In the 1980’s there was a sitcom called, “Empty Nest,” about a doctor whose wife dies and his adult children move in to help him cope with suddenly being alone in the house. It starred Richard Mulligan and Dinah Manoff, and was created by Susan Harris (“Golden Girls,” Soap”) so you knew it would be funny. And it was. Very funny.
But as a newly-found empty-nester myself, I can tell you that there’s nothing funny about living alone in a big house. Nothing at all.
Back story: After my mother died I decided to sell my home in Pacific Palisades, which I’d lived in for twenty years, and start fresh. So I bought this big house in Santa Monica for me and Cooper and my BF to live in. And it IS a big house; on a scale of clown car-to-mansion, it’s a 7. It’s much too big a house to live in, alone. Which is where I find myself. You see, the BF became an ex-BF and moved out, and my beloved, recent high school graduate son went off to start his freshman year in college, in some far-away land called, “Ohio.” Even the foreign exchange student who was living with us moved out and went back to the mysterious country half way around the world that he came from … also known as Canada. So other than staff members and gardeners and workers who are there during the day, I’m all alone in the big house. The urge to rip up plants or break shit, just to have company, is overwhelming.
There are a number of downsides to being alone in a big house. For starters, there’s no one to yell at. I have three dogs; I could yell at them, but that would be totally pointless; they ignore me completely as it is. I can’t scream at the staff or they might call HR, or call an attorney, or, even worse, call TMZ.
Having a glass of wine in front of a crackling fire with a loved one is both romantic and soothing; having a glass of wine in front of a crackling fire, alone, is both is sad a stepping stone to Betty Ford.
One of my friends suggested I turn my spare rooms into a B&B. Really? Can you see me, in an apron and oven mitts, whipping up a country breakfast for strangers? Cooper’s my son, and even though breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I’m pretty sure that in his eighteen years on this planet, I never once scrambled an egg or toasted a bagel for him.
Another friend thought it would be good for me to host Tupperware parties in my den. Hahaha. A bunch of dowdy housewives burping their bowls on my Restoration Hardware coffee table? I think not. I also think I need new friends.
Unless I meet a fabulous new man or give birth to a miracle child, the reality is, I’m going to be alone. And until I make the adjustment to Cooper being gone and me being an empty-nester, I come up with a temporary fix: not only am I going to be out of the house as much as possible, I plan to start hanging out at arcades, skating rinks and malls – where I can enjoy having teenagers roll their eyes at me. Nothing like feelings of shame and disgust to make me feel right at home.