So it’s going to be three years ago this fall that Ben and I bought this house. After months and months and some ridiculous number of listings. Because we hated all of them, because they were weird. And of course every once in awhile we considered settling but we didn’t because we are stubborn. And maybe a little stupid. But mostly stupidly stubborn. And we kept looking.
And eventually, once in a while, one would come close—but only for one of us. Ben wanted the one with two bathrooms back to back. So you could pee separately, but with a sense of camaraderie! That’s not why he wanted it, but it was among the reasons I hated it. We made an offer, though. And it fell through because they wanted really way too many dollars for a house with back-to-back bathrooms.
We offered on a house with an honest-to-god pirate fort in the backyard. You could tell by the pirate flag. The owner rejected our offer and then counteroffered 15 grand above the actual list price and we said yes of course! Except we couldn’t afford it not even for a pirate fort and my heart broke into three pieces that day. S
Then we found the two-story place with the horrible kitchen and the worse bathroom and the creepy man-cave downstairs, with a wet bar and a hand dryer. An honest-to-god hand dryer in the bathroom. We saw it twice. He said, “come on.” I said—okay, fine. And we bought a house.
This house. With the creepy man cave and the hand dryer and the wet bar and the industrial tile. We bought it, and we realized we loved it. We loved this weird house. It was our house, and we nested. To be fair—I nested. It’s what I do. I’m fond of talking about how I moved to San Francisco with all my belongings in two suitcases, but what I actually did was immediately buy two thousand dollars worth of IKEA furniture to fill up my new studio apartment. To pin me down, maybe. To make me feel a sense of solidity.
I nested. And we tried to decorate together, but what we did instead was fight about paint colors and I cried because I am insane but seriously, if someone insisted that you had to paint the living room walls cobalt with lime green molding and orange trim, wouldn’t you maybe burst into tears too? We argued about furniture and decorating. We argued about every single decorating decision and finally he said, you decide. You care more than I do.
For a really long time, it was the most important thing in the world to me—making this house perfect. And I wanted to make Ben happy too. Because happiness is important; because I felt guilty. Look this is your favorite color and I know you want a couch that you can stretch out on and I know you want a big table so we can have people over and I know these are things you like and I’m trying very hard, here.
He didn’t really care one way or the other. He wasn’t aggressively apathetic. It just. It didn’t mean to him what it meant to me. He loved the house as much as I did, but it didn’t mean the same things to him, I think.
So when we broke up, he said, the house is yours. The house has always been more yours than mine and I said no, wait I wanted to make you happy too, but we both knew what he meant.
It’s a big house. It’s huge, actually. Two stories plus a finished basement. Three bedrooms upstairs, three bathrooms, a dining room. We thought we needed something huge because at the time we were both working from home and each needed an office. Because we thought we needed the biggest house possible. Because we were flush with the power of a double income.
It turns out when your income is halved you have about half as much buying power, even if your mortgage stays the same. It used to be that I could weather the occasional late freelance checks or a dip in work and it would always be okay, but that couldn’t happen any more. Except it did. And kept happening, a long and unexpected dry spell at the worst time possible.
Suddenly I was in trouble, and having a roommate helped but it was still a struggle and there’s a special kind of panic that happens when you think maybe you could lose everything, just because you didn’t think things through and a special kind of fury at yourself when you realize what you let happen.
Selling the house would have meant a loss, my broker told me. So I went and got a desk job, and that was useful. And now, this weekend, one after the other, there are two more roommates moving in.
I am so happy to have them—they are people I love, and people I trust and respect and if I had to live with anyone, it would be with them. We will have a good household and we will cook and talk and retreat happily to all our separate bedrooms and not talk for days and it will be good but our house, and then my house, the house the way it was. It is all gone for good now.
It’s okay—it is better than okay. It’s something I’m glad we’re doing, but look, okay, a part of me hates it. Hates it so much. A part of me still harbors so much of that fury at myself. At the way things turned out. At my short sightedness. At luck and also free will. I love my house, and I am so glad to keep it and grateful to have found such a good way and I am going to miss it so much.