The Great Cohabitation Experiment: What Life is Like Two Years Later

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[Editor’s Note: This blog is officially ending its hiatus. Over the past six months I’ve been working full-time in software sales while being incredibly lazy with my writing. It’s time to flip that around. Moving forward I’ll try to be extremely productive with the writing and incredibly lazy with the software sales. What better way to kick off the rebirth of the writing than by posting something that will most definitely get me eight to 10 weeks of sleeping on the couch. Enjoy.]

Just over 25 months ago I made the decision to start living with my girlfriend. It was over a beautiful dinner in San Francisco when we had the relationship-changing conversation. I told her I was moving to LA to become a writer. She asked if I intended to keep our relationship alive by asking her to move down there with me. I responded with the perfect answer: “Yes, darling, I think you should totally follow me to LA and get your own place. We can even make sure we live within a couple miles of each other so we can spend a lot of time together.”

After a few weeks of serious thought (by which I definitely don’t mean “sitting on my couch crushing beers while ignoring the gigantic elephant in the relationship”), I started to see things her way: We should move to a new city together and get an apartment together.

And two years later I can honestly say it was the best decision that I’ve ever been a part of. But that doesn’t mean this cohabitation has been without its learning experiences and confused head shaking (she’s probably experienced plenty of those moments herself, but unfortunately for her, she doesn’t write for a world-renowned blog).

For any man who wants to know how life may change if he chooses to follow my path and shack up with his loved one, here you go. Twenty-five observations, changes and adjustments that come with saying those fateful words: “I do…want to move in with you.”

Oh, you wanted to see my credentials before you commit to reading this? Read it and weep….for me:

“You’re a pretty big “Sex And The City Fan”, and you have a great memory. You remember most of the poignant moments, and you’ve seen your favourite episodes countless times. What are you waiting for? Dig out those old box sets and start over!”

Sigh. That was the category I fell into when I correctly got 11 of 18 answers right on some ridiculous online “Sex and the City” quiz that I accidentally took a few months back. I’ve never once consciously watched that TV show. That knowledge is 100% through unwelcome osmosis. I do indeed live with a woman.

And now for the list:

1. Let’s start from the beginning…decorating the apartment. If you’re not much of a decorator, do yourself a HUGE favor and just say yes to every idea she has. It’s better to pay for 50% of the picture frames and Pinterest projects and not have a say in things than to be involved with every decision and actually have this stuff consume even one minute of your life.IMG_4098

2. Speaking of Pinterest, that’ll somehow become a word you use very frequently…as a noun, verb and adjective.

3. Remember those styrofoam containers & cardboard boxes laying around your apartment from night after night of takeout when you were living alone or with other guys? (You know, the ones that the mice made semi-permanent homes in?) No more. Those will turn into plastic baggies that were used to portion out every single meal and snack you’re allowed to eat during the week.

4. Want to save some money each day? No problem. From now on you’ll be bringing grilled chicken to work to make a sandwich out of. That’s fine, but keep in mind that it won’t be a full chicken breast, it’ll be exactly three ounces (you’ll hear that portion control is the key to weight loss quite a few times).

5. Your kitchen will be organized, reorganized and then organized one more time. (A close relative of “let me just put this new spatula away and then I’ll be ready to go to the beach” turning into “well, the spatula didn’t fit so then I realized all the utensils can go into a smaller drawer, our tupperware can be put on that shelf and here I am three hours later just about done reorganizing the kitchen!”)

6. Speaking of being organized…Everything will have a cute little place in your apartment. Keys will go on a homemade key holder, towels & toiletries will go in wicker baskets inside a book shelf in the bathroom, shoes will go in one of those hangs-on-the-door shoe holders. It’ll all be clean & tidy…until your girlfriend is getting ready each & every weekend night, at which point CNN will show up to cover the story of an atom bomb apparently going off inside your bedroom.

7. You will have lost the battle about putting the toilet seat down, even though it’s absolutely insane that a woman would think this is a necessary thing a man should do.

8. While you will be expected to follow her rules with the toilet seat, she is apparently allowed to ignore your rule about the right way to put the toilet paper roll on the holder.

9. You know bobby pins, right? Be prepared to feel several under your feet every single time you take a step in your apartment. They’re not painful or anything, it’s just that there are now bobby pins EVERYWHERE. And every time you pick up a bunch of bobby pins (because apparently her eyesight can read the scathing blog you’re writing about her from 25 feet away, but they can’t see a bunch of bobby pins on the floor five feet below her), you’ll think you’ve got them all, and there will be at least 15 more in that very room you just cleaned up. Out of all the things that could cause a man to jump off his apartment balcony, I never thought a tiny little thing like a bobby pin could be what puts us over the edge.

