Monday, February 18, 2013

That House I'm Dating

First comes love, then comes marriage…except with us you squeeze buying a house in between there somewhere just to make yourself absolutely insane. I can’t really compare house hunting to apartment hunting because there hasn’t been any crying or tantrum throwing yet, but house hunting does strangely resemble my pre-Pat dating life…good on paper, shitty in person; great in so many ways except one glaring, deal breaker exception; it’s me, not you…except it’s 98 percent you; asking the same question over and over again in an incredulous tone, “why would you DO that? Disappointment after disappointment. Sigh.

At 35 houses in, like 35 homes we have physically walked, I’m a glazed over, bug eyed zombie. Each of the four tours with our realtor since January 31st (and three open houses on our own) began with a stack of papers featuring the home and all the exclamation point riddled realtor comments you can handle like, “Magnificent ranch!” “Newer, amazing teared deck (yes, spelled incorrectly)!” “Totally remodeled!” and my favorite, “This is the one!” Pat and I came to find out that these actually translate to, “Turd ridden rathole!” “Smaller than the first apartment you ever lived in!” “Cheap, shitty flip!” and “Go fuck yourself, sucka!” Our realtor is great and warned us, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a perfect world where realtors were honest with each other?

After a jaunt through each house, Pat and I have been making notes on the corresponding homes’ sheet of paper to keep track of what we've seen that say things like, “Dirty,” and “Nice kitchen/living, but basement smells like butthole.” Mind you that when we say “butthole,” we really mean sewage, which translates into, “Hell no, we’re not buying this house.”

This experience has made me wonder about people’s mental state. It’s like accidently peeking into people’s fucked up personal lives when all you want to do is find a place to live. We’ve seen some of the most ghetto fabulous, jerry-rigged atrocities and structural horrors ever known to man like, what exactly is this half built room you’ve tried to construct off the back of your original house, sun porch FAIL. Or, I’m getting vertigo walking around in your slanty, funhouse of a home. Or, perhaps you should remove the broken, therapeutic walk in tub for geriatrics and put in a shower before you sell your house. Or, maybe you should find a tub that fits into the bathroom instead of slicing a notch into the wooden vanity next to it to make it fit. Or, why are there seven different kinds of filthy carpet in this 1,500 square foot, three-bedroom house? Or, update your goddamn home so we don’t flash back to 1958 when we walk into it! And, the list goes on.

Of course, those were just the giant projects we’re not willing nor can afford to take on right now.  Staging is now this huge, proven-to-help-you-sell, industry that you’d think people would pay attention to somewhat. I’d be willing to redo a bathroom, put some paint on the walls or even rip 1970s wooden paneling down if I could just look past things like this:

Oh, can we pleeeease write this into the contract? I’m not leaving this house until this terrifying, clown-like monkey creature is mine. Holy shit, why does this thing exist? Remember how I used to like monkeys before this horrid thing began haunting my dreams and now I fear they will all hack off my face in the middle of the night with banana shaped knives? I really just hope this person was trying to be funny and has that twisted sense of humor only people like me can appreciate, but I doubt it. Good thing we didn’t like that house anyway.

Of course, the monkey gave me only a fraction of the heebie jeebies that the next house gave me. I’m not religious, but I understand that those who are find it quite important and might like to place little nods to that religion around their home. I think a small, tasteful cross above the door or something is just fine. However, when I walked into this house, the first thing I saw was an enormous crucifix hanging above the couch in the living room. Like, the giant kind that hang above the altar in Catholic churches. Like, so huge that if you were sitting on the couch watching TV and it decided to wiggle off its flimsy nail, you would die immediately of blunt force trauma to the head…or just disintegrate into a pile of dust all together. It is Jesus, after all.  Smite, smite, yo.

Then, I turned around to see these on the wall:

Is it a little strange to have large photos of the last two Popes prominently displayed on your living room wall ever, let alone when you’re trying to sell your house, or am I just being a dick?

The theme continued throughout the house – Jesus, Mary and Joseph figurines in every lighted alcove in the basement and this odd laser Jesus that greeted us at the top of the stairs…and in literally EVERY other room of the house. Plastered everywhere…watching you.


It was worse than going to your boyfriend’s parents’ house, walking into the room that you two were supposed to inhabit for the weekend and finding twin beds with a larger than life likeness of Jesus watching over the very clearly separated sleeping arrangements (true story, but not associated with my future husband). I felt like I was in one of those Catholic-laced exorcism horror movies and I was so deeply disturbed that I almost had a panic attack. I understand that these items would not come with the house and this wasn't the house for us anyway, but that first feeling you get when you walk into a house is a bitch – for buyer and seller. Staging people…perhaps slide the Pope in a drawer for a few weeks. He won’t mind.

