Moving in with your girl is a strange experience. It takes quite a bit of time for her apartment to start feeling like “your” apartment. I’d often find myself trying to sneak out after having sex, only to remember that I’m already home. (FYI, guys. “I was just getting up to make sure the door was locked” doesn’t work as an excuse when you’re wearing your coat.) But after a while, you learn to relax and let your hair down. You start getting comfortable…really comfortable. Your bathroom trips become more unabashed. Your burps become more thunderous. Your eating habits become more reckless. The down side is, so do hers. But hey, you’re both humans, and those are things humans do. And once you get over this hump of getting comfortable with one another, the awkwardness of sharing a home normally dissipates. But not for me and my lady. We share a studio apartment.
I’ve had the pure dumb luck of falling ass backward into every apartment I’ve rented in Manhattan. Thankfully, I’ve never had to spin the greasy, terrifying roulette wheel of sadness that is looking for a roommate on Craigslist. Whenever I was in need of a room, one of my good friends miraculously had one open. That’s how it went when I moved back to New York in 2010 after spending a year in LA. My buddy Mike just so happened to need a roommate in his three-bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen. And when the lease was up in 2012, I was lucky enough to be at the appropriate stage in my relationship with my girlfriend Annie to move into her place in East Harlem. We’re still going strong — she even agreed to marry me, which is fucking mind boggling considering that our apartment is only 400 square feet. Actually, “apartment” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like a prison cell with a stove.
The difficulty in sharing a studio with my wife-to-be is the lack of privacy. Yes, she’s already seen the worst parts of my body, but this has nothing to with my pale, deflated man breasts. This is about the mere ability to just be alone. Sure, you’d like to spend as much time as possible with the one you love, but sometimes you just need a break. There’s nothing bad about it; everybody needs some time on their own. I’m not sure if that’s a psychological fact, but Axl Rose says it in “November Rain” and that’s good enough for me. In normal apartments, you can just go into the other room to read a book or do some work or take a nap. But in a studio there’s no such thing as “going into the other room” because there is no other room.
The room you’re in is all the room there is. It may sound trivial, but sometimes being apart from one another is essential to the relationship, like when it’s time to surprise each other on special occasions. Do you know how hard it is hiding Christmas presents from a woman in a studio apartment? It’s harder than hiding Anne Frank. The closest thing we have to an attic is a narrow IKEA shelf above our couch which holds 85 percent of our meager Earthly belongings.
Our studio apartment also cuts into our social lives. We can’t do normal couple-y things like have another couple over for dinner, because that involves people seeing how we live. For starters, we have no room for a dinner table and chairs. My fiancée and I are perfectly comfortable eating takeout burritos while huddling over a small (you guessed it) IKEA end table, but that might be a little bit much to ask of a guest. And our hamper full of dirty laundry in full view next to our bed doesn’t really do much for the ambiance either. We do have a curtain that runs along the middle of the apartment that we sometimes pull closed between the bed area and the living area to give the illusion of separate rooms, but this makes it feel like you’re having dinner in an emergency room. No one really has much of an appetite when you feel like you’re waiting to hear if grandma survived the stroke.
And then comes the inevitable — the times when my fiancée and I fight. Fighting in a studio is an exercise in futility because there aren’t any doors to slam. Sure, you can walk into the bathroom and slam the door shut as you finish up your tirade, but then you’re in the bathroom. You lose all credibility when you sheepishly slunk back out a minute later. There have been so many times when I wished there was a different part of the apartment I could go to blow off steam during a particularly heated argument — like a patio or a den. Instead, I stand over by the refrigerator and stare blankly at the wall. Sometimes I just start doing the dishes to break up the mind-numbing awkward silence. You can always tell how bad an argument was in our apartment by the amount of pots and pans in the drying rack.
It all sounds like a living nightmare, but there is one extremely encouraging thing that’s come out of sharing a studio apartment with my fiancée — the fact that we still are. We’ve managed to survive almost two years in extremely close quarters; that’s a lot longer than some couples have lasted in this city. And when the day comes that we can afford something bigger, whatever personal tensions we still face will seem like a cakewalk compared to the hurdles with which we’re currently contending. If we haven’t killed each other by now, we probably never will…but if we do, it was probably her fault.