Cover image for Living alone & loving it : a guide to relishing the solo life
Living alone & loving it : a guide to relishing the solo life
Feldon, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [2003]

Physical Description:
vi, 166 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"A Fireside book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ800 .F24 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



After a relationship impasse, Barbara Feldon -- universally known as the effervescent spy "99" on Get Smart -- found herself living alone. Little did she know that this time would become one of the most enriching and joyous periods of her life.
Now Feldon shares her secrets for living alone and loving it. Prescribing antidotes for loneliness, salves for fears, and answers for just about every question that arises in an unpartnered day, she covers both the practical and emotional aspects of the solo life, including how to:

Stop imagining that marriage is a solution for loneliness * Nurture a glowing self-image that is not dependent on an admirer * Value connections that might be overlooked * Develop your creative side * End negative thinking

Whether you are blessed with the promise of youth or the wisdom of age, Living Alone & Loving It will instill the know-how to forge a life with few maps and many adventures.

Author Notes

Barbara Feldon is a feminist and activist, she is a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus and lectures on behalf of women and girls. She lives in New York City.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

This breezy memoir chronicles how actress Feldon (Agent 99 from Get Smart) found herself alone after a divorce and the end of other serious relationships. Beginning to despair of ever finding happiness, she came to understand that she could be perfectly-even radiantly-happy living alone. (Indeed, she sometimes sounds a bit desperate as she hammers home her theme.) Astute and optimistic, she notes the problems inherent in regarding "single status as inferior to being married" and advocates consciously embracing the solo life so as to live life on one's own terms. Her wise words (e.g., "Stop believing that marriage is the solution to loneliness") will be useful to anyone, single or otherwise. For public libraries and the night stand, along with Wendy Burt and Erin Kindberg's lighthearted and upbeat Oh, Solo Mia!: The Hip Chick's Guide to Fun for One. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