10. Saying you don’t want to go to the grocery store with her is offensive. Saying you don’t want to go to a coed baby shower with her is next level offensive.

11. You’ll be asked about buying a papasan chair (and when I say “asked” I mean “asked a loaded question where the only right answer is yes”).

12. You’ll need to learn what the fuck a papasan chair is.

13. It’ll sound expensive and unnecessary.

14. One month later a papasan chair will be sitting in your living room and will never once be used.

15. You’ll be paying for 50% of an 800 square foot apartment but only be allowed to use 50 of those square feet.

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16. You know how I mentioned there’s a place for everything, a compartment of some sort? There will be a wrapping paper container in your house. It’s specifically designed for the height of most wrapping paper rolls. It’s an extreme specialty item. You’ll wonder out loud how your life got to the point of needing a $30 container to store $2 rolls of wrapping paper.

17a. The first time she asks you to start mixing in your laundry together you’ll say no. The second time she asks you’ll say no. Eventually she will purchase a hamper large enough to fit her clothes and yours and she’ll tell you she’s throwing out both of your individual hampers because this will save room (room that will be used to fit yet another unnecessary item in the apartment). At this point, the fight is over. You’re now doing laundry together.

17b. She will gladly fold your clothes because it’s easy and you really don’t care how wrinkled/rolled into a ball they are. She will get mad that you never fold her clothes in return, but you’ll try to explain that her clothes are weird shapes and made of strange materials and they don’t fold as easily as yours. She’ll make you feel stupid for saying this. You’ll soon be folding her clothes.

17c. Every now and then, while folding her clothes, you’ll think about how the 13-year-old version of you would have killed to be able to see the tag on a girl’s bra to know exactly what cup size she is…it’ll be far less exciting as a 31-year-old.

18. Your dog is part of the family. And apparently every member of the family sleeps in the same bed every night (learn from me and maybe don’t adopt a Mastiff).

19. If she happens to be a health conscious cook, then very slowly—but very surely—cheeseburgers will turn into turkey burgers, spaghetti made of normal pasta will turn into spaghetti made of spaghetti squash, and pizza with normal dough will become pizza made of cauliflower dough.

20. The cashier at your local McDonald’s will no longer know you by your first name, but the cashiers at Target will.

21. You weren’t interested in ever eating an entire entree at a restaurant without sharing it again, were you?

22. There’s plenty of room on DVRs these days, so space isn’t a problem. It’s just that you’ll have to scroll through 135 “Bravo” and “E!” shows to get to that 30 for 30 or Drunk History episode you were looking for.

23. Suddenly you’ll have to explain to someone why 16 hours of football a week is necessary (but don’t ever expect an explanation on why 116 hours of Real Housewives a week is necessary).

24. You know how you used to power on the TV and could be reasonably certain that a sports channel would already be on? Now the “Hallmark Channel” is what’s always “last on” when the TV was turned off…the worst part about this is the fact that a “Hallmark Channel” even exists won’t faze you a bit.

25. But two years later you’ll be healthier, happier and will even be able to pass your life off as adultish if someone walks into your home. It’s not all bad, I promise.

And if during the those first 25 months she suggests getting a new couch for the apartment, do yourself a favor and say yes. If you’re like me, you’ll be spending some nights on it.

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Need An Assist From My Male Readers: Awful Couples Activities To Watch Out For

Gentlemen,

I’m looking for some pretty simple feedback in the comments section below this blog post. Historically most of you have been comment-averse, but I need you now more than ever before.

Julie and I continue to have almost no friends in Los Angeles, and I feel like she’s getting to a point where she’ll try anything to meet people. Just the other day she actually started a conversation with someone in our apartment elevator. This is bad news.

For the past nine months we’ve been doing normal couple stuff with our free time: trying new restaurants and bars, hiking or renting bikes on the weekends, taking nice long trips to Trader Joe’s every Sunday, bringing our Andre the Giant-like dog to the dog park. And still no prospective new friends on the horizon.

While I’m perfectly happy with the lack of developments in the friend department—after all who needs friends when you have a perfectly good television and internet connection—Julie is probably less than happy. And now my concern is that she’s going to irresponsibly sign us up for some corny couples activity that makes me rethink our entire relationship.

Many months ago she expressed an interest in a couples cooking class. I laughed at her refreshing sense of humor only to realize she was serious. At the time I think I made it crystal clear that I would never show up to a cooking class.  I barely enjoy cooking at all. I certainly wouldn’t enjoy cooking with a group of strangers. Who gets pleasure from paying money to be in a room with six other desperate friend-seeking couples while being told what to cook for your dinner?

