London’s housing crisis has our friends across the pond engaging in the mental contortions that New Yorkers know all too well: how much money can I save if I move in with my significant other? What if it’s too soon? What if we break up and then are stuck together on the lease? London’s press has dubbed the trend of young couples moving in together for financial reasons “hutching up.” I guess because we have sex like rabbits, now we have to live like them too? While the term is dumb, the phenomenon is real, and is a huge factor in New York’s relationships and real estate.
A quick peek at Craigslist confirms that shacking up in a one-bedroom or studio is almost always cheaper than living separately with roommates, sometimes significantly, intoxicatingly so. When my boyfriend and I were moving from a summer in our hometown back to Brooklyn, I spent a lot of long nights on Craigslist, sending out emails to prospective roommates. One night I got curious, and started looking at what we could get if we combined our rents, and I lost my mind a little bit. We could each live in a cramped apartment with two other roommates in bumfuck neighborhoods, or we could live together in a beautiful loft in Williamsburg. Visions of fireplaces and exposed brick danced in my head. No trekking from one side of Brooklyn to the other for date night, purse stuffed full of clothes and makeup. No windowless room with a lofted bed in a converted warehouse where I was once bit by a pit bull. Our own, glorious apartment.
Let me be clear: my motivation here was about 20 percent desire to live with my boyfriend and 80 percent ravenous real estate lust. New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate in a way that they are obsessed with little else: this has to be the only city in the world where it isn’t rude to ask someone how much their rent is. (I mean, it’s a little rude, but as you preface the question with you say, “Do you mind if I ask…” you’re totally fine.) After four years and as many apartments in the city, I was fully infected with the real estate contagion. Sure, living with my boyfriend would be nice, but I wasn’t really thinking about that. I was thinking about that beautiful, beautiful loft.
On my best friend’s couch for a week of apartment hunting, I finally admitted what I was doing. “So I’ve actually got a couple of appointments to see places for me and Jay to live together,” I mentioned while discussing my schedule for the week. I knew what she was going to say. I just had to hear someone say it.
She looked up at me and very gently said, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? He’s a great guy and you obviously really love each other, but we both know you tend to move really fast in your relationships and that hasn’t always worked out so well.” She was right, of course. I’d been so seduced by those light-filled apartments I hadn’t considered the reality of moving in with someone: sharing the bathroom, figuring out bills, throwing headphones at them when they’re watching YouTube while you’re trying to sleep. I’d lived with a boyfriend before, and it had not been a good idea.
“How long have you guys been dating, anyway? Like a couple of months?” she asked. “Three,” I admitted, and then the fantasy really came crashing down around me. I was considering moving in with someone I had been dating for three months because I’d been infected with real estate madness. To paraphrase Aziz Ansari, I’ve had sweaters for three months and then decided I didn’t like them. There was no way I could sign a lease with someone I hadn’t even known for the duration of a professional sports season. I cancelled the appointments, relieved that someone had called my bluff.
My boyfriend and I decided to table the moving-in discussion until next year, and now we each have our own cozy room in Bushwick, with windows and real beds and cool roommates, only a few subway stops away from each other. We recently spent a week and a half living together while he apartment-hunted, and while there were no epic fights, I discovered I’m not quite ready to play house. (Seriously, what is with the YouTubing while I’m trying to sleep?)
After a long period of singledom, I can’t quite get through a full week of sleepovers without craving a night alone in my own bed. I’m glad I didn’t discover that after we’d signed a lease tying ourselves to the same apartment for a year, because I have a feeling our relationship would have died in that scenario just as quickly as it had blossomed. I’m happy to pay more money and live in a more modest apartment if it means I can keep my relationship. But just for the record, if any aging millionaires want to leave me their West Village townhouse, I won’t complain. I might even let my boyfriend move in – once his lease is up.
Image via Veer