When two people think about moving in together, shacking up, parallel parking their toothbrushes, there are plenty of things to consider: Prenups (Ain’t saying you’re a gold digger, but you ain’t messing with no broke writer…oh, you are. Never mind then), the distribution of chores and household expenses, working out if there is a way to hang paintings so they don’t get an ice axe through them (on the ceiling, perhaps). No worries. A free and frank discussion beforehand will prevent disappointment when you consistently fail to place the recycling in the right bin and don’t think shaving your legs or having dinner on the table is as much of a priority as a good book. I’m no good at free and frank discussions. I prefer assumption and unspoken resentments that fester. This might be why I’m not married.
Having shuttled between Purakanui and Oamaru for a year now and not just because I really like penguins, the younger man and I are at a crucial point: I’ve got a drawer full of clothes at his, he has one at mine. His alerts aren’t just for crampons anymore, but double alpine sleeping bags. We spend every day under the same roof with me pretending that I haven’t really moved in but I feel once you start throwing things away you’re not just a guest enjoying full kitchen and bedroom privileges, anymore. Have you noticed, that when it comes to living spaces, women are like feral cats: they come in, piss all over the place (metaphorically) to mark their territory and excise the last women’s junk:
“Why did you biff this out?!”
“Because I don’t do ugly.”
“I got it for my 21st from my great aunty Daphne.”
Three weeks ago, perhaps in an attempt to stop the brutal whirlwind of chucking away, the younger man bought a test pot of Resene Soothe and painted ‘Lisa move in, cos I love you, for reals actuals’ (which is Oamaroovian for ‘I can’t live without you, heart of my heart, soul of my soul’) across his living room wall, where it has confused Airbnb guests ever since due to the fact that his handwriting is very untidy so it looks like it says ‘Lisa, move the Cortina for Rwanda’. The following weekend he put in a new bathroom and constructed a rack for my surfboards. This week he moved his snowboard collection out of the front room and turned his DJ stand into a writing desk. Yesterday he cut off the two little dreadlocks at the back of his head that I’ve always hated and handed them over, “Here you are, Delila.” He’s not kidding around, has even stopped wearing shorts every day. “You make me want to be a better man,” he said. “You make me want to wear pants.”
Deep down I knew this step was coming. My backpack had started giving me a “come on” look every time I loaded it up with stuff that I knew would just come back again, however, the moving in bridge is a biggie, once you’ve crossed it – like carrying an oak wardrobe over an isthmus – you can’t easily go back. Next thing you know you might buy a couch together, get a dog (we have child each so it’s ‘job done’ there); the stakes get a lot higher, parting much harder.
The decision to cohabit is not just an exciting whirlwind of duvet-cover-personal-locator-beacon-and-shower-curtain buying. To prepare for this beautiful union of hearts and stuff (the younger man doesn’t have any stuff. Everything he owns fits in a gunmetal grey Terrano), you need to ask yourself, am I emotionally ready for this step? Have we talked money? Is one of us cheap, the other financially irresponsible? Are we morally compatible? I own a couple of fur coats (sheep fur, harvested in the 1970s), the younger man is the world’s biggest, hairiest vegetarian battery chicken rescuer. He sets spiders free, I whack ‘em with a jandal. He’s built like a condom full of walnuts, I get hypothermia if someone leaves the fridge open. Can I cope with another human’s idiosyncrasies? Their morning grumpies? I do realise that proximity doesn’t equal more sex and I’m not too sad about this. Sometimes I’m so exhausted I have to go home to my mothers for a rest.
Over the space of a year there have been plenty of opportunities for boyfriend suitability tests and vice versa. The younger man has seen me at my worst. I’ve had concussion, heat stroke and thrown up outside an Exponents gig. I am hell, quite frankly: selfish, stubborn and phenomenally accident prone but life is short and he’s a trained paramedic. This just might work.