Just to make sure I understood exactly what a cooking class entailed, I did my homework on google. While perusing a website that claimed to offer these classes, I noticed this little blurb:

  • “With recipes and photos emailed to attendees after the event, you can reminisce and recreate your favorite dishes together at home. You never know, you might even witness a marriage proposal!”

Here’s the deal: In our one bedroom, one-TV household, we view dinner preparation time as welcomed time apart. When Julie is in the kitchen cooking, it’s my precious time to watch what I want on TV (sports). When I’m handling dinner, that’s Julie’s precious time to watch what she wants (junky BRAVO shows). This class will not inspire us to cook together at home. I promise you.

And this probably goes without saying, but…a marriage proposal in cooking class? Look, buddy, I’m just trying to be a good boyfriend by humoring my girlfriend with this class. No need to make the rest of us look bad by proposing in front of everyone. Save that for a different moment, specifically one that won’t have my girlfriend giving me a look that says, “I had to drag you here and put up with your sulking the entire time and this Prince Charming didn’t just come with his girlfriend, they actually enjoy this stuff so much that he decided to propose to her right here”. Not cool.

I had this little rant about cooking class saved as a draft on my blogging site for the better part of six months because I wanted to wait until I had more material. And just like the gift that keeps on giving, Julie brought up a similarly unexciting couples activity a few nights ago: Art & Wine Classes (aka “Sip-n-Stroke” according to one website).

Now here’s the part where she almost accidentally tricked me (and the reason I need all the men reading this article to comment on other undesirable couples activities). She called it a “art & wine thing” and my first instinct was that it’s probably just a museum event where you can drink wine while pretending to appreciate the art. I can do that. I can pretend to give a crap about art in the interest of drinking alcohol and making my girlfriend happy.

It turns out the type of activity she was referring to is one where we’d pay $30 for the privilege of drinking wine and painting with a group of strangers. A local art instructor would show us how to replicate an existing masterpiece as we laugh and sip the night away. I can’t do that.

This actually sounds much worse than a cooking class. The best way to describe my artistic talent in one sentence is this: I am most likely the worst stick figure drawer you’ll ever meet.

So, no, I don’t have any deep hidden desire to try painting/drawing/sculpting in my free time.

I’m racking my brain for other similar activities that Julie has brought up in the past, but I don’t think there are any. But just in case she’s reading this, here are some other hobbies or activities that I have absolutely no interest in:

  • Dancing lessons. Doesn’t matter which kind, I will not show up.
  • Ice Skating on a tiny sheet of ice with 300 other people. This is the worst. I grew up skating and playing hockey, but the activity I’m describing is an insult to the actual hobby of skating. I’m talking about that makeshift rink that every downtown sets up during the winter holidays. Where they cram as many people as possible onto the ice so you can’t even play a good game of tag with your friends. Awful, awful way to spend your time.
  • Gardening. We bought a bunch of plants when we first moved to LA, and they immediately died. Some things just weren’t meant to be. I just think we’re going to be the type of people who buy our food at a store for the rest of our lives. And that’s fine by me.
  • Book Club. It’s a slippery slope. We’re talking about the characters’ feelings and desires in a book we just read, and boom, all of the sudden we’re talking about our own feelings and desires. Yuck.
  • Ballet. I already mentioned not wanting to ever take a dancing class. Let me be super clear that I also never need to pay to see other people dance.

In the “giving credit where credit is due” department, Julie has either suggested or gotten on board with these ideas that I think would bring us much more happiness than the list above:

  • Buying bikes and going on weekly bike rides
  • Brewing our own beer
  • Surfing
  • Making our own jerky
  • Playing poker at the local casinos

So you see, gentlemen, there are several couples activities that we can enjoy together. But my worry is that I haven’t yet thought of all the possibilities that I need to say no to. That’s where you come in. If your girlfriend/wife/friend with benefits has ever suggested a couples activity that was as awful-sounding as the ones I listed above, please leave a note so that I don’t have to suffer the same fate you did.

Sincerely,

Someone Who Desperately Wants To Make His Girlfriend Happy, But Only If It’s On My Terms

Shedding Some Light On Those Ridiculous Shows Your Wife or Girlfriend is Watching

Sometimes when your only friend is a woman, no matter how hard you try, you’re accidentally exposed to the girly things in life. For example, I never would have even considered the doomed-from-the-start idea of reading and blogging about Fifty Shades of Grey if I wasn’t living with someone who already owned the books.

