Monday, March 28, 2011

One More Way for Me to Be a Freak

I really don't try to be this way. But I see life is a constant challenge to be truer to oneself, and this just happens to be another discovery.

Dan and I were having dinner the other night, discussing where we will move after we vacate out current space. As cool as it is (and it really is)

it just doesn't feel right for raising a baby. Of course, as one nosy mother told me yesterday, I can (and ought to, she implied) adjust any living space to fit my future kid's needs.* I suppose that's true, but I'm looking forward to getting out of this place for several reasons. One, it's pretty expensive per square foot. Also, cement floors and cinder block walls make this place a bitch to heat. Perhaps most of all, my pets have turned our see-through garage door into their performance stage for people walking to and from our neighbor's martial arts studio. If I see one more kid with his face pressed against my window, pounding the glass and whining, "Where's that cat?"...

So yeah, we're looking to move to another rental when our lease expires at the end of July. We're tempted by the bougie north side, with its rolling, woodsy hills and its proximity to useful, bougie businesses and Dan's work. But the north side's major draw is its excellent school district, which isn't relevant to us for the next five years.

"I'm leaning toward Orchard Knob or Highland Park," I said between nibbles. "We can get way more bang for our buck over there. We're gonna need a lot more space."

"Yeah, and if we're still in Chattanooga when the baby is ready to go to school, we can move to the north side."

I think I actually groaned - a sad, defeated, little groan. "Yeah. And then we'll pay, like, twice as much to buy a house there as we'd pay anywhere else in the city."

Dan looked up from his burger. "We don't have to buy a house."

I swear that a trumpeting angel descended from heaven (that I don't believe in). "Really?" I whispered.

The thing is, I have no interest in homeownership. But I'm still so far from being completely comfortable with my inherent freakiness that I bow to the sway of conventional wisdom until I'm given "permission" to consider my true desires. I know, it's sad, but at least I do figure these things out eventually. I'm lucky to have a bold and like-minded partner.

To me, any one of these three reasons would justify buying a house ~

1) You plan on staying in the same place for a very long time, and you believe your source of income is secure

2) Even if you don't plan on staying in the same place for a very long time, you're reasonably sure that the return on your investment will more than equal the money and time that you have invested in that property

3) Homeownership is a heartfelt personal goal, a form of self-fulfillment

I get that these three conditions are widely applicable, which explains why so many people want to own houses. However, when I ask myself if any of these apply to me right now, my answers are ~

1) No

2) That remains to be seen

3) No

Dan and I had talked a bit about buying a house when we first got together, but the discussion was more or less meaningless until he finished grad school and we got around to moving wherever his job would take us. Now that we're here, we both realize that this isn't something either of us really wants. That could change, but I honestly feel relieved.

"Danny, I don't want to obsess over walls."

He laughed. "Walls?"

"Yeah. Every time someone I know buys a house it seems like they spend all this time painting walls. And only then can they get everything set up in the house but pretty soon it's time to paint the walls again. I hardly ever care about walls. I'm usually fine with whatever color it is. I don't notice the things that bother other people."

I realize that this sounds nuts, but I swear to Jeebus that wall control is one of the main reasons people buy houses. And when I googled the phrase "I don't want to own a home," I found this weird dude's blog. Among his many personal reasons to not own a house

Walls. You can’t change the walls when you rent. A lot of people seem to want to tear down walls. Or paint them. Sometimes when you rent you can’t do these things. Well, make sure you have a landlord that lets you tear down walls. There must be some ancient evolutionary tic that makes us want to tear down walls or put nails in them or paint them. I don’t get it. I like the walls to stay right where they are.

"I like the walls to stay right where they are." I get that! You see, I enjoy the adventure that comes with occupying a new space that I don't get to define. As the blogger himself says in another paragraph, "I like to change things every once in a while." And part of that change is adjusting your stuff to a different environment. Though my current kitchen kicks ass with its stainless steel counters and giant sink, there's not much cabinet space and no drawers. Finding a place for our silverware and utensils was a challenge. Still, I figured it out. Our next place will probably have drawers, maybe even a garbage disposal! But it will lack something else that I'll miss about this place. And I'll make that work, too. To me, it's all part of this fun little game I like to play called, "Let's see how much money I don't spend at Ikea!" Rental living is a fun creative experiment for cheap people like me who don't enjoy accruing stuff, but still crave a little variety.

I like parameters. I like walls that I can't change. Sometimes I like forfeiting control because then I have one less thing to think about. I've already decided to spend the rest of my life in a partnership with one person. And together, we've decided to sacrifice the better part of ourselves to a little person. Those are some pretty big steps, but I haven't had a second thought about either one. But buying a house? That just doesn't register as a desirable investment. Again, I suppose that could change, but I've known for many years that I wanted to get married and have a kid. I've never felt that way about owning property.

*I automatically distrust strangers who give such specific child-rearing advice, and trust me, she had plenty.


  1. You're not alone!:

  2. It's funny - both the NPR story and the blog post I linked to are very recent. I guess springtime does get people thinking about homeownership. This concept of the American dream being built either around property or career advancement (as the NPR interviewee suggests) is so far removed from what I really want out of life, which is good health and good times for me and my family and a barbecue smoker. I'd also take a jacuzzi and a wood-burning stove, but I might need a house for that stuff ;)