Like Lorde, I'm not proud of my address – mind you, these days she could simply choose a new one. Here, in Dunedin's crime triangle, there are many feral cats. People collect washing machines, tractors, and bits of corrugated iron and use these to decorate reeking yards that look like something out of Britain's Worst Hoarders. They don't have lawns.
Once upon a time living here was fun, even a little dangerous (literally: the Mongrel Mob were just down the road. “Wanna buy some marijuana?” They'd ask. “Got any Botox?” I'd reply). The economist and I divined a certain cache from inhabiting a street so insalubrious. Look at us, we said, refusing to surrender to our middle class roots, down with the hood. Living in a gangster's paradise. Did you lock the back door? But I can't stand it anymore. I AM middle class. Or some kind of class, anyway, and this street doesn't have any.
Our friends don't live like this, washing cat pee off their outside furniture, side-stepping torn rubbish bags and broken bottles to get to the mailbox. They live in nice, manicured suburbs where the neighbours burrow a cup of sugar, not all your stuff.
These feelings of extreme dissatisfaction came to a head last weekend, when my friend Tall Gorgeous Blonde had the most fabulous birthday party. It was SO good, noise control turned up. Sure, the volume at which Prince was being played was the result of the aging participants' collective deafness, but it was a win for coolness. TGB is a marvelous hostess, her house striking envy and fleeting feelings of hatred and despair into the hearts of all who enter it, but you wouldn't want to mess with her. Think Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Judgment Day. There's a pull bar fixed to the hallway lintel (for chin-ups) and her thighs are so strong, she could kick you through a wall. If someone trimmed TGB's hedge without asking, she would punch him in the face. Me, I just whinge about it.
On this particular evening, TGB's beautifully-appointed kitchen was filled with hot single women, I mean seriously hot. “Extremely hot, extremely flexible women,” said the economist. True. Bikram yoga aficionados, most were taking part in a challenge that would see them do 30 classes in 30 days. “Yoga, yoga, yoga,” they said, and “kale.” While the rest of us danced like the electrocuted, the yoga ladies drank coconut water and left early. They had a class in the morning. Not for a second did I envy them their lithe figures and zealous dedication to things healthy. Frankly, I thought they were all a little insane (there was a reason why they were single).
No, I coveted the house.
Henvy, or House Envy, might not be an actual disorder, but its the reason why television shows such as The Block and Grand Designs, magazines with 'Home' in their title do so well. Symptoms include the feeling one's living conditions are mean and squalid. Desperation dawns with the realisation there are no giant words in your kitchen reminding you to EAT, and the absence of a recessed fire pit fills you with an untrammeled rage, usually taken out on nearest and dearest.
“We're moving,” I said to the economist.
“But its great here,” he said, ever blind to reality.
Unfortunately, its not as easy as circling likely candidates in the Property Press and then just choosing one. House hunting is horrible. If I hear one more place described as a 'handyman's dream', I'll scream. I have never met bigger liars than real estate agents – and I used to work in the theatre. Private sales though, are quite possibly even worse, one couple surely New Zealand's Fred and Rosemary West. She smelt like crazy and I could see him cheerfully burying the economist and I under the patio. Seriously frightened, we trembled while they talked for hours about the second coming. Fleeing, “My hands are still shaking,” said the economist, trying to get the key in the ignition. I kept expecting one of them to smash up against the car window, horror-movie style.
Also, houses are unbelievably expensive. Not just in Auckland, where prices have reached ludicrous levels, but here in the provinces too. Sell your soul to the Devil, win Millionaire Hot Seat, you'd still need a stonkily huge mortgage.
“And so the moral of the story is you decided to stay right where you were, happy with your loving boyfriend.”
“No.” I said, seething with thwarted realty.
“You need to relax,” said the economist. “Maybe you should take up yoga?”