“I love living alone. I feel like the queen of my own little castle.” Those were the words my son’s girlfriend posted on Facebook after moving into the first apartment she rented by herself after years of roommates (including my son). I read them with a mixture of emotions. Happiness definitely because I knew she had been wanting to spread her wings for quite some time but also more than a splash of envy because she was doing something I’ve never experienced: going solo.
I went from living with my parents to living in a dorm to living with my husband without so much as a breath in between any of those moves. While I’ve never regretted the path I’ve taken, there are moments when I have wondered what it would be like to be the only person with the key to my front door, the sole proprietor of the contents in the refrigerator, the only one with any say in the evening television line-up. I wonder what it would be like to come home and find…absolutely nothing. To take a bath at three in the morning if I felt like it or to have potato salad and almonds for dinner with truffles for dessert if that was what tickled my taste buds without having to run the menu past other people with vetoing power.
Not, of course, like I can’t do any or all of those things if I want to. My husband and I have been married long enough and know each other well enough so that we each do what we want whenever we want almost all the time. But even with that knowledge there is always the fact that we need to consider someone else’s mood or desire or existence first. It would be different living on my own. It would be like becoming a middle-aged Ann Marie after an adulthood spent as Carol Brady.
Ann Marie was the independent, spunky wannabe actress portrayed by Marlo Thomas in the mid-sixties classic “That Girl.” As a young girl, I watched Ann Marie faithfully, taking subconscious mental notes on her clothes, her boyfriend (the ever patient, ever adoring Donald Hollinger), and most of all, her apartment.
Ann had the best television sitcom apartment ever. While the show has often been considered the precursor to the Girl Sitcom of All Times, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I always thought there were a few things Ann Marie did better than Mary Richards. Her apartment was definitely one of them. While Mary’s apartment was attractive, it had a definite sitcom feeling with prerequisite oddball neighbors streaming in and out on cue.
Ann Marie’s apartment looked and felt like a real apartment. It had three rooms and while the furniture was obviously castoffs from Ann’s parents’ home back in Brewster, New York, it was all nice stuff. Not fancy but cozy, the kind of stuff any girl might furnish her first apartment with, before she got married and received matching china and crystal for wedding presents.
The kicker of this occasional longing for my own place is that the time is no longer right. The time to live on your own should come before you get married or permanently involved with another human being because now, should I suddenly find myself living alone, it would be because my husband left me either through death or divorce or being moved into an assisted living facility, not exactly sitcom scenarios that would allow me to pick out wallpaper for the kitchen in my new apartment with a light heart. Flying solo at my age would mean a major loss of some kind, a major loss I don’t want which means I’ll opt for the status quo and hope it lasts for many more years.
So I’ll stay the course and continue to be Carol Brady for as long as the fates allow. It’s a good life that somehow grows sweeter with each passing season. And the next time the desire to be Ann Marie returns, I’ll get up at three in the morning and take a bubble bath. But when I crawl back into bed I know I’ll be grateful to find my own Donald Hollinger still lying next to me.