FRESH YARN presents:
Loving My Realtor is Wrong
The upside of house hunting as a single woman is that at any moment I could look in the mirror and say to myself -- Good for you! All of those years of working hard and being frugal (i.e. driving the same beat-up Ford truck and not picking up the check when I went out to dinner with friends) have paid off! You did it all on your own, and now you're able to buy a trophy honoring your accomplishments in the form of a house. You rock, You! The downside is that the tiny seed of loneliness that had been laying dormant inside me grew into a full blown ficus and started competing with me for oxygen.
You know what you see a lot of when you're house hunting? Couples. Lots of couples. Young couples, old couples, pregnant couples, couples who say "we" a lot.
We really want a fireplace.
We need a lot of space.
We love to cook.
Couples who can ask one another -- Is it us? Couples who befriend other couples -- We saw you guys at the last house. How long have you been looking? And a minute later they're exchanging e-mail addresses and inviting each other to a barbecue. I was growing routinely jealous of these couples.
My married friends tried to convince me that I was the lucky one because I didn't have to compromise with a partner. I had no one to disagree with. But I also had no one to turn to and say -- I don't know. What do YOU think? No one to push me through my own ambivalence or to remind me that I need a house that gets a lot of light because of my seasonal affective disorder -- which I'm pretty sure I have.
I felt a kinship with the other single house hunters I saw, especially the guy in the gray t-shirt and blue ball cap with the iced coffee in his hand. We bonded inside the mid-century hideaway in Franklin Hills about the fact that both of our grandmothers had an antique Victrola just like the one in the mid-century living room.
Me: Perhaps we have the same grandmother.
I was hilarious! I was having fun.
He commented on how much light the living room got and said it looked neat bouncing off my hair. He said I looked like a painting. I closed my eyes and quickly picked out my wedding dress -- something that would suit his own casual but confident style. Then he said he had to go back upstairs to see what was keeping his girlfriend so long.
Me: Yep. Go ahead. I'll just look around and see what else they stole from my grandma's house.
The smile stayed frozen on my face until he disappeared up the stairs. I ran out the front door, locked myself in my crappy truck and screamed -- You mother fucker! I look like a fucking painting? A fucking painting of what? Somebody who just got hung out to dry? Get out of my fucking house you snatch tease! YOU DON'T NEED THIS HOUSE TO MAKE YOU HAPPY! YOU'RE ALREADY HAPPY!
told, I did have a significant other in my life at this time. Daniel,
my realtor, was tall and accessibly handsome. Walking up staircases and
down hallways, I felt small and safe beside him. We spoke on the phone
several times a day. I called him at odd hours and he defined terms like
turnkey, flip, and probate sale. When I fell in love
with the house on McCollum, he pointed out that the floors were uneven
which meant that the foundation was probably cracked. He was trying to
protect me. I love that. Eventually, I quit hanging out with friends,
quit returning e-mails, phone calls. I was spending every minute with
my realtor it seemed. We were constantly stopping for coffee or lunch
and fighting over the bill.
Daniel: It's fine. I got it.
Me: You got the last one.
Daniel: What's your point?
He always won.
Six months into house hunting I was nowhere closer to finding my dream home. In fact, now I was more confused than ever about the dream itself. Half a year in and I still couldn't get past people's stuff -- the pictures on the refrigerator, the food in the pantry, the toys in the baby's room. And believe me, there were lots of babies' rooms and lots of toys. Turns out, a very popular reason to move is because people actually grow out of their houses. I've always cringed at the idea of being called Mommy by a high pitched toddler with low blood sugar, or having to turn down a last minute invitation to Happy Hour because I have to stay home and parent and yet I suddenly found myself thinking -- Well, I guess I could put a bassinet in the office for a while, but if I have twins I'm screwed! Or, Hm how am I going to get a stroller up all those stairs? After all, houses are where families live. Houses are where kids grow up. So why am I even looking for a house now? Isn't that the wrong order? Maybe I should spend this energy looking for my future baby's father.
Daniel sensed my growing turmoil and grew tense himself. I feared losing him and we began to argue like an old married couple.
Me: Daniel, you showed me a house with no toilet. A house with no toilet! You know who you show a house with no toilet to? A man with no spleen. Not me, Daniel! Not me!
He blamed me for changing my mind so often.
Daniel: Last week you only wanted to see Spanish bungalows, this week you hate them.
Me: I didn't know I hated them until I saw them -- You're driving too fast, you're making me nauseous.
When Daniel and I hit our ninth month of house hunting, I gave him a pen with his name on it and took note that I could have conceived and given birth during this time. I was still living in the same studio apartment I had occupied for the last eight years and bemoaned my lack of space the entire time. I could literally lie on the floor, spread eagle, and very nearly touch all four walls with my hands and feet. But now, I had a new concern. I started to fear getting what I asked for. What would happen if I finally had more space? More space to decorate, more space to get stabbed in? I already checked to make sure my door was locked ten times before I went to bed and still lay awake worrying that every sound I heard was someone breaking into my apartment only to find me alone and defenseless. Or what if my towel rack came loose and I couldn't fix it myself and I didn't have an apartment manager to call? And then the front door handle fell off, and I wouldn't be able to leave my house because I couldn't lock the door, and I'd die of starvation because my friends would get tired of bringing me food.
Daniel sent me flowers for my birthday, and he bought me a fax machine so that he could fax me pictures of houses. At our one year anniversary, we spent our first evening together -- dinner and a movie, then out for drinks. Questions about real estate had long been replaced with other, more interesting conversation.
What's your favorite snack food? Did you have a dog growing up? What do you draw when you doodle? Isn't it weird that we still doodle the same things we doodled in elementary school?
A month later on Open House Sunday the weather was cool, and Daniel was wearing the roll neck sweater I liked so much on him and his tortoise shell glasses that made him look even more sophisticated. We were at Starbucks and had just finished our well rehearsed argument about who would pay. Daniel went to the condiment bar for a packet of sugar in the raw. The barista sat a drink on the counter, and yelled out -- Grande Chai! Daniel! I reached for the drink -- I'll take it. We're together.
Time stopped for me at that moment as I finally owned up to something that had been gurgling deep inside me. I saw my true self reflected in that barista's eyes. I smiled broadly, and not having time to run to my truck, I screamed inside my head: Yay for me! I'm in love with my gay realtor! Oh, goody! That makes sense! I mean, there's no time to meet anyone else because I'm too busy spending every waking minute with a man who can never satisfy me!
A week later, I put a bid in on a condo because that seemed like a more manageable baby step than a whole house. I realized that I was buying a place to put my stuff and perhaps a little extra room to dance -- I was not, however, purchasing my entire future, a family, or a soft place to land.
I would like to say that I moved in and everything fell into place -- that one day, I knocked on my neighbor's door to tell him that I had gotten some of his mail by mistake and he invited me in for a cup of coffee. We sipped it slowly in front of the fireplace, his arm around me and his dog curled up at our feet, and I realized I was finally home. But alas
I have started seeing a therapist to figure out why I obsessively decorate and redecorate my new place. I've bought and returned four couches and am currently writing this while sitting on a floor pillow in my very sparse den. If you called me right now, you'd hear an echo when I spoke. My shrink says that whether searching for a home, a couch, or a husband, you should first identify your needs. Dr. Birnbaum is a wise man. And this may come as a surprise to no one, but I think I'm in love with him.
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