Klinenberg renders their stories vividly but also with nuance. He shows that for many singletons, living alone wasn’t their first choice but given how their lives have unfolded, it’s ended up being the best option available. He also notes that ambivalence about one’s life circumstances is hardly unique to people who live by themselves.
Consider Mark, a Manhattan investment banker in his early-forties. Mark stayed single through his thirties and valued the extra space and time he had to devote to travel, adventure, dating, and building his career. But as he got older he began to have doubts about his single lifestyle.
“I look at my friends who are married and have these adorable children,” Klinenberg quotes Mark as saying, “and I worry that I made a mistake. My life feels pretty empty sometimes, and I’d like to be part of something more meaningful than what I do at work.” Mark wants to get married and start a family but he’s afraid that he won’t be able to convince his girlfriend that after two decades of working hard and staying out late, he’s really ready to commit himself to family.
Not all singletons crave a partner (or a roommate, or a multigenerational living arrangement, etc). In fact, Charlotte’s outlook is more typical than Mark’s among the singletons Mr. Klinenberg interviewed. She’s 52, and lives along in New York City after divorcing young. She acknowledges being “afraid of being alone down the road,” particularly if her health starts to fail, but she’s content with the life she has and she’s not sure there’s a better one out there for her.