prologue When I was a kid the greatest thrill I experienced at the circus was watching the flying trapeze artists. High in the pastel lights at the top of the tent, a young woman in sparkling tights swooped through space secure in the grip of her partner. Suddenly, he would let go and send her flying above the gasping crowd. Then, just as she'd begin to fall, another partner would swing down to snatch her up. I imagined that I was her in thrilling flight, tossed from one pair of masculine hands to another. It felt sublime. Years later, I realized how ardently I'd always hoped to find salvation in the arms of a man; a deep, intimate, soul-satisfying union with a strong partner who would cherish, comfort and in many ways support me. For a while fate bowed to my wishes, but when it finally balked and I found myself alone, I felt as if I were falling through space. There were no outstretched arms in sight and I hadn't rigged a safety net. * As a child I absorbed the idea that all true happiness was mated happiness. Period. Every grown-up I knew was married. In our suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood there was a daily choreography of fathers leaving in the morning and mothers, at twilight, bathing, dressing, powdering and combing in preparation for their husband's return, a dance that echoed my grandparents' routine. When my dad appeared each evening he stood near my mother as she cooked in the steamy kitchen and shared the news of his day at the office; they sipped scotch on the rocks and, in my eyes, looked as glamorous as Myrna Loy and William Powell. I gazed from the doorway, dreamy with desire to grow up and play Mother's role in my own intimate drama. As I progressed from envious onlooker at older girls' weddings to bridesmaid -- launching friends through the wedding march to star in white tulle at the altar -- I welcomed the inevitability of a coupled future and its foreverness. Although I entertained embryonic notions of an unconventional (whatever that meant) life as an actress, my imaginings never consciously perched on the idea of living my life without a mate. Immediately after graduating drama school I raced to New York City where I lucked into the most conventional of unconventional apartments, a sixth-floor walk-up, cold-water flat in Greenwich Village complete with regiments of cockroaches. It was perfect! When the picture was further embellished by meeting and falling in love with a Belgian who looked like a movie star, spoke with a French accent and ordered arcane wines, I knew I was finally starring on the silver screen of my life. I regretted giving up my Village pad -- my first taste of independence -- but family pressure and my ardor for Lucien overcame my resistance and I prepared to marry. Then, minutes before the ceremony, I was attacked by a sniper of ambivalence and balked at the vow to "obey." I sprinted to the minister's study to plead that he remove it from the ceremony, but he refused and laughed off my distress with, "Oh, just say it and don't mean it." Unsatisfied, I stood at the altar where I had dreamed of standing, where my mother and grandmother had stood. But instead of feeling joy over a sacred bonding, tears ran down my face at having sworn to a vow (and the servitude it implied) I couldn't tolerate, a vow that Mother and Grandmother had repeated without flinching. To me it hinted that my life was no longer my own. My reaction was a symptom, an early, tiny crack in the veneer of mated roles. I had pictured marriage as a mosaic of bits of colored glass in a kaleidoscope -- but turn the kaleidoscope slightly and the shards of glass fall into chaos before forming a new pattern. I felt my life was about to change, and a different kind of life -- "for better or for worse" -- would bring more role challenges than I had imagined in my mating dream. My marriage slowly slid from fantasy to chastening reality, but the breakup was made smoother by an uptick in my career and a necessary move to Los Angeles to play Secret Agent "99" in the 1960s television series Get Smart. I soon fell in love with my colleague Burt Nodella, with whom I lived for the next twelve years. While our relationship as a couple eventually reached an impasse, we continued to be the dear friends that we are today. I quickly fell in love again (there was a pattern here) but was startled when, for the first time in my romantic history, I was anticipating a permanent relationship while my partner was veering away from commitment. A number of my single friends were experiencing parallel adventures. Often partners approached relationships so burdened with bruises from childhood, former love disasters and unrealistic expectations that the romance was overwhelmed. Some simply chose to delay commitment to concentrate on a career; others were exploring the option of living single. For me, now that living alone had become a reality, I experienced it as a negative, a lonely but temporary vacuum between partners; I couldn't imagine it becoming a chronic condition. As the years passed I was forced to view it differently. There's an old saying: "Wisdom is accepting the obvious." The "obvious" includes the soaring divorce rate. Now there are a startling number of people living alone -- nearly twenty-six million projected nationwide -- and according to the 2000 census, the number of people living alone is now greater than the number of nuclear families. A husky 48 percent of Manhattanites live alone. We've become a mighty horde! Whether we are casualties of emotional wars, single due to the death of a companion or unpartnered by choice, for the first time in history, living alone is an established way of life. * I first conceived of writing this book in 1977 as a sort of therapeutic exercise. I was newly alone and