Maybe the only thing more frightening than the houses we’ve seen is the Denver housing market. It’s batshit crazy. First of all, our budget buys us a modest sized home in the suburbs with the aforementioned crap attached, while it would buy a beautiful McMansion bigger than my parents’ house in Kansas City. Finding one that doesn’t require major work, but with enough space for us to live is like a needle in a haystack. One of the notes we put on a house said, “Chubby,” so obviously we liked that one. But, after talking about it, we realized we were just mesmerized by all the high end finishes. It was way out west and we’d be so isolated, but more importantly, there wasn’t enough space. That’s what happened to us with our apartment and we’re pissy about being on top of each other. We’re not making that mistake again. Another house we liked was beautiful and spacious, but was the most expensive house on the block smack in the middle of a neighborhood full of shitty little used car lots and pawn shops. Life wouldn’t be great there and neither would resale.

Second and third of all, people aren’t selling and when they do, houses are being snatched up the DAY they’re put on the market. There is no such thing as paying below asking price right now and some areas are so cutthroat with bitter bidding wars that the inventory is gone before we even see that it’s for sale. It’s difficult to be at the mercy of three different people’s schedules in this kind of situation and the raging insomnia coupled with bitten down nubs for nails is evidence that it’s all wearing on me.

The urgency is there as our apartment lease is up on April 30th and factoring in the time it takes to close as well as our week vacation at the end of March gives us about three weeks to find a place to live. In fact it’s such a priority that on our last tour, which consisted of 14 houses on a Saturday morning, I battled through a migraine instead of staying in bed, crying in the fetal position like usual. The nausea eventually overwhelmed me and I christened the toilet of a stranger in their shitty, 80s-tastic house. We joked that it was a “sign” - yeah, a sign to get the hell out of that crappy house.

I think part of the uneasy feeling is that we’re just so close. In fact, we’re looking at a house tomorrow morning that has what we like in a great neighborhood that already has an offer on it. Somehow our realtor talked the other agent into letting us see it for a counter offer if we want. I’m prepared to take the ghetto hoops out of my ears, rip off my gold, sparkly Lee Press-ons and throw down if need be. But, hell, who knows? Maybe the basement smells like butthole and we won't want it anyway.

Like with all huge, life altering decisions in your life, people feel the need to chime in with advice as if every market, personality, need, want and experience is exactly the same across the board. Walk a mile in these threadbare, Denver house-hunting shoes and ye would sing a different tune. The one piece of advice that I really liked was from Pat’s dad, “Get what you want and don’t settle because if you do, you’ll regret it.” I threw up my hands and yelled, “THANK YOU!” Finally somebody sees it my way. We’re spending way too much money and time to settle. I never do anyway.

Our updated dream house of right now, sans killer monkey and laser Jesus, is out there, but just like dating, when you’re house hunting, you have to go through a bunch of duds before you find marriage material.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happily Ever Old Balls

I know what I want, I want what I want, and I want it now.

It's a phrase that's usually shortened to "I want what I want!" and yelled mockingly at my poor fiancee as he shields his head and ducks into the furthest corner of the room. It was pinpointed several months ago and we've been laughing about it ever since.

This is me summed up into one of the most condensed synopses I've ever heard and I've been like this to some degree since I came out of the womb. At a young age, my dad would smile and say things to me like, "You've got your own sense of style, kid," and a friend at high school graduation said in a letter, "I admire you because you never settle." These are things that I hold close and refer to when the thoughts race and I become my own worst enemy.

It's a personal philosophy. The decisions that affect my own future - career, family, health, big events, etc. - are ones that are made and moved towards (or away from) in this straightforward, tenacious way. Don't force it, but don't settle either. It's life a la carte.

Marriage is definitely one of those kinds of decisions. I always knew I’d be an “older” bride because my to do list is long and marriage has always been at the bottom of that list. I want my own life first – to be fully formed as a human being – before sharing it with somebody else…and the person had to be just right AND it would only happen if it was for the right reasons. It’s a laundry list that so many choose to ignore.

If you've read this blog back a few years, you'll see that I've had a couple shitload of bad dates. Like A LOT of BAAAAD dates. If it just faded away because of lack of interest or the thousand other mundane reasons people decide not to continue seeing each other and didn't end in some weird fiery fiasco, I felt relatively unscathed. Of course, then there was no hilarious story to tell at my (or his) expense on this blog. But, despite the dating disasters, I have had a handful of serious relationships and at least three of them where marriage became a hot topic. Now, I'm not saying, "I'm so awesome and desirable because three dudes wanted to marry me...beating them off with a stick and what not," because here's the deal:  They didn't want ME, they wanted marriage...or at least they thought they did. I was just a warm body with the right anatomy suited for a heterosexual male.

