The joy and sorrow of being a graduate student is that you never have any free time. There is always some deadline looming and there is always some book to read. But the unmarried salarywoman or salaryman who works from 9-5 (or 8:30-4:30) might very well have a problem. That problem is the hours between five and bedtime.
The unmarried graduate student is poor. He or she probably has a housemate or lives in a dorm with a lot of other unmarried people. When I was working on my M.Div., I lived in a lovely warm house with some lovely nuns. When I was working on my PhD, I lived in a big draughty house with two philosophy students, Jon and Ted. The nuns were often available for a chat, and the boys inevitably appeared into the kitchen to cook and eat and exchange political and social views. So I very often had company. Thank goodness for the lovely nuns. Thank goodness for Jon and Ted.
But the unmarried, childless salaryman or salarywoman is compartively rich and has his or her own apartment to himself or herself. All the mess is her mess. All the stuff is his stuff. All the noise is her noise. All the food is his food. It can get really, really quiet.
The last time I lived all by myself, with a job, with no housemates, I thought I would go crazy from the lack of noise. My day began when I went to the gym. Then I went to work. Then I came home to my cat. Thank goodness for my cat. Occasionally the cat made noise: he snored and he caught mice, who squeaked.
At home I tidied. I made my supper. I read a little. (I had no television; I think it is wrong for Single people living alone to watch television, just as I think it is wrong for Single people living alone to drink.) And then I made for the Bauhaus Cafe and Bar. Thank goodness for the Bauhaus Cafe.
The Bauhaus Cafe was what you might call a hipster joint. It no longer exists, alas. It was sold and televisions were screwed under the pressed-tin ceiling and barflies sit at the copper-topped counter and push buttons to answer the quizzes. But when I went there it was packed with young artists, young actors, philosophy undergrads, Goths, young painters, young writers, young art curators. (We all lived in an industrial town, and so this may have been the only truly young-artsy place to be.) I went there almost every night, and on weekends I showed up soon after opening. And what I did was write. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and when I came up for air, I had a look around to see who was in, and what was going on, and who would welcome a chat. At Bauhaus, anyone could talk to anybody, so long as you were young or attractive.
And that's how I survived the hours between five and bedtime, the last time I lived alone. The previous times I lived alone, before I discovered Bauhaus, I filled up the hours with boxing training, language studies, going to films, and writing at home. And, of course, for years there was always my monthly trip to Toronto to read stories and listen to poetry good and bad at Clara Blackwood's Syntactic Sunday spoken word event. And of course there was dating and meeting friends for brunch.
Years later when I contemplated my still-Single state, I thought perhaps that I had squandered the last of my twenties by hanging out with Goths and Wiccans and waitresses in Bauhaus Cafe, to say nothing of the hours spent in the boxing gym. Perhaps I should have become more involved in parish activities and hung out with, ya know, eligible Catholics. But perhaps it was this very lack that helped propel me into theology school. And, of course, theology school led to my destiny.
I wish there could be a Bauhaus for all Singles everywhere, somewhere where you can do your writing, or handicraft, or whatever it is you like to do best, in company with others under a beautiful pressed-tin ceiling.
And how do you put in the hours between five and bedtime, my little Singles?