scared, and my self-esteem was flagging. Wasn't a woman without a man somehow flawed? Would I ever be with someone again? Was I doomed to endure a second-rate life? I was embarrassed by the barely submerged pity in the question, "Have you met anyone yet?" as though my love life was my only life. But as I gradually ceased judging myself by my romantic status and began to harvest the pleasures of friends and creative interests, the grisly future I had imagined morphed into an enjoyable present. I began to relish my single status and set the book aside. But over the years I've become aware of the great numbers of singles who consider living alone a holding pen until their "significant" lives with a validating mate begin. Some suffer from societal pressure to marry, or from the sense that they are missing out on the "ideal" of married bliss, and many of them experience acute loneliness and longing. But living alone doesn't mean you are alone. Singles are members of an enormous and vital segment of society. * Living on one's own is not always ideal -- but then, neither is marriage. The mated format is charted territory. Those venturing into singlehood are the Lewis and Clarks of a pioneering lifestyle with few maps, unexpected ambushes and an infinity of adventures. Therein lies its glory! I admit I'm writing from a bias. I was in two committed relationships over a period of many years and I'm grateful for the experience. But I've lived alone now for more than two decades, for which I am equally thankful. Living alone deserves our praise. It is an opportunity to take the raw material of time and sculpt it like Play-Doh. We can bask in a pool of solitude or invite the world to join us. We can create, travel, learn (living-aloners could be an intellectual elite!) and change directions as playfully as sea otters; we can discover who we are and freely strive toward whom we might become. Our happiness is in our own hands. Like a colt on new legs we're encouraged to practice autonomy and free ourselves from crippling dependency. But most beautifully, living alone is an invitation to freely connect with others. Though I'd be a fool to say that there is anything sweeter than devoted companionship at its best, living alone wins hands down in terms of personal blossoming and rewarding friendships. The issue isn't living alone -- it's living fully. I'm not advocating any particular model, but by sharing my experiences and those of friends who enjoy living on their own, I hope to encourage other singles to tailor their lives in ways unique to them. My purpose is not to demonstrate how to "make do" until Mr. or Ms. Right comes along, but to shake off the stigma of the lonely spinster or eccentric bachelor and accept living alone as a lifestyle offering fulfillment equal to (though different from) that of being mated. For 50 percent of Americans marriage is forever; for the rest of us there is another adventure. There is more than one way to feel complete. * In a Buddhist story a Zen master hangs his disciple out over an abyss clinging to a slender branch -- and asks him to let go. If the disciple has the courage, he will do so, then fall into the abyss, "land on his own feet and never poach on another's land." Living alone is not what I would have chosen. But when it chose me, I ceased clinging to the branch of expectations and dependencies (which I did most unwillingly) and risked the dreaded fall. I landed on my feet and realized that this new geography was a gift. Only here could I commandeer my own life and experience the adventures and, yes, the raptures of living on my own. The French poet Apollinaire captured the moment magnificently: "Come to the edge." "It's too high." "Come to the edge." "We might fall." "Come to the edge." And they came And he pushed them And they flew! Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Feldon What comes is not to be avoided what goes is not to be followed. -- Master Daibai living alone (freedom is hard to love) It is Saturday morning in Manhattan. I wake up today in my wallpapered room tucked over my neighbors' courtyard gardens. The spring foliage is transparent in the sun, birds chirp from the comfort of branches; all else is silent. After living alone for twenty years I'm still filled with arias of praise for the blessings of my sweet solitude. But I haven't always felt this way. We complex creatures have a baffling talent for entertaining two opposite desires at the same time. Even while I was intoxicated by the idea of merging with an imagined beloved, I got a renegade thrill from contemplating living independently, freely choosing pleasures to include and intrusions to exclude in order to allow my life to sing. "Owning myself" had the allure of an exotic perfume. As a child I would lie in bed at night listening to my parents' sleep-burdened breathing and dare myself to creep downstairs, sneak out the locked front door and sample the thrill of simply standing under the stars by myself. The anarchy of such freedom was spiritual ambrosia to a girl who rankled under the restrictions of childhood. But I wasn't yet brave enough to risk it. On our property, hidden from the view of the main house, was an old pony shed -- alas, without a pony -- with a slanted, scratchy roof onto which I would climb on summer afternoons. By escaping to my miniature sanctuary I was expressing a need for independence -- difficult to experience in the buzz of family life -- while at the same time feeling reassured that my parents were within calling distance. I continued my ambivalence about solitude though college; though I envied girls with private rooms, I was relieved by having the company of roommates. Then, after graduation, just as I was about to launch into the world on my own, I fell in love with and married