Thursday 23 July 2015

Self Care for Singles

I had a letter recently from a Single who wondered how to make herself eat supper and go to bed at a decent hour when she becomes so distracted by electronic devices that the night flies by before she knows it. She thinks married women and mothers must be better at self care, and I thought, "Ha! Not necessarily."

I recommended that she set an alarm clock for 6 PM, and when it rang to leave her electronica and go into the kitchen. After cooking, she should sit at a proper table and eat her supper. She could also--I now add--reset the alarm clock for 9 PM, which is when she should stop being on the internet or watching television, if she wants to be asleep by 10 or 11. I should take my own advice for that one!

The idea for alarms telling you what to do comes from conventual life. Cloistered Nuns are the Single Women Par Excellence, and they take care of themselves by living a well-regulated day according to an ancient Rule of Life, sent from activity to activity by bells. As a result, they tend to be splendidly healthy and not peg out until they are quite old. I wish I could stick to a schedule the way they do, but they do all help each other, and there is the all-powerful bell. I supposed I should save my greatest admiration for well-regulated hermits.

Meanwhile, the best book I ever read on good self care for Singles is still Marjorie Hollis's Live Alone and Like It. It has all kinds of ideas I incorporated into my own Single life, especially the parts about eating and sleeping. It is so important to your morale to cook lovingly for yourself, and to set yourself a lovely place at the table, and to make your bedroom a wonderfully inviting place dedicated solely to sleep.

If you do not have a proper bedroom, but live in a bachelor/bedsitter, than I highly recommend a folding bed (like a futon), so you can transform your flat from a sitting room into a giant bedroom quite easily. But it is terribly important to have that night-time switch-over from "Awake" to "Sleep Now." If all you have is a Single bed, throw the pillow under it when you get up, spread a duvet or quilt over it and prop up cushions against the wall, to turn it into a couch.

Sometimes I think about my first bedsitter, and how much I loved it. It was wonderfully cheap, but it had a big bay window, such as I had always wanted, and was furnished with a round table, two chairs, and a standing cupboard for clothes. It had a tiny kitchen, and beside it a tiny bathroom with a real tub. I added a big futon, which I folded up every morning, and that was my little chez moi. I walked to the gym or work every morning, and walked back from work, and then walked to the boxing gym afterwards. My life involved a lot of walking. No wonder I was so thin. To be young is to be poor, n'est-ce pas?

Naturally another part of self care, besides cooking carefully and eating elegantly and going to bed in a cozy, attractive place, is to get enough exercise. Of course, it is also important not to get too much. If you can afford it, going to a gym just before work is very profitable. (If you can't afford it, go for a run, or a bike, or walk up and down a nearby hill.) Since you are barely awake when you push yourself out the door, an hour of exercise flies by before you know it. Eventually you go from sheer habit. And as you are entirely rested, you have no excuse not to go.

I had no television when I was Single, except when I lived with my parents. My grandmother was more of a radio person, and she told me that the radio was great company. I haven't really liked radio of company since I was a teenager listening to Top 40, so eventually I found a kind of company that I really liked--the tribe of students, young artists and assorted oddities who hung out at the Bauhaus Café in Hamilton, Ontario. I sat, nursed drinks, and wrote bad poetry at the bar while chatting with the other patrons. Goodness, how very 1920s-in-Paris that seems now.

I'm not sure now that this was the best sort of self care, but I was lonely, and I didn't have any Catholic friends in town, let alone intellectual Catholic gatherings, and this was 100% better than the salsa classes that made me want to stab myself in the heart with a fork and die. Meanwhile, one of the things that seems to be prevalent among Singles I know in their 20s and 30s is that they go out a lot. Swing dancing is packed with Singles, and the ones most passionate about swing-dancing are lucky, I think, to have found a passion that ensures that they will be around other people AND get exercise. No alcohol or buying of snacks as a sort of "table rent" in a café or bar is required.

Meanwhile, unless you really love living alone, there is no life requirement that you HAVE to love alone. The freedom that comes with living alone--rolling in from nights out at 3 AM--begins to pall after awhile, or after you are 25, unless, of course, you are indulging in a worldly and varied sex life. But if you are striving to live as a good Christian, then this isn't a consideration, and I recommend that you live with your family, only as a paying adult, not as a child, or club together with other Single friends to rent a house. You may find that the rewards of living with others outweighs the pleasures of living completely alone. Of course, as you get older, you may find that you prefer to have your own, very own, front door, shared only with your cat or dog.


  1. I have a dumb and vain question.

    Today I turned 25. Yay!

    My Facebook profile makes not only my birthdate known, but also my birth year. I don't think I'm old or anything, but is one's age something one should conceal? When should I start to conceal it?

    1. Concealing your birthday in social life is a dumb idea. I can see why nobody would want to tell a prospective employer, but on Facebook, you should be okay. Congratulations on reaching 25 safely and without contracting a lousy marriage! Happy birthday!

    2. Why is it a dumb idea? That seems a little harsh. I don't think anyone should be worried about people knowing how old they are (I'm not even sure why this should be a problem with a prospective employer), but your birth date/year is a fairly important piece of information (I've even had doctors use it to confirm my identity when releasing personal information over the phone), and Facebook is not nearly as secure as people like to think it is. It may be a little paranoid, but I hardly think it's dumb.

  2. Happy Birthday, Julia!!!

    Personally, I don't have my birthday up on Facebook, but it's just because I'm paranoid about security. :)

    And Seraphic, I had to laugh when you said 'Ha! Not necessarily!' :) So true! Disciplined people are better at self-care, and that's pretty much it. (Although I think it is a little easier to cook better/healthier meals for other people than just oneself, so there is that.)

    I'm a big fan of bribing myself to be better at self--care. :) For example, it's much easier to turn off the tv/internet at night for an hour or two before I go to bed if I have a good book waiting for me. And a tiny bit of chocolate or a yummy breakfast treat waiting for me makes exercise less painful.

  3. I hope to marry one day but I'm afraid despite being 24 I would much rather live alone when not married, my own home. However I've had a few bad experiences with housemates in the past so if house shares work for someone all the better.

    Happy Birthday Julia, I've never had my year of birth showing purely as a privacy thing, my friends know how old I am anyway but I don't think age is something to be concealed unless it's an issue of privacy or trying to protect your information.

  4. This was a good column. I've been a widow for 9 years, and I still struggle find enough discipline to eat nice meals and get to bed on time. (I find it harder to care about cooking for one.)

  5. Regarding exercise: the key is to find something you really really love and then you are motivated to keep it in your life and it helps regulate your life. It works better for me to exercise at the end of my work day so that naturally leads me to dinner and then to bedtime routine.

    1. Oh, that's a good idea! I don't think I could have done that myself. It was YMCA in the morning before work and then Boxing Gym after supper. You know, I was crazy.

    2. "Find something you enjoy" is what they always say about exercise. But I don't enjoy any vigorous activity. So it's really hard to get, much less stay, motivated. (Okay, I can bear to take a walk after breakfast if it's not hot enough to make me sweat.)

  6. I love to cook, so cooking wholesome meals is usually not a problem, but i found alarms very helpful not just for waking up but also taking out the garbage on garbage days amd leaving the house on time for work.


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