Solo household can still be a home

Molly Callahan

Cleveland Plain Dealer

January 16, 2005

"You have a pretty full fridge for a single gal," my friend Kathy said as she reached in for a drink.

It wasn't the first time someone had commented that my refrigerator "doesn't look like a single person's." I've never understood what this means. Is there some rule that single people can't have fresh food?

People, or at least the people I know, have some strange ideas about singlehood. They seem to think that singles must settle for less -- and some of them are single themselves. For example, one woman said she wouldn't turn on her home air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the summer because "it's just me." I'm not sure whether this rule also applies to her furnace on really cold days. Others don't bother with things such as decorating for the holidays or even celebrating holidays. And cooking? Never, unless you count microwave popcorn.

"Oh, I'd never cook just for myself," people tell me. I don't get that. It's less work to cook for one than to cook for a group. Plus, I know the meal will be something I like and there probably will be leftovers.

People who haven't seen my house at Christmastime assume that my decorations amount to nothing more than a Charlie Brown tabletop tree. I'm fully grown; there's no reason my Christmas tree shouldn't be, too.

And you should see the looks I get when I tell people I make Christmas dinner for my family. This tradition started a few years ago when I bought my condo. The group isn't the same each year, but it's always some combination of parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and usually numbers about a dozen.

Now I'm not saying I'd want to cook for 12 people -- or even a smaller group -- every day, but I enjoy cooking for guests occasionally. Also, it helps dispel the notion that all single people eat their meals either in restaurants or leaning over the kitchen sink at home.

Maybe I'm the oddball because I don't fit the single-person stereotype. But I've been single all of my 43 years and I just don't believe that unmarried people have to settle for less. If I had subsisted on takeout food and microwave popcorn and never turned on my air conditioner, I'd probably wouldn't have lived this long.

Most of the time I just have to laugh at people's theories about singles. One of those came up during the blackout of 2003, which hit just as I was starting my shift at The PD.

When it became clear that we were going to be working in the dark all evening, I went out to get the big flashlight I keep in my car. It's in there for road emergencies, but this seemed like a good time to bring it out.

"Must be a single woman thing," a co-worker said as I returned to the newsroom. "My sister is single and she keeps one of those in her car, too."

Well, sure. As everyone knows, when a woman gets married she doesn't have to give up her name, but she does have to give up her flashlight.

We singles have the power to change things. We don't have to drive compact cars, live in studio apartments, buy our soup in single-serving cans or order only small pizzas.

We don't always have to be the ones to work weekends and holidays "because other people have families." We can hold our own weekend parties and holiday functions (now that we've moved out of our studio apartments).

We are free to turn on our air conditioners in the summer and our furnaces in the winter, even if we're home alone.

And we women, even if we get married, will refuse to give up our flashlights.