It’s weird to compare yourself to other people. Natural, I think, but weird. I mean, there’s the whole “am I good enough?” or “are other people having more fun?” or “is my life pathetic?” worried type of comparing, which never ends well but isn’t, in the end, about comparing so much as being reassured that you aren’t a total fuck-up.
I’m more interested in, well, I guess I’d call them lifestyle comparisons. Every person has their little daily routine, which, who knows where it comes from, but it’s just the way you get things done. For example, I floss at night only, and use mouthwash in the morning only. Why? I dunno. But for me it would feel wrong to do it any other way.
But so when you move in with someone, you have to meld your routines. That can lead to some kind of rough moments and periods of uncomfortable readjustment, but hopefully you know the person you’re moving in with well enough to be pretty much okay with the outcome. And then you end up with a shared set of habits, and since you both do them, they feel extra correct. You might even start to forget that there are infinite other possible ways to go about your daily life.
Some things in this category happen so naturally that you don’t even notice. For example, the way Frank and I share cleaning duties. Neither of us are particularly neat freakish, though Frank definitely has more inclinations in that direction. So we do what we can most of time—keep the sink free of dishes, clean the cat boxes—and then every two or three weeks, one person says, “It’s getting kind of messy in here.” The other person looks around, says “Yeah,” and we clean, with the chores being pretty much split down the middle.
This, to me, is the only sensible way of sharing cleaning duties. There was never really any discussion about it. That’s just the way things evolved after we moved in. So when I was chatting with my officemate the other day and she mentioned that her husband did all of the cleaning, and also the cooking, it really surprised me. It shouldn’t have, I know. He doesn’t have a job, after all, so I guess he’s kind of a 50’s househusband. But the idea that other people’s apartmentholds were run differently—and not just any old people, but people I liked—seemed crazy.
I realize that that makes me sound a little crazy. I promise that I’m not. It’s not like my jaw dropped and I was literally unable to process the idea. It’s just, as I said before, weird to compare your life to other people’s, particularly people you sort of lazily assume live the same way you do.
All the little day-to-day things that seem boring and like not a big deal, but are in fact the sum of what feels natural and right to you, vary wildly across even seemingly similar people. Chore breakdowns, dinner times, how late you sleep on weekends, gym attendance, food choices, pet preferences, phone check-in requirements, liquor tolerance, frequency of social engagement: a million tiny choices that you may not even remember making, that isolate you and your roommate/partner in a cocoon of shared preferences.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it surprises me how many totally different ways to live there are, and how similar they look from the outside. Everyone notices the big changes: jobs, kids, marriage, home buying. Nobody notices that you’ve stopped using Fresh Direct and gone back to the grocery store. And yet that’s the stuff that makes you look at your co-workers like they are nut-jobs. It’s odd.