I met my boyfriend at a party this spring. It took us all of two weeks to realise that we were madly in love, and less than that to commence thrilling everyone with the minutiae of our marvellous romance.

living together

By month’s end, I was spending seven nights a week at his place while my roommate rattled around alone in our two-storey, four-bedroom house.

Soon, the idea of maintaining a costly residence I didn’t actually live in seemed a silly intrusion on funds I might more effectively be spending on shoes – a capricious notion only furthered by my boyfriend’s quick wit, easy charm, original Barcelona chairs and penchant for keeping fresh lilies around the house and iced vodka in the fridge.

What lingering resolve I may have had was, then, pared by his habit of waking me each morning in a white, French-cuffed shirt and handing me a frothy bowl of cafe au lait.

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For a while, I neutralised this potentially dreamy scenario by recalling how I’d lived with men before and, consequently, vowed never to do it again unless it involved being carried over the threshold following a shotgun wedding.

It wasn’t that I regretted either of my previous forays but that, by year three, I invariably wound up packing my bags while composing suitable explanations for my imminent departure. All of which left me wondering: is moving in together really the best way to sustain a romance?

Living with a man requires the tricky blending of two – and, in my experience, usually divergent – personalities, which, in turn, necessitates a sort of preternatural flexibility.

Though my current boyfriend’s inclination toward self-righteous indignation is rivalled only by my own, he is, for the most part, more conciliatory than I am – but not so much so that he eliminates the opportunity for big dramatic dustups and their suitably lusty absolutions.

To be honest, I’d likely fall asleep with a lover I never stopped getting along with. Living with a man who lets me have my way all the time inevitably results in my losing all respect for him. Alternately, living with a man who doesn’t, inevitably results in our neighbours calling the police.

In this regard, I have a healthy respect for the Italians, who like to throw things at each other and then spend all day in bed showing how sorry they are. I should confess, however, that an astrologer once informed me that my natal chart indicated I was both “emotionally difficult” and “upsetting” – an opinion with which many of my former suitors would likely concur. On the other hand, I doubt they were ever terribly bored.

The cons of cohabitation are clear: you’re instantly accountable for your time and whereabouts and, worse, prey to the veiled, stifling malaise that expresses itself in either bickering or boredom.

Though, initially, you may hold hands all day and spend your evenings making sugary chatter before the fire, the intimacy of spending every day with someone can be gracelessly reduced to loafing around in your track pants, watching television and getting fat on takeout while taking each other for granted.

The upside is that, in most cases, you’ll no longer have to worry about garbage day or how it gets to the curb, consider the cost of breakfast, lunch, dinner or movies, retain the services of taxi drivers or see the corner store ever again, while at the same time handily doubling your collection of big, cozy sweaters.

The alarming thing is that moving in can often occur as much by osmosis as by any sort of rational decision. One day, you wake up and realise that you live in this new place and, conveniently enough, your clothes seem to have followed you there.

Soon, you find yourself making agreeable additions to his residence with such things as haute shampoo and matching sets of coffee mugs. (Most women will not long endure greeting the day by soaping their expensively highlighted/lowlighted/permed/cut tresses with Pert before pouring their first coffee into a set of mismatched mugs imprinted with some foul corporate/sports/ restaurant/movie logo.)

After this, you will improve the lighting and make appropriate additions to their CD collection. Though it’s odd to be suddenly surrounded by someone else’s things, I find that if theirs are nicer, you get over it faster. On occasion, you may be obliged to divest them of questionable bric-a-brac, including any “artwork” that commemorates sporting events, action movies or portrays race cars.

I admit to once tossing out six garbage bags of a man’s belongings. (Though I justified it by pointing out the airbrushed towel festooned with a Miami Dolphin displayed proudly above his Jacuzzi.) At a certain point, some gentlemen must concede that they’ve, indeed, lost the taste war and you’re here to help them.

Still, in an effort toward maintaining some semblance of independence while living with men in the past, I’ve always retained a separate address – a pied-â-terre I might not actually see for months on end but that, nonetheless, represented a clear escape route should I suddenly decide it was time to decamp.

It also afforded me the freedom of storming out dramatically during arguments – my specialty – with the added benefit of a place to reside while ignoring their phone calls. Thus, avoiding the sorry spectacle of spending the weekend on a girlfriend’s couch, accompanied by such insufficient supplies as the cocktail dress and evening bag I stamped off in. Furthermore, out-of-town friends found my frequently abandoned quarters a wonderful rate-free vacation residence.

Yet, despite my myriad misgivings, I took the unprecedented step of leasing my house – then hurtled into a three-week-long anxiety attack during which the mainstay of my diet was my cuticles. Would we still go out for dinner and make each other breakfast?

Would deliverymen continue handing me surprise bouquets with love notes attached? Or would I end up cringing when I heard his key in the lock? Upon completing this manic cycle, I attempted to engage him in a series of ridiculous feuds about things that didn’t matter.

He took me for dinner and bought me flowers. Following that, I called my friends in order to scrutinise the absurdity of my decision. It turned out they all adore him and requested that I stop behaving like an idiot. So with the exception of six dining-room chairs and a headboard, I stored my furniture and shipped the rest, which consisted mainly of a shamefully extensive collection of cocktail shakers, ashtrays, martini glasses, wine openers and champagne buckets.

Of course, it’s not always entirely smooth sailing. From my decidedly more languorous perspective, he is psychotically tidy, telling our friends he has to follow me around with a hand towel and an ashtray.

Once, even attempting to decrumb me while I ate a piece of toast, like I was just another thing to wipe off in the kitchen. I also manage to endlessly exasperate him with my inability to hang up clothes, load dishwashers, keep my toiletries from overwhelming the bathroom or retain house keys. Two months after I arrived, he broke down and hired a maid. On the other hand, he calls me “Darling,” teaches me to say silly things in French, feeds me artichokes, charms everyone I know, but mostly me, and at the end of the day, I just can’t wait to get home.

Comme la vie est merveilleuse.


Originally published in www.newfaces.com

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