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Domestic Bliss

The new bachelor pad

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I've never lived as a bachelor before -- single and solo. The definition, as popularized on television sitcoms, doesn't exactly fit my lifestyle -- life doesn't revolve around a 24-hour search for a sex partner --but I'm calling myself a bachelor these days anyway, for lack of a better term.

Since my kids left home and I became a bachelor (sounds way more fun than "empty nester," yes?), I've noticed some lifestyle changes that may or may not be beneficial in the long run. For example, I no longer cook, clean or do laundry. I haven't lifted a broom or a rake in three months, and the vacuum cleaner sits gathering dust in the basement closet.

I live out of my car.

I don't go grocery shopping, except for an occasional sweep through the dairy aisle of Safeway to pick up yogurt, with a detour through produce for a bag of apples. The contents of my refrigerator might feed a year-old baby for a few days, but wouldn't sustain a hungry adult for 24 hours. The pantry has become a wasteland of rusting cans, year-old dried pasta and partially used containers of oatmeal.

Bananas and peanut butter and a handful of vitamins, washed down with a Dos Equis, are my new home meal of choice.

Some days, I think it's a phase I'll snap out of, a middle-aged rebellion against the constraints of domesticity that have dominated a huge portion of my life till now. Other days I think this is working out just fine and, dammit, I kind of like my newfound slovenliness.

I go to the Laundromat once every three weeks or so, after all the socks have been worn twice and there are no more clothes left in the closet that fit the season. My utility bills are down, and I've found the Laundromat is a great place to pay bills, grade papers, read magazines and watch people talk to themselves. It's full of bachelors like me who come dressed in their last pair of sweatpants and leave looking as if they've won the lottery. The abundance of a basket of clean clothes has taken on new meaning.

At home, the stacks and stacks of papers that contain the seeds of organization of my creative and home lives have taken over. My children joked about them when they lived at home, but were irritated nonetheless by the piles that took over the kitchen cabinet, the dining room table and the living room floor.

Now, my stacks are more and shorter, covering nearly every available surface in the house, including the unoccupied side of my bed and half the double-wide chaise lounge in the TV room. I know where to find the bills, the receipts, the catalogs, the notes for a story I'm working on, the articles I've been meaning to read, the tax file, anything I might need; the piles are strategically placed and meticulously segregated. It's an organizational system only a bachelor could love.

Complications arise when someone is coming over, or when the kids are coming home. This week I'm hosting a dinner party, and I'm focused less on the food than on where to stuff the piles of paper that cover every possible eating surface in the house, and the condition of the only other room essential to my guests -- the bathroom. My strategy is to move the stacks into a nearby closet temporarily, and to clean the toilets and sink just before everyone arrives.

The kids coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas will be more problematic, since I no longer strip the beds and change them on a regular basis; instead, I move to a new bed when the one I've been sleeping in gets too grungy. We'll need a table to eat on, and everyone will require clean sheets. It'll probably be a good idea to have some food in the house, and maybe even a Christmas tree.

Crawling out of the bachelor cocoon will be tough -- into a house full of people who eat and take showers and move my stuff around. But if I need a break, at least I know where to go. My Laundromat's open 24 hours a day.

-- kathryn@csindy.com

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