After graduating from college, I lived at home for 16 months, which is a long time. That’s long enough that I could almost have carried two separate babies to term.
The thing is, I’ve always really liked my home.
I know that’s not what anyone’s supposed to say about their home or their childhood. Mentioning high school and hometowns quickly turns into to a conversation about how misunderstood we all were, and how painfully lonely. Not that I wasn’t (I had to participate in mandatory sports, after all), but for the most part, I got lucky.
I even love my home state—despite the fact that it’s a teeny tiny place where you run into someone you know and hate every time you step outside and there’s only one gay bar in the whole place.
Nevertheless, when my Dad came to move my stuff out of my apartment in Brooklyn, I cried hysterically for the entire trip home. While I went to pieces, he calmly drove the minivan and said things like, “It’s only temporary,” and “It’s going to be okay,” which only prompted me to weep harder.
People live at home all the time nowadays. You read the news, right? It’s totally socially acceptable. It’s the norm. When you’re the one living at home, some days you’ll believe this. Other days, you’ll think it means you’re destined for nothing but failure for the rest of your life.
There are some great things about living at home– things like a full fridge, and parents who remind you to get your oil changed– and sometimes even do it for you. There’s the money you save, the DVR, and the already-shoveled driveway on snowy mornings. And then, of course, there is the one major drawback to living at home– which is, naturally, your sex life.
You kind of don’t get one. Or, rather, you do get one, but it’s sublimated into very weird, liminal spaces.
For the first few months you live at home, you’ll feel like a nun. You won’t even be interested in dating because it poses so many problems. You’ll hate this phase and worry that you’ve gone insane, but, like everything, it will pass. When it does, you’ll wish you could get it back.
You’ll end up dating a guy because he owns a car company and has access to ample limousines in which to fool around. You’ll tell all of your friends this, as though it’s a major selling point, and they’ll stare at you with pity in their eyes. You’ll have to break up with him when, in the midst of one of your rendezvous, you unwittingly knock your purse over, losing half of your valuables in the back of his limo. When he calls to ask if he can return your wallet and passport, you’ll force him to bring them to your office in the middle of the day because you’d rather risk your coworkers witnessing this than your parents. This is when you’ll know things have gone too far.
You’ll spend a lot of time in hotels. You’ll try to maintain some small morsel of dignity by referring to these one-nighters as “staycations.” You’ll feel like a tourist in your own hometown, which will be charming for a little while. Then, suddenly, it won’t be. (In the course of my last relationship, I spent time in at least 4 different hotels– all within a 20 mile radius of my house.) You’ll think about becoming a hotel reviewer: “The Best Western is a little more bleakly decorated than the Sheraton, but has a much smaller risk of your 9th grade math teacher spotting you there on her way to work.”
You’ll meet guys who will want to pick you up at your house on a first date. This is a foreign concept to begin with, as a city soul who likes to maintain an escape route during any social interaction, but you’ll recognize that it’s a chivalrous gesture and, after an internal debate, you’ll reluctantly tell this guy he can pick you up. Fifteen minutes before he’s supposed to arrive, you’ll start pacing. You’ll survey the house and see where your parents are in relation to the door, calculating who will win the race to open it.
When my ex-boyfriend rang the doorbell for our first date, I opened the front door and sprang out of it, without even saying hello. “COME ON!” I barked, “Let’s go, get back in the car!”
“But… don’t you want to introduce me to your parents?”
I didn’t even answer him. I just glowered in his general direction and yanked him back to the car.
When you live at home, you aren’t given the normal, civilized amount of time to get to know someone before introducing him or her to your family. You don’t get the luxury of deciding if you like someone before presenting them to your parents as a person whose company you enjoy. I object to this on principle.
While living at home, it’s useless to try to control when your boyfriend meets your parents. You can manage the crap out of the situation and cause yourself endless anxiety, but at the end of the day, it’s out of your hands. One day, he’ll stop by, unannounced, just having come from doing hours of yard work, smelling like a locker room, and will casually say to your parents that—didn’t they know? – he’s seven years older than you. Your parents will glare at you for being a liar and withholder, and then question him about his parents, which they don’t yet know is a sore subject. You can do nothing about this. It’s best to just give up trying.
You’ll begin to feel more and more like a kid. This is sometimes great, like when you’re sick and your mom makes you soup and Jello or when you don’t feel like hanging out with your boyfriend’s friends and can blame it on family dinner. More often, it’s disturbing—mostly because of how frequently you’ll risk arrest just because you have nowhere to have sex.
You’ll recklessly do it in places so absurdly public you can’t even tell your friends about it for fear of ridicule. You won’t worry about the weather. When you come home with blue lips and soaking hair in the middle of February, you’ll tell your parents you were involved in a snowball fight. You’ll love them a little more for every question they don’t ask.
That’s the big thing that happens when you live at home. You have sex in weird places, and you love your parents more and more, even as they annoy you and stifle you and make you feel twelve again. You see them as people, real people with real feelings and problems and hopes that both are and aren’t related to you. You begin to respect them in a different way, not just as your parents, but as human beings occupying the same world as you, making sense of the same things.
What felt like a step back, an admission of the complete inability to be an independent adult, ends up propelling you forward with new, strange knowledge under your belt. You now know how time consuming home maintenance is, and you think long and hard before wishing you had a back yard. You realize that boys who you don’t want your parents to see ringing your doorbell shouldn’t be ringing your doorbell in the first place. You find out how exhilarating it is to do it on the hood of a car in the pouring rain, and also, not so separately, what a relief it is to come home to people who love you at the end of a long day.
With time, you see that your Dad was right; everything is temporary—except maybe for home, or at least the desire for it.