Cohabitation

The first time I lived alone was my two years in grad school, in Baltimore. I had a cute little studio in a building with a lot of other Peab students. I loved it (only downside: we weren’t allowed to practice there) and since I was going through a lot of growing pains, especially coming-out-of-the-closet stuff, I was grateful for the lack of witnesses and commentary.

Out of school and off to Philadelphia, I spent two years in what turned out to be a not-ideal roommate situation and swore up and down I’d never ever have another roommate, unless he was my lover. No lovers on the horizon, but I got another apartment by myself, in the Italian Market area. I loved that situation too. I love living alone, never ever crossed my mind to live with someone else just because of loneliness. I was used to that.

But four months after I moved to NYC, I met this guy and we hit it off so well we were spending most nights of the week together right from the get-go – and that was exhausting. Shut up, not because of shenanigans, but because you were always either a host or a guest in each other’s apartments and there was very little chance to recharge. But we’d established quite soon that living together would be our goal if this thing kept working, and it did.

C got what turned out to be an amazing deal on an enormous apartment in Queens, and closed on it in early June, moved in ASAP with very little furniture, planning to buy all new. I was spending Pride Month marching in parades, and my parents were coming to town themselves to march in NYC’s parade (and stay with me), so I stayed put until that was done. After the parade, Mom and Dad and I found each other, got cleaned up, then went to this gigantic new empty apartment for an outdoor concert in the garden, and a cold supper served by this man who they’d just met.

Anyway, a week later, July 4th weekend, me, my cat and all my stuff moved to Queens, and suddenly we were living together. In some ways this made our lives much much easier, but of course it also revealed all the things that it had never occurred to us to discuss before, like ‘how do you like your laundry folded?’, and ‘what do you mean, you don’t have a table in the hallway just to dump things on when you come through the door’ and ‘why wouldn’t you have a trash can in every room’. Well, we worked all that out, pretty much.

C spent four years (!), one room at a time, scraping painted moulding down to the wood, then staining it, and painting the walls. It wasn’t until the end of that whole process that we truly had the showplace that C had envisioned. I had a large check from my company and the opportunity to buy a baby grand, which I did as the final piece of pulling the living room together. We now had an entertainment center, and a china cabinet and an enormous dining room table and a highboy and a chest of drawers and a four-poster bed and on and on. (Also we soon had a niece living with us, which gave us a new dynamic for about five years.)

We remodeled the kitchen in 2003. My kitty died in 2006. We completely remodeled the bathrooms and the butler’s pantry in 2014 (the same year we got married! Insanity) and did some more painting and moulding-staining in 2015.

We’ve been through at least three fridges and three dishwashers. We’re on our second clotheswasher/dryer unit. The sofa and loveseat I’d brought from Philadelphia got replaced a few years ago by a very similar sofa and loveseat. The dining room chairs were replaced a couple of years ago.

We have hosted a hundred dinner parties, where sometimes the family social tension made it more of a funny story afterward than an enjoyable evening, but where the food has always been fantastic. We had the routine down to a science to install/uninstall the air conditioners every year, until we bought a couple of portable ones recently. We know how we decorate for Christmas. The division of labor we set up at the beginning (I do laundry and ironing, he does cooking and grocery shopping) continues to work very well. Tensions about messiness vs order continue to plague us, and always will.

And I bring him coffee in bed every morning.

Twenty-six years and counting.

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