Sometimes being selfish isn’t a bad thing.
I did not come into this world alone. I was born at 8pm on a cold Thursday night in March and my twin brother, who gladly took his time, came bounding out of my epidural-free mother’s belly a full 31 minutes later (ouch!).
From that point on, everything in my life had two parts- things that were meant solely for me and things that were fair game and meant to be shared with my sibling. Unfortunately, the pile of things meant only for me was very small as not even my barbies could escape the often destructive force of my brother who liked to remove their heads from their bodies.
We shared everything and did everything together. From a single mother’s perspective, this arrangement made sense- it was a reasonable and practical solution. Because I was the oldest twin (and likely because I was a girl) I was trained and expected to always keep my brother in mind. The phrase “save some for your brother” became the catchphrase of my youth.
Most people I know who grew up with siblings are natural sharers. They let, nay encourage others to use, borrow or sample their things, but this was not the case for me. As soon as we were able to have separate rooms I became reclusive and introverted. I’d spend hours in my room writing in my diary, playing with my toys and reveling in the joy of alone time & my imagination. I was a different kind of kid.
Who I was as a child is not much different than who I became as an adult. Due to my childhood, the idea of sharing my things, or my space makes me incredibly anxious and uncomfortable. For many years I assumed that my anti-sharing mindset was an anomaly because it never seemed like a big deal to my friends. So I kept my thoughts to myself for fear of having to defend my preferences to others until I reached adulthood. Thankfully, however, due to recent shifts in cultural norms, it seems that there may be a place for people like me after all.
SHARING & WELLNESS DON’T ALWAYS GO TOGETHER We’ve become a bipolar generation, marked by a growing element of extreme polarization in some spaces, and a rise in fluidity in others. Our relationship with sharing it seems, is just as complicated.
On one hand, the rise of the sharing economy created new ways for us to experience life and the world around us. Instead of being tied to material items, we focused on creating a new kind of intangible social currency whose value was derived from the richness of the memories and unique moments had with others. What we didn’t account for was the rise in the interest of holistic health & wellness which emerged simultaneously. Although it took a while to understand what holistic health meant and how it would show up for us individually, we eventually evolved to space where self-preservation became tantamount to all things. The logic behind this evolution being, if we are not whole and happy within ourselves, how then can we even begin to be happy and full of joy for others?
This mental shift towards self-preservation has since empowered consumers to cherish what some would call more selfish, self-serving acts and life decisions. Unironically, the group most affected by this shift is women who, for centuries have been socialized & trained to share or allow others the ability to access their spaces at all times.
This has traditionally shown up in two ways. First, in childhood through the lens of protection, whereas girls are taught to never be alone or to leave friends alone in public spaces. I like to call this, nightclub behavior, where everything is done in twos, including going to the bathroom together.
The second, & most impactful way it shows up, is through the lens of femininity and how one is defined as a woman because, how can you truly be a woman, a friend, a wife or a mother if you do not share your space, your time, or your things with another? It is through this second lens that we allow friends to borrow clothing, or makeup, we make concessions with our property & space for the sake of love, matrimony & partnerships, and we give up privacy and enjoying whole meals for the sake of our children who grab at our breasts and our plates.
For years, women have written these acts off as necessary sacrifices for a greater purpose,which is not wrong, but lately it seems that these expectations are being questioned and re-examined. As consumers today are increasingly single , unwed and without families of their own, they are enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with not having to share their space, their time, or their things in favor of doing whatever the hell they want to do.
SOLO EVERYTHING We first saw the shift when solo travel moved from being a trend to a constant. Millennials had already shifted to pursuing instant gratification so the process of waiting for others to take a trip quickly grew stale. Instead, consumers, namely women, began to go places by themselves which broke the first rule of womanhood- the need for protection in numbers. Although ensuring personal safety is often a top concern for solo women travelers, for many, the fact that there was no need to bend and flex to the desires of other individuals became the most appealing factor. Something about this act felt rebellious and empowering and opened the door for women to experience other aspects of life alone and on their own terms.
Solo-dining, a gender neutral trend, has also been on the rise and is just now beginning to break into the mainstream as restaurants have recognized a growing consumer desire to eat alone. Reasons behind this trend vary from having the freedom to order exactly what you want, to the joy of having a bit of time to yourself and unwinding without the chore of making conversation. Although the act is growing in popularity, the rise of solo-dining has mixed reviews . Finally, my most favorite anti-sharing trend of all has risen to the spotlight: the move towards separate beds and dual master suites in the household. As the importance of getting a good night’s rest has been recognized as a key driver of self-care, couples have begun to realize the potential benefits of sleeping in separate beds and sometimes even bedrooms. The idea itself is not completely unique, but the push towards normalizing & mainstreaming the practice of separate sleeping arrangements is quite new.
SHARING WITH BOUNDARIES Does this move towards self-serving behaviors mean that we are ultimately doomed as a society? No, not at all. The sharing economy is still alive and thriving and is likely to continue to be our permanent way of life as we continue to find ways to live with each other, borrow clothing and share rides & meals with strangers. With regard to increased alone time, studies have shown that it’s actually quite healthy and beneficial for most consumers especially those hoping to disconnect and recenter themselves. Finally, it seems that single consumers are rarely isolated and tend have very active & thriving, social circles.
Considering that we are a generation that is still learning how to combat loneliness and depression, a complete isolationist movement will simply never come to fruition. We need each other too much.
However, what the anti-sharing movement has identified is the very real need for balance. Sharing will always be a fundamental aspect of culture and humanity, but having a say in what we share, how much, when & with whom we share is key. As a society, we’ve made a conscious decision to own less material items in order to make room for more life. But what good is this if our decisions are based on our fear of how others will think of us?
Perhaps this is the one area that we will collectively refuse to allow to be owned or borrowed by anyone other than ourselves. This means how we attain & define happiness and fulfillment will need to break away from societal expectations of how we are meant to be & exist. Relishing time alone can okay. Being selfish can also be okay.
Hopefully this shift will allow us to have an increasingly active role in determining who and what can access our space, our time and our things while erasing the social stigmas that come from the desire to share less.