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Resident Katie Tobin and her toy poodle, Ranch, in her Liberty Village townhouse in Toronto, Ontario Thursday, December 13, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Resident Katie Tobin and her toy poodle, Ranch, in her Liberty Village townhouse in Toronto, Ontario Thursday, December 13, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Living alone: a testament to freedom or an erosion of society? Add to ...

Ms. Kirkland is vice-president at developer CanAlfa; construction on its fifth condo tower in the area begins this year.

“Work’s always been important to me,” she says. “From the day I got out of university, I wanted to get a job and earn money. I didn’t want to go backpacking. I’m picky. I know what I want and I know what I don’t want.”

She adds, “I’d be fine with somebody here three or four nights – and then you can go home.”

For solos who get me time, not diapers, after work, Liberty Village is custom-tailored: The area teems with amenities catering to the cult of the individual, from gyms and pools in nearly every condo, tanning salons and manicurists around every corner, as well as two juice bars and a new laser clinic.

“This is not just a neighbourhood suited for the single young person – it coddles them,” Ms. Roswell says.

Yet while some might malign singles as shallow or narcissistic, many of them actually do more for their families and communities than married folk, according to a 2011 University of Massachusetts report.

“The unmarried are typically portrayed as unencumbered by family obligations, or even as self-centered individuals who do not help out in the community the way married couples do,” wrote lead author and sociology professor Naomi Gerstel.

She found the opposite: Unmarried adults pitched in more with parents, siblings and neighbours than did their married counterparts, who had fewer contacts and community involvement thanks to the demands of their marital unions.

Rather than “selfish singles,” sociologists are increasingly using the term “greedy marriage” to describe the way domestic responsibilities can pull couples away from the wider world. People in that position easily can resent those who have chosen to remain untied by family bonds.

The time benefits afforded to solos “are threatening to people who think that the way to live a good and happy life is to get married, have kids and live in your own house,” says Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.

“When [couples married with children] see more people living an entirely different way, especially as they see that so many of those people are living happy, productive, meaningful lives, it threatens their sense that their way should be the preferred way,” Prof. DePaulo says. “If all of these single people were home crying into their beer, that would not be threatening.”

However, there still are downsides. Some Liberty Village solos complain about the toll of tending to an entire house by themselves, including the Liberty- requisite dog. They can be unsettled by things that go bump in the night.

“There are moments at night where I think, ‘I really wish I had someone to tell that about to.’ Yes, I can pick up the phone, but to have somebody regularly there – yeah,” admits 42-year-old Michelle Di Risio, who has lived on her own in a two-bedroom townhouse for eight years.

Still, Ms. Di Risio is divorced, and understands that a person can also feel infinitely more lonely while living with someone. An extrovert with a good social network, she will often go out and share meals with her neighbours.

“I know what it’s like to be very unhappy in a relationship so I’m really hesitant to have that kind of commitment again,” Ms. Di Risio says. “There are people who are together because they’re afraid of being alone. What are they doing? They’re so unhappy, it just blows my mind.”

As she knows, however, anxieties still can swirl when a family member chooses to go it alone. Ms. Di Risio is the youngest of five siblings in an Italian family, and all the others are married with children. “My family’s never ever given me hard a time, but I think deep down they’re thinking, ‘Why aren’t you living with someone?’ ”

From well-meaning acquaintances, she has also heard, ad nauseam: “Don’t wait too long, you’re going to get too picky.”

Why does this “curiously old-fashioned outsider status” still persist around those who choose to reside alone, as Slate.com’s Katie Roiphe put it last year? Some people argue there is good reason not to see the option through such rosy glasses.

“Where people are wholly fulfilled in an independent lifestyle, then that’s obviously just fine. But there are a great many people out there who would like to be married,” says Andrea Mrozek, manager of research and communications at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, a non-profit research organization.

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