I suppose I could get used to living with somebody else again, but the closets are full of my stuff and it's not clear where up to half of it would go if there were someone else around in need of space to hang his jeans. I get tired just thinking about it.
On the one hand, another someone might help clean house; on the other, not cleaning house for long periods of time works well, too. I've not reached the extreme of my long-deceased buddy, Helen, who having given up cooking, and blessed with a microwave and a partiality toward fast food, stored her rinsed dishes in the oven to keep the kitchen neat between periodic washings. But I've thought about it.
This all came to mind when I got a self-contratulatory e-mail this morning from my friend Mary Ellen headed "I am one of the 50%," reinforcing something heard on NPR yesterday --- that according to the latest 2010 census data, the percentage of husband-wife couples heading U.S. households is at a record low --- 48 percent, down from 52 percent in 2000 and far below the 1950 record high of 78 percent.
Although the circumstances are different --- she's dabbled in marriage and found it wanting while I didn't have the option at times I might have been interested --- we were among the 27 percent of single-person households in 2010, a number that is growing, but more slowly than the husband-wife rate is falling.
As you might expect, Utah had the highest percentage (61 percent) of households headed by husband-wife teams. You may disagree with the Saints about politics, theology and/or their treatment of LGBTQ people, but by gum those Mormons do take family values seriously.
The number of households headed by partnered but unmarried opposite-sex couples was up 40 percent between 2000 and 2010 to roughly seven percent.
But the real growth was in same-sex partnerships, married where allowed and otherwise --- up 80 percent to roughly 650,000 households, still less than one percent but increasing. Gay folks seem to be the only market where marriage or its counterparts form a growth industry.
There also have been a variety of other household trends in places like Chariton during the 70-plus years since that 1950 benchmark, and I've been thinking about some of those while spending more time on the town square during the last year.
If you look around, it's fairly clear that there's a huge volume of underutilized space on the upper floors of commercial buildings, and that wasn't the case back then.
When the Kubitshek block burned in 1965, eight households headed by single people --- a majority of them women --- occupied upstairs apartments there and were left homeless. Visiting with veteran building owners, it's become clear that those upstairs rooms and apartments around the square were the principal places of refuge at mid-century for single people, most of them older, who either could not afford or did not want to maintain free-standing houses.
Building of the Autumn Park and Southgate apartment complexes shifted that market and made modern, affordable housing available to most older and handicapped residents. That's a good thing --- many of those upstairs apartments offered minimal plumbing and shared bathrooms plus long flights of stairs.
In addition, there are at lest three good-sized apartment complexes in town now that offer modern affordable housing to low-income people who are neither elderly nor handicapped.
Since there are relatively few rental options for people in the middle income range of all ages, it seems possible that redevelopment into housing to meet that need is an option. It'll be interesting to see what happens as the focus turns to revitalizing the square and the trend toward "unconventional" households accelerates.