The continued propinquity of another human being cramps the style after a time unless that person is somebody you think you love. Then the burden becomes intolerable at once. This may seem to be carrying monasticism to unbearable extremes, but dry your tears. What is frowned upon is cohabitation rather than sex.
The problems that one encounters on an occasional basis in hosting a soirée are nothing compared to the domestic discords that can occur when two or more people are sharing a residence. Even at the most gloomy party one can console oneself by saying, ‘This too shall pass,’ and be reasonably sure it will end before sunrise, when all the vampires creep back into their crypts. But with spouses, in-laws, flatmates (and all those who the more disruptive of your life their behavior becomes the more often they tell you they love you – what kind of excuse is that?), it is no easy matter to extricate oneself from a trying situation. I do not allow this problem to arise in my own life; I have not lived with anyone since reaching my mid-thirties, and have not had the remotest wish to be seen by someone else eating my morning corn-beef hash and eggs, with a scraggly beard and my hair in curlers. I would rather move to the Third World and be crushingly poor and alone in a rice paddy than be pent up in a penthouse with some professional cell-mate who insists on being my soul-mate. I don’t want to sing ‘The Nearness of You’ to anyone; but judging from the expanding list of ‘Shared Accommodation’ classifieds in the papers the bulk of humanity is lining up, for reasons of economics or debauchery, to live in communal beehives where the days are filled with a socializing buzz and the nights are rendered sleepless by snoring and other nocturnal emissions.
Without people, our lives may seem to be an arid waste, but with them, the desert suddenly becomes a minefield. The man or woman who is an amusing delight to meet once a month for a meal and a movie may turn out to be an irascible neurotic with a drinking problem upon moving in: few people look their best in extreme close-up.
Photo: Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)