We all loved ‘Home Alone’ as kids.
The gallant story of a brave young boy delivering moral justice and inflicting mindless, hilarious violence on a pair of good-for-nothing crooks, and it was Christmas! A winning formula!
It wasn’t all slapstick either, we learned some important life lessons from that film franchise – the true meaning of Christmas, a second sequel is practically always a bad idea, and something about not just assuming that your weird old neighbour is an axe murder. Serious stuff.
But there’s another important issue which ‘Home Alone’ raises in this Christmas Classic, one that I didn’t fully appreciate until recently, I call it the ‘Macauley Culkin Syndrome’.
You remember the scene, frustrated with the domestic chaos of visiting relatives, the stress of the festivities and ultimately tired of being undervalued as a member of a cohabiting family, little Kevin vents his displeasure, as I think we all have at some point in our lives, by jumping up and down in one spot and screaming from the top of his little lungs: “When I grow up, I’m living alone!”
It’s a sentiment I have repeated at similar volumes on a weekly basis since first moving into shared accommodation six years ago. Of course then I was in University Halls, and the biggest point of contention affecting domestic bliss was who had used all the milk/butter/toilet roll, or why there was a grown man dressed head to foot as a carrot kicking my bedroom door – silly, trivial little things that seem laughable in hindsight.
Since then I’ve gone through the full range of domestic discourse from noise complaints, bullying accusations and phoning the police to remove the throng of drunken teenagers running riot through the house on St Patrick’s Day.
All standard stuff from what I’ve gathered from friends. Everyone has had similar experiences.
It’s a tale as old as time.
You need to share the heavy burden of the rent, you’ve got a friend in need, you get on fine in a controlled environment such as work or college, it makes perfect sense to move in together!
That is, until you realise that this very dear friend is incapable of washing a cup, an avid fan of the Kardashians, or secretly a compulsive liar. Everyone has their faults I guess, but some are more unforgivable than others – lying about being terminally ill is the big no-no in my humble opinion. Oh and not paying your rent and bills for so long that the bailiffs come knocking, that’s also considered foul play in terms of cohabitation and friendship, and general human decency.
But it just goes to show, you never really know someone until you live them.
I certainly don’t claim to be perfect – I can be lazy, messy, moody in the mornings, loud, and guilty of letting the dishes pile up for a few days, but I do produce some excellent baked goods, so you know, silver linings.
And I’ve always considered myself fairly laid back when it comes to cohabiting grievances, I don’t sweat the small stuff, at least not to begin with. It’s only when the small stuff begins to prop up the mountains of fairly substantial stuff that I get irritated, or when the small stuff begins to grow a thick fur at the bottom of the fridge, or when the small stuff has a big, red FINAL NOTICE stamp printed on it. These are the things that lead you to jump up and down in the middle of the kitchen floor, screaming “I want to live alone”.
These are the things that lead to full screaming and kicking onset of Macauley Culkin Syndrome.
Little Kevin McAllister had it right, living alone is the way forward, it’s the dream!
I did it briefly for a few months while a flatmate was working abroad, and those quiet, peaceful, fairly naked months were some of the happiest of my renting life. Coming home to a mess all your own, knowing that there will be bread and milk and toilet roll when you get up in the morning, never having to put the toilet seat back down or dispose of someone else’s rotting carrots, never having to watch Geordie Shore or Match of the Day – absolute bliss!
It is a wonderful thing to rest assured that the rent and bills have been paid, to know that the oven and washing machine and telly remote will always be idle, awaiting only you, to know you won’t have to constantly chase a meffy housemate to pay her way or do his share, can you imagine it?
Because Macauley Culkin Syndrome isn’t necessarily triggered solely by bad housemates. Even wonderful housemates who hoover for sport, bring back treats from the shop and understand the need for respectful silence when Downton Abbey is on, even these heavenly beings will eventually lead you to that same, buckling spot of the kitchen floor where you perform the same old song and dance of frustration. It’s not anything that they’ve done wrong, it’s just their general presence, their necessary presence.
To live alone would be to live independently, self-sufficiently. To be a grown up with the privileges of walking around naked, should you see fit, of peeing with the bathroom door open, of leaving piles of dishes, clothes and unread newspapers wherever you choose, of never having to wonder how exactly to ask a friend if they plan on replacing the photoframe they broke or if they really need three different cartons of out-of-date milk in their fridge. Mama tells me there will be days like this… eventually.
So to all the cohabitors out there, I feel your pain as you feel mine, we’re all in the same shared boat, we all need to offer our live-in buddies the understanding and patience we often require ourselves, put the kettle on, call a truce and live peacefully … unless they’re a meff, in which case kick their messy ass out immediately.