Our Vanilla-and-Guilt-Flavored Real Estate Fantasies

A scene from Alpha House

Ester: Hello!

Meaghan: Hi! Is real estate the theme of the day today?

Ester: Well, I just got done doing “Good Enough Homes & Destinations,” so I’ve been slobbering over houses far, far away. Also I have a friend whose apartment is the bottom unit of a building that’s going up for sale, so last night we were discussing her options.

Meaghan: Ooh, does she live in New York?

Ester: Yes, and the same thing happened to my little family at one point. It was The Saddest: we had a spacious one-bedroom with laundry in the apartment and a huge backyard, like so huge you could throw a rave there and not even trample the tomatoes (we planted tomatoes) and it was amazing and we only got to stay for a year because the landlord sold it out from under us. The best part was that it was not expensive for some reason. It was an incredible deal, actually, but like a dream, it was soon over.

Meaghan: LAUNDRY IN THE APARTMENT?

Ester: This is what I’m talking about. Oh well. Better to have loved and lost … ?

Meaghan: I often think of a beautiful sublet I had in Ft. Greene that was so cheap and so beautiful and I so had to leave after six months. I have a fantasy of some amazing situation like that coming back into my life, like maybe one day someone will just say, “Thanks for being a good friend, here’s this amazing deal, just for you.” But that has never happened.

Ester: Has never happened yet.

One of the things you brought up in your lovely LJ-ish post this week was your ambivalence about letting yourself hope for things that seem out-of-reach or outlandish. I totally related to that, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. My fantasy is that somehow we’ll come into large amounts of strings-free cash at the exact moment that our downstairs neighbors (who have a yard) decide to sell. Presto chango, we have a duplex with outdoor space and room for another kid and we never have to leave Brooklyn! But I also feel uncomfortable even wishing for that level of good luck and abundance.

Meaghan: Yeah, that sentiment I mentioned I think about a lot, but felt weird admitting — even though I’m sure it’s common (which is what I usually remind myself). Like how dare I? It’s not that I expect it, though. It’s just like, well this person has done it, WHY NOT ME? We are so often our greatest enemy, or I am.

Ester: It’s true. I think it is common, you’re right, especially among those of us who have been pretty fortunate already. Yet luck is often built on luck; it’s natural to wistfully imagine having just a little bit more … And then I feel guilty about it, and think I should concentrate on being grateful for what I’ve been given thus far. Should real estate fantasies be value neutral, like sex fantasies? Should we just let ourselves enjoy them, guilt-free? Mine are so vanilla!

Meaghan: Yes, and fantasies and gratitude for reality aren’t mutually exclusive! Or maybe fantasies distract from gratitude. I don’t know! It’s not greedy! Or is it? This is making me panic. Would a man panic over this?

Ester: No, dammit! A man would not panic. A man would say, I’m in America, durn it, and these are my cowboy boots and here is my flag, and I can dream of whatever I durn well want to. No bleeding heart, wringing hand librul feminist is going to tell me how I should feel about wanting to provide for my family. (I’m paraphrasing.)

Meaghan: Lol. I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe.

Ester: But more important than what a man would do is what are you thinking of, M? What’s driving your decision to leave, and where might you want to go, and do you really want to go?

Meaghan: I really want to go. What’s driving my decision? Hmm. This feels kind of like when I quit my start up job. I never meant to be here / do this in the first place! I never wanted to come to New York I just did it as a last minute thing. I am not from the East Coast, I kind of don’t like it! I hate the cold. It’s too expensive. I am exhausted. I don’t take advantage of things the city has to offer.

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I want to live in a house. I want a porch, a yard. But I’m also afraid of all the things I take for granted here. And we have wonderful friends and family, professional contacts. It’s been the land of opportunity! I’m a little afraid to thumb my nose at it, much as I want to. This is the only place I’ve been an adult in. What if I don’t know how to do it elsewhere?

Ester: All of that makes total sense. But I don’t think you really need to worry. (Not too helpful, I know — it’s like telling a crying toddler, “Don’t be sad!”) Really, though. Being an adult is like riding a bike! You can’t unlearn that skill, short of serious head trauma. You’ll adapt to wherever you go and, it sounds like, probably be happier. Or anyway you’d have more money and more energy to deal with your unhappiness, and that’s not nothin.

Meaghan: Ha, yes. There’d be fewer therapists to choose from, and I could drive my car to the appointments. Of course choosing beyond “NOT HERE” is the hard part. I genuinely have no idea. And our lease is up in January. We’ve been planning to leave for two years now, in a serious way, and haven’t done it. And now there is a baby making any progress beyond the day to day very difficult. So we’ll see. Inertia!

Ester: Inertia is rough. Well, you’ve both made progress in terms of cutting ties: you’re freelance in a way that makes moving easier, and that’s an advantage. But having too many choices is also really hard. In our case, if we left NY, we’d probably have to go to either Asheville, NC, where my mother-in-law is — and Awl pal Carrie Frye, hi Carrie! — or to DC where my mother is. If we expand our options a little, we’d probably go where we have friends: Philly, Seattle. Are you thinking that way?

Meaghan: Those are all nice places! But hopefully your downstairs neighbor will move and you don’t have to think about it :P

We aren’t really thinking that way, mostly because all of my family is in Tallahassee and Orlando, FL and his family that isn’t here is in Michigan. Lol? I can’t handle that kind of cold and he can’t handle that kind of…um, heat? Southerness? If we were from nice towns like Asheville, hell yeah. [Ann Arbor is great! Too cold sorry!]

Ester: I feel the same way! Bring on global warming, maybe then I’d be able to stand New England. But yeah, that makes things harder by giving you unlimited options. It’s the Paradox of Choice (TM)! On the plus side, that means you only have to worry about making the two of you — well, two and a half, I guess — happy. But Henry will be happy anywhere.

If you have goats around, they might be fun for your baby

Meaghan: Ha, yeah. If it were just ME it would be easier, or so I like to imagine. I could just follow my gut and not have to really explain what I want to anyone. which is all I want lately. I would move to New Orleans or Paris or something and wander the streets. Ha. Or Italy! I speak Italian, goddammit. Or I used to. NEVER FALL IN LOVE. Speaking of I have to go feed the baby. Ha.

Ester: Ha! Ok. TBC? or should we wrap it up?

Meaghan: Always TBC with us. Always.

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