Marriage has become this "thing" instead of the feeling that it's supposed to be. It's beat into us from day one of our existence by society and "The Evil Wedding Industry." We "get married" on the playground with dandelions and tissue paper veils and everybody is in such a goddamn hurry to "begin their lives" that they never actually think about what they really want or take a look at who they're doing it with. It's just the thing you do and the settle factor is huge…why do you think divorce rates are so high? Get married and get married at all costs...mindlessly...just hurry up. And, if you don't, prepare to face the wrath of pity looks and whispers of "spinster" and "crazy cat lady."

It's all just so ridiculous and dangerous and I knew that early on. Instead of housewife, I played hotel mogul as a child and wanted to beat the boys at everything from spelling bees to tug of war instead of marry them by the swings. I might have responded fairly harshly to the trio that bombarded me with marriage, marriage, marriage at different points of my life with something like, "I want to go to college, I want a career, I want to have fun and run free, I WANT what I WANT, now get the hell out of my way!" It was basically borderline offensive to me that they would even bring up the subject. Instead, I could have just said, "No thank you, I'd rather be married to just me right now...and you just don't get it." But, you know, that's not really how I it's hard to get through to a person hypnotized by the act of marriage without some force.

Let's just say I fought for my 20s. Those years are mine and mine alone. That's when you change and grow and have fun and run around wild being a dumbass and have bad dates and make decisions just for you and love every second of it. That's exactly what I wanted to do and that's exactly what I did. My life began a long time ago and it wasn't marked by marriage. I took that precious time just for me that so many people miss because they're in such a hurry. The way I looked at it, if I was going to get married, it was going to be when I was older and wiser...not in my 20s, not because of perceived pressure caused by onlookers or urgency presented by a ticking biological clock and not because I was dating some guy for an allotted amount of time like so many others do.

I was busy and happy with my lovely life when Pat showed up...extremely busy, in fact, working and going to graduate school in a brand new city. That combined with a touch of jaded from all those bad dates made me very nonchalant about the whole thing. I wasn't prepared for the easygoing, effortless relationship that came out of it. There were no grand gestures or phony bullshit - I liked him because he was a genuine person, he laughed at my quirks instead of shooting me scared looks and was open about who he was and what he thought. I knew I wanted to marry him…someday…after two weeks and when we decided to be exclusive, I laid it out on the table:  This relationship was going to be honest and mature - we were not going to lie to each other and we were going to treat each other with respect. There were no unrealistic "please-don't-break-my-heart" ultimatums, strangleholds or taming involved. Don't force it, just let it happen and along the way, let's be nice to each other. If not, I didn't want any part of it. Instead of being taken aback by my honesty, he gave a reassuring, "OK, that's how I want it to be, too." He just got it like nobody else ever did.

I like that we're two different people with different thoughts and interests that come together at just the right areas and moments to complement each other. He stands by my side, not smothering, but not distant and just lets me be me. He’s a calming source for my light-a-fire-under-your-ass mentality and I provide another way of looking at things for him. I created my own life; Pat enriches it and that's exactly the way I always wanted it to be.

And, now, after living together and a surprise engagement just shy of our two-year anniversary, we’re planning our wedding…or what will be something of the sort. It's been several weeks of traditional meets unconventional. Me reminding him that we don't have to conform to this meaningless mold placed in front of us and him saying that we don't need to be different for the sake of being different (Eh, call me entrepreneurial). But, what we do agree on is that we want it to be about us. Him, me and us. I'm sick of bouquet tosses and sweatshirts bedazzled with "BRIDE." I hate church pews and folding chairs lined up in neat little rows. I can't stand crunchy white tulle or "unity" anythings and all bridal gowns make me want to barf. Religion and the same old, same old can stay out of it and the unsolicited advice flying at my face from all corners of the world is obnoxious because it doesn't apply. It all means nothing to me and I'm not buying in to all that wedding industry or guilt-me-into-it crap. Maybe I'm missing some sort of bride gene, but I've always done things my own way and the only opinions I care about in this situation are the ones of the two people involved. We’re doing it our way.

So, on April 5, 2014, a few weeks before my 31st birthday and a few months after Pat's 37th birthday we'll be getting married in Kansas City in a ceremony that resembles a wedding, but will actually be meaningful to the both of us with every word and tiny detail a subtle to raging nod at who we are individually and together. We're a geriatric bride and groom, eating our dinner of prunes at 4:30 p.m. sharp, compared to the vast majority of couples at this stage and I love that. This is what the right reasons and not settling look like.

What can I say? I want what I want.

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