Lucien. Although for many years I embraced bonded companionship enthusiastically, always there was that lingering desire to live by myself. After our marriage ended and during my second relationship, with Burt, I once playfully floated the idea to him of our living next door to each other. I was charmed by the prospect of a personal space to which I could retreat at will in unaccompanied splendor. When he laughed off my fantasy I didn't persist, there being no precedent for such a maverick arrangement. Nevertheless, I continued to be fascinated by the lifestyles of the single women I met. Carla, a costume designer, lived by herself in the Hollywood Hills in a cottage decorated with Moroccan tiles that she had gathered on one of her adventures abroad. She traveled alone but she rarely ended up that way, often meeting people who invited her into their homes or, upon occasion, into their beds. And, though Burt and I lamented Carla's unwillingness to settle into a traditional relationship, I was aware that she seemed to have thrived on her choices. As time went on and our relationship deteriorated, we were forced to realize that having no relationship might be better than having an unworkable one and I took comfort in the prospect of exploring another way of living. On Saturdays, while Burt was sailing, I looked around for a studio apartment that I imagined decorating capriciously, a hideaway like a secret garden to which there is only one key. I even began to collect things: dessert dishes with strawberries painted on them, a fluffy comforter; objects I bought and simply left in the stores to be retrieved only in my solo future. But when the break actually came and we were separated not only formally but by an entire continent, the freedom that I had happily envisioned turned sinister and ambushed me at night. I dreamed that I was in a damp prison cell when suddenly the doors swung open and I was free. After walking confidently through an icy, barren landscape, I stopped, turned and resolutely walked right back into prison. Freedom is hard to love, I discovered. Bereft of the security of my relationship and without another one waiting in the wings, I felt like an astronaut whose umbilical tie to the spaceship had been severed and was doomed to drift alone through an endless universe. I was tethered to no one -- and perhaps never again would be. * Not long after our breakup I arrived in London for a television performance, and the city cooperated soggily with my baleful mood. One dank afternoon I was in a taxi on my way to an appointment and I decided to get out and walk. I intended to say to the driver, "You can let me out here, I'm early." But instead I blurted out, "You can let me out here, I'm lonely!" I was woefully in need of direction, preferably in the form of a role model, someone who had climbed the mountain of aloneness and was perched there comfortably. Could such a person exist? Could anyone endure, with equanimity, what I was suffering through? I called my publicist and told her a lie, that I was going to write an article for an American magazine on women who lived alone successfully. Did she know anyone? Surprisingly, she did. A week later I sat across from Pam in a cozy English tearoom sipping Darjeeling and munching on scones smeared with clotted cream. She seemed puzzled by some of my, as the English say, "queries." Yes, she regarded living alone as a splendid way of life; she needed lots of solitude in order to write her novel. "Do you eat dinner alone?" I queried. "Oh, no, not usually. Since I'm by myself writing all day, it's rather nice, isn't it, to have a meal with a friend." I was alert to her jaunty practicality. "Do you travel by yourself?" (To test my courage I'd been planning extended trips alone to places where no English was spoken.) "I have done that, and it's OK, but I find it's actually more fun to travel with friends." Pam was divorced and had no man in her life, but it didn't concern her a bit. "Is she for real?" I wondered. "Don't you miss living with a man?" I asked. "Oh heavens, no!" she laughed. "It's so deeply ingrained in me to wait on them that I tend to slip into servitude. Besides," she added merrily, "I've lived so many years without a man it's hard to even imagine doing it again." "What about...intimacy?" I offered wistfully. "Oh, that's perhaps too personal to go into, except to say that it is, of course, important," she leaned forward, "very important." Before I could pursue this interesting news, Pam looked at me closely and said, "You're rather up against it aren't you." My cover was blown. I admitted everything: my single status, my unpreparedness, my anxiety, my misery. She was sympathetic but frankly bemused that I regarded the autonomy as a deficit. Pam became my first mentor and her view of living alone was liberating: Although I would love to have the pleasure of a companion, if he didn't come along there just might be another way to find fulfillment. I wanted to kiss her! Future mentors would show me how to live alone not just comfortably but joyously. Still, I could not even approach that heady state until I confronted loneliness, the most fearsome dragon of all. Not the garden variety that we all encounter from time to time, but that desolate, hopeless "I'm alone forever" one. Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Feldon Excerpted from Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life by Barbara Feldon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Living alonep. 10
Slaying the dragon: lonelinessp. 17
Banishing negative thinkingp. 39
Intimacyp. 51
And what of romance?p. 69
My space my wayp. 85
Money is the root of autonomyp. 97
Alone in a time of crisisp. 110
Braving it together: goal groupsp. 123
Traveling solop. 135
Reaching inp. 151
Codap. 163