The reason I’m in USA is due to love. I went and met an American man you see. Not exactly in the life plan, but often the best things in life aren’t the things you can imagine ahead of time.
So just when I thought I’d be quietening and simplifying my life by moving to a smaller city within Australia to be near my sister and mum, here I am on the east coast of USA, about as far away as you can possibly get from Australia, navigating a whole new world.
I’m not just talking about moving countries either, I’m talking about the day-to-day establishment of a new relationship of the living-together-kind.
You see this in itself is a huge adventure for me. I haven’t lived with a partner for ten years, and it’s not so different for him either. After my divorce I had a few years living on my own and then more recently with a housemate. He’s been co-parenting his 12yo daughter so living half the time on his own and the other half with her. We’ve both had love lives of course…but not shared domesticity. Until now.
The biggest adventures are full of the smallest things.
First, there was the bread. I tend to keep a loaf of bread in the freezer because on my own I don’t go through it fast enough and because I get wheat-free bread I toast it all anyway (tastes better). He also only makes toast, but keeps his bread out of the fridge altogether. Which is fine, but with the hot summer I figure it goes off pretty quick. So for about three days the poor old loaf of bread was moved around the kitchen, in and out of the freezer, depending on who was in the kitchen at the time. Finally, we discussed it, and it’s now in the fridge. How’s that for classic compromise…not frozen, not warm, cool and just right!
Then there are the toothbrushes. My man is still getting his head around the array of things a woman brings into a bathroom. For him it’s simple. Toothbrush and toothpaste on the sink, soap and shampoo in the shower. A few things like razors and lotion in the cupboard. Then I come along and double the toothbrushes, triple the potions and quadruple the amount of hair in the shower.
Of course, one man’s mess is another woman’s stuff. I mean to say, my stuff looks like mess to him, and his stuff looks like mess to me. Fact is, both of us actually quite like things tidy and in their place and both of us leave stuff lying around. The fun comes with my arrival into an established home, so my stuff lying around shows up a lot more…like it has flashing lights on it or something. And I haven’t figured out where the places for different stuff are yet, so it just kind of moves from place to place in the hope of eventually finding a home, always looking a little uncertain of itself.
I’ve been proactive with some things. Organised a shower caddy for my shampoo & conditioner & face wash & body wash & body scrub…all the stuff my man previously had no need for space for, but I suspect may secretly try out when he gets the chance.
And back to the toothbrushes. I found a cup to put on the sink so the toothbrushes and paste can all go in one spot. Looks tidier and it’s a nice cup. And for me, being in a new home is almost like being blind…I need to know where to find things. This makes sense to me. It makes sense to him in theory too. Yet the toothpaste moves around the sink and occasionally onto the windowsill. It’s interesting how frustrating or amusing this is to me depending on my mood.
What’s also interesting is the symbology of it all. What and where is my place here? How much space can I take up without taking over? How little can I take up before I disappear into a half person? I arrived with just one suitcase, the rest of my stuff in storage until things are more sorted. Yet I am still going through the process of finding space, both in my man’s house as well as his life. He has invited me in with open arms, yet there are a thousand small negotiations to be had in the reality of domestic life.
In my inner world, I am working with an almost pathological need for things to be ok for everyone in any given situation and an independent stubborn streak. Paradoxical enough within one person, a real balancing act with another involved!
But find my space I must, if I am to feel at home here, in a way that feels like mine and ours, not just his.
It all comes down to bread and toothbrushes. And a bloody good sense of humour.