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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 ...

In 2008, 91 per cent of teen girls and 89 per cent of teen boys said they expected to get married and even more presumed they would have children: 94 per cent of the young women and 95 per cent of the young men, according to sociologist Reginald W. Bibby’s 2009 book, The Emerging Millennials, which surveyed 5,000 teens.

Ms. Mrozek and other pro-family advocates also suggest that living with a spouse helps people evolve: “Where people are extending their single lives from the sense of, ‘I don’t want to give up anything, I don’t want to change anything, I can’t compromise on certain things,’ I think anybody would be hard pressed to see that as a hallmark of maturity,” she says.

And she believes many solos aren’t as satisfied as they let on. “People slide into a lonely lifestyle by accident: They think they would have gotten married by a certain age and it hasn’t happened. …

“Alternatively, they fall into that through tragic circumstances in their life like a difficult breakup or a marriage demise. … Is that a trend line we want to celebrate?”

Indeed, research has found that lack of social connection can pose significant health risks, especially among older populations. Loneliness has been linked to higher stress levels and blood pressure, poorer sleep and an increased chance of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

Already, for some of the younger denizens of Liberty Village, getting sick alone is seen as a liability: “If you have the chills and it’s really hard to get out from under a blanket off the couch to get tea or NeoCitran you don’t have anybody to bring it to you,” Mr. Rosso says, laughing, but clearly from experience.

But observers are mistaken if they think that most who live alone are really looking for such total autonomy.

“People who live alone are not completely self-reliant. It’s the interdependence of the places that they live that make their independence possible,” Prof. Klinenberg says.

Marriage advocates often “talk as if marriage solves these deep human problems – securing happiness and avoiding loneliness, finding meaning. We know at this point that a great many marriages don’t deliver those benefits. I’m not saying getting a place of their own solves all their problems or makes life perfect, but I don’t think anything does.”

Many solos do acknowledge a worry, however, that the longer you live alone – even in swishy, social Liberty Village – the rougher your edges might become.

“I’ve never put up with a lot,” says Jordan Epstein, a 33-year-old real-estate agent who moved here from Thornhill in 2010. “It’s my place. As soon as I walk in the door, it’s all mine. I don’t have to worry about other people.”

In November, Mr. Epstein hosted a friend in from out of town. After mere hours, he admits, he was “going crazy”: “I just don’t enjoy having someone around. The freedom to wake up and walk around the kitchen naked, if I want to, isn’t there.”

Are those who live alone diminishing their capacity to be among others, or simply modifying what they want out of life?

Currently single, Mr. Epstein jokes that he bought two 55-inch flat-screen televisions, one for his bedroom and one for his living room, before investing in a bed.

If a woman were going to move in, he says, he would have her sign a cohabitational agreement. But, he adds, “I don’t see the need to rush to move in because I like knowing they have their own place they can go back to if they need their space.”

Ms. Roswell sees the same philosophy play itself out through the window of her ground-floor townhouse, when she witnesses the weekend parade of boyfriends and girlfriends calling on her neighbours. “It feels like people are visiting their relationships rather than thrusting themselves headlong into commitments.”

She has her own caveats for any future cohabitation: “It cannot represent a situation that makes me less than I am over here by myself. … It should contribute to it. That’s a lot to ask for from any relationship, because what I’m enjoying now is pretty good.”

Over at Ms. Tobin’s very pink townhouse, a plush chair moulded like a high-heeled shoe greets guests at the door. The stylist accepts that a boyfriend literally could not fit into her one-bedroom woman cave.

Sometimes she frets about her “girly” apartment, but female friends have reassured her: “They say, ‘Katie, you’re never going to live like this again – you might as well girlify this shit.’ When am I ever going to have a bedroom with a pink wall?”

Ms. Tobin understands the transitory nature of her living arrangements, just as Prof. Klinenberg describes, and for today she is far from eager to trade them in. “It’s comfortable. It’s almost a community,” she says. “I have everything I want. At this point in time, I don’t even know where else I would live right now.”

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