like the idea of urban condo like villages. Everyone has their own sacred space, probably from 300 to 800 square feet, configurable to match their taste. Each 150 individuals or so would have shared park/garden/recreation space, shared laundry, gym, event rooms, tool lending library & workshop, and so on. Well, another thing for my to-do list when I become emperor, I guess.”
Inspired by this comment, I realized that I do not need to restrict my favorite question to the people I get to interview in person. Why not throw it out there and invite everyone who is interested to share their personal fantasies? So if you want to describe yours, please post it in the comments section (or send me an email, if you prefer). I may mention some of them in the book, so if you are open to that, let me know how to refer to you in case I do include your ideas. (Again, you can send that info by email if you prefer.)
Here’s a related question: Do you know of real-life places that approximate your fantasy, or perhaps a recognizable version of someone else’s fantasy? For example, do you know of urban-condo villages similar to what logic001 described?
Finally, yes, I really will get to a description of my experiences talking about single people and people living alone in Finland, as well as all of the other promised topics I mentioned last time. I’m always behind for a while after I’ve been traveling. Plus now I’m on a new breakneck schedule for the new book – starting this week, I’m trying to write one chapter every three weeks. (Well, except for a week for Thanksgiving and such.) Yeah, yikes. It is such a timely topic that I want to get the book finished and out there. We’ll see if that’s possible.