My current boyfriend is one of the men I once lived with. Since then, he's moved from our tiny apartment to a house—a real house, with three bedrooms, an eat-in kitchen, an upstairs and a down. Sometimes I spend a few days there at a time. It is always difficult to leave. It is also always great to come home—at once comforting, liberating, exciting, even. What adventures await me here, in my own place, in the soft white whispers of my own private sanctuary, between my pen and my notebooks and me? There are days I scarcely leave my desk. I don't have to. I don't want to. And that's the end of it.
This time, our relationship is working. I get the best of both the single life and the coupled life.
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Including the romance: We make dates. When he arrives, I am showered and combed and my lipstick is fresh. Some might say that this isn't real life, but it's our real life. When he kisses me, even after seven years together (on and off), it's new; it's our first date, or a second, or a third. There is never a moment when we are together by hazard, just because we happen to live in the same house. We spend time with one another because we want to.
Intrinsic to this is a kind of trust I don't always see in my cohabiting friends. I have to, and I do, trust that he is home on the nights he is not with me. And he honors me with the same. There's no resentment, no waiting for him to show up when he's been out late, no annoyance on his part that he has to come home because I keep wondering where he is. It is the purest form of shared life that I can imagine: he has his life. I have my life. We have our life. All three are whole and rewardingly complete.
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I have a friend who serves as a partner in crime. When her marriage broke up three years ago, she found the emptiness overwhelming. But eventually she repainted a living room wall dark red and her hallway orange, reupholstered her couch in yellow tweed, and lost ten pounds. Together we have taught one another to do the stuff we always thought we needed men for: open doors when we locked ourselves out, replace light bulbs in complicated fixtures, repair heaters. Last week she tiled her own kitchen.