I made my biggest decision, choosing a husband, without even a moment’s hesitation. I met Bear, he had an incredibly sweet face, his insulin syringes made me feel at home, and he was so comfortingly hairy.
“It seems fast,” he said, of friends of ours, “To get married after only two years.”
“How long would you wait?” I asked.
He blushed. “I don’t know, five?”
“No,” I said. “Two is good.” I heard my own voice, but I was a little amazed at the confidence in it.
“Wait,” he said, staring. “You would marry me?”
“Of course!” I said. “But you have to really ask.”
He made a shocked sound, somewhere between a laugh and an exclamation. And then he was silent, grinning.
We had known each other for, what—four months? But I was positive. I had already chosen.
And after I’d chosen, I sailed through the rest. The engagement, the wedding—I didn’t pause for a second. People think that’s the hard part. Committing to another person for your whole life.
But the hard part for me has been the house.
A couple months ago, our rent got raised a shocking amount. I mean, really shocking, even for NYC. And our lease is up on July 31st. And we’d heard it takes months and months to buy a place, to go through the mysterious processes with sellers and lawyers and banks that we’d never gone through before. And we wanted to buy, because we’ve been renting since we got here, years ago, and the rents just keep going up, and when Bear calculated it all on his spreadsheet, it was clear that we should buy and stay. So then we had, um, approximately a week to find an apartment. I was running all over the city with fifty sets of directions that I’d emailed to myself on my phone. I was looking at apartment after crumbling, waterstained apartment and wondering why the rooms were all in a row on a single long hall or why the bathroom opened into a strange, terrifying utilities room or how anyone had lived here before and how they could be asking so much money for it now, KNOWING what it was like. I was so far from the subway, I wondered if I’d ever find my way back. There was supposed to be another stop here, but it was closed.
“It’ll open this year,” the broker was telling me. “And then think about how great that will be for you!”
It had been closed for two years already.
When the frantic week was nearly up, two apartments came on the market in our neighborhood, in our price range. I called my mom and asked her to come in the next day. She did. She immediately eliminated one of the apartments, and we bid on the other.
And that was it.
Well, sort of. Then there was the panic of a second bidder, who swooped in at the last second, but then backed out. There was the rush to find a lawyer and the negotiations with the sellers, who seemed determined not to budge an inch. There was a panicked assemblage of important documents that needed to be collected or verified or signed. There was the dawning realization that we were actually buying a home.
That maybe we were finally grownups.
That we would now have to really, really hope that the housing market was going to keep getting better, since suddenly it was about to swallow all of our money.
That this was incredibly exciting and we were about to embark on this new journey and we were going to be homeowners, living the American dream!
And then there was me, dragging Bear down the street on a weekend-long furniture shopping expedition that resulted in him finally stopping in his tracks like a little boy, and saying, “Furniture enrages me.”
A strange thing was happening to me. I suddenly felt this enormous need to fill our new apartment with perfect furniture. I wanted to do all sorts of things to it that I’d never wanted to do before. I wanted to stain the floors very dark and sleek and dramatic. I wanted a silk and wool rug in the living area—to catch the light elegantly. I wanted perfect glass door knobs and playful dangling lights and lush, coordinated runners and shiny decorative pillows. I wasn’t thinking about this explicitly, but I wanted people to visit my new home and say, “Wow! This is perfect! This is so YOU.”
Even though I don’t really know what so ME would look like.
I wanted people to be impressed. I wanted people to think, “Now this is a place you could stay for at least ten years.”
Because I will be staying there for at least ten years. I mean, probably.
And it’s really, really weird.
I have never lived in a place that long. I have never gotten around to imagining what the place I lived in that long might look like. And now, abruptly, I have it. It got chosen in one day, because it was one of two places that worked for that moment. Because my mom didn’t like the other one. Because it was in the right neighborhood. Because it made sense.
But I don’t know it at all.
Well, of course I don’t know it yet.
But it makes me wary.
I think I have cold feet.
We visited the apartment for a walk through the other day, and I was upset by all of the scratches and dings and loose panels and lights that are just a little bit off center and fixtures that are obviously cheap and cabinets that are actually broken.
“That’s just how it goes,” said my dad, who has had his share of houses. “You will fix it up over time.”
Which makes sense. But I wanted it to be perfect. When I walked through the door. I wanted it to be waiting for me.
A stupid, girlish, fairy princess sort of wish.
I am so lucky. Obviously. I am about to be a homeowner! I will own this home. My own space. I can do anything to it!
It is a good apartment. Maybe I can make it a great apartment. I’m not sure.
Bear and I sat down together after the furniture shopping trip which resulted in no furniture and some hard feelings.
“We don’t even need a table, you know,” he said. “We can just eat on the counter or the floor at first. We don’t have to do this all at once.”
I nodded. It was true. And anyway, I couldn’t find a perfect table. I couldn’t find a perfect anything. And the things I did find were mindblowingly expensive. Wallpaper for $275 a roll. They would give me the price quietly, a little apologetically, after showing me the product. And then I would have to pretend that it wasn’t surprising.
“Oh, yes. Of course. What a bargain! I’ll take all of it. All of your wallpaper please! I’ll send my man around to collect it.”
In the end, the floors would not end up stained. They were a composite—”engineered”—so they wouldn’t take the stain anyhow. I haven’t found a table. I’m looking for a rug, which is the one thing we decided to splurge on because I have always, always wanted a gorgeous rug.
“You walk on it,” my brother pointed out. “That’s stupid.”
But I am going to be stupid there, for my new house. As a gift to it, in honor of our shared future. A peace offering.
Walking through it, I can’t imagine anything. I can’t imagine myself here. I can’t imagine myself with a baby here. As a published author. With a toddler. I can’t imagine what will be happening in my life. I feel like my future is now tied to this place. Taut, invisible strings attach me to the flimsy faucets and the corners of the vents and the blades of the ceiling fan.
And I am waiting in the wings, smoothing my dress nervously. Is this the right decision? Is this really right? What does right feel like?
I knew, when I married Bear. I knew, when I chose my city and when I left grad school and when I started writing. I know when I perform a bat mitzvah service.
But right now, for maybe the first time, I have cold feet.
* * *
When have you gotten cold feet?
Also, does anyone have any tips for where to shop for interesting, eclectic house-stuff in NYC? I mean, outside of Soho, and for under $1,000? I don’t know why I’m so bad at this.
Unroast: Today I love the way I am always looking forward to the next thing I’ll eat. Life is always exciting for that reason
And WE HAVE A WINNER!!! Of awesome jewelry from the giveaway! It’s Kitley! She was commenter #25. Kitley, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll hook you up with your jewelry! Thanks for participating, people! There will be more!