When we lived in San Francisco, it was easy to ignore all the pointless TV shows my girlfriend watches because  A). we didn’t live together, and B). when she was at my apartment, it was understood that I’d be watching sports on the living room TV and she’d be relegated to the bedroom TV to watch her stuff. But now that we live in a one-TV apartment, the content of these shows has been slowly seeping into my brain. I feel violated by it, but there’s really nothing I can do…800 square feet doesn’t allow for a lot of isolation.

In nine short months of living together, I’ve gone from not knowing whether it was called Sex in the City or Sex and the City to being able to quote lines from about 60% of the SATC episodes. There’s no hope for me at this point.

But even a guy with no exposure to the female world knows that Sex and the City is about four way-past-their-prime women passing around STDs in New York. That one’s easy. But what about all of those mysterious reality shows that your wife is watching? You know, the ones that seem so pointless because they’re reality shows without an actual competition involved (the only kind of reality TV men watch I’m pretty sure). The ones you’d never have to subconsciously pay attention to if your cable provider would just go along with your pleas to eliminate Bravo and E! from their services.

Considering I’ve been exposed to these shows for nine months and still don’t always know what the fuck is going on in each of them, I’m assuming there are plenty of other men out there who are equally stupefied by Say Yes To the Dress Bridesmaids Edition and Kourtney and Kim and Khloe and Kris Take New York.

Well prepare to be confused no longer. I may not know all the nuances of these shows, but I do think I have a basic understanding of the premise/their reason for existing. Here are spot-on descriptions of the four TV shows I’m exposed to most often:

Keeping Up With The Kardashians/Kourtney and Kim Do New York: I know a lot about the Kardashians actually (doesn’t everyone?). Kim did the sex tape, Bruce did the Olympics, the rest of them ride coattails. The three main girls have a store named “Dash” because “dash” is in their last name. I assume Khloe runs the store because she seems to be the only one with a brain. She’s married to Lamar Odom. He’s retired from basketball I think. Khloe and Lamar are the only two who associate with the Black Sheep Brother, Robbie. Every now and then the two younger sisters (twins?), who also have names that begin with “K”, make an appearance, but they’re boring because they’re not old enough to do photo shoots or make sex tapes. I’ve also been noticing more air time for this weird male friend of Kim’s. Don’t know his name, but he’s either gay or secretly wants to bang Kim. But he’s fully in the friend zone so that’ll probably never happen. Then there’s Scott (or “Lord Disick” as his friends call him). He’s the best. He’s a star. If E! did a spinoff just about him, I’d watch every episode. I have no idea if he or his family were rich before he was part of the Klan, but he’s set for life now. No matter how him and Kourtney end up, this guy should be the envy of all men. From what I can tell, he doesn’t have a job, his girl Kourtney doesn’t even expect him to raise their kids, so he spends every waking hour either partying, meeting other famous people or driving race cars. I’m assuming Kourtney and Kim “do New York” because the family wants to be on TV as much as possible, but no network would ever let a single show run 52 weeks a year.

Real Housewives of (fill in the blank): I always assumed the housewives were wives of famous people. I never bothered to verify whether that’s true or not. I assume the show is “a day in the life” of these rich, over-the-hillish women and what uninspiring things they get up to in their city. But I feel like every time my girlfriend’s watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, they’re actually in Paris in that episode. And Real Housewives of Atlanta was taking place in Barbados or some other tropical island the one time I paid attention. So I wonder if the (fill in the blank) part is even relevant since they’re never in that city. The housewives are predominantly blonde, full of plastic surgery and definitely on the wrong side of 40 (except for the Atlanta show…those women are all black). A typical episode goes like this: All of the women except one who isn’t there at the time start gossiping about that missing person. Then they’ll all get together at one of their houses for a party, and someone will spill the beans to the woman who was missing before that everyone’s talking about her because she ruined so-and-so’s marriage. The singled-out girl will start to confront everyone else, and eventually a few of the women’s husbands get involved. The word bitch is tossed around like it’s the last day in history anyone will be able to use that word. And then all of the sudden we’re watching a reunion show where the flamboyant host is showing the women these uncomfortable scenes from the season and all the women claim to be good friends again. There are a ton of reunion shows for the Real Housewives franchise for some reason.

Four Weddings: Four soon-to-be-married women who can’t afford a honeymoon compete to have the best wedding of the group to try to win a honeymoon. The judges are the girls themselves, which seems like the dictionary definition of “conflict of interest.” So it’s like a regular wedding’s happening, with the bride, groom, all their friends and family, and then this random table of three women with a ton of cameras and lights on them. And their whole purpose is to find problems with the wedding they’re at. Sounds like a fun time for everyone. So the girls in the wedding competition do this whole thing where they’re all complimentary around each other and say things like, “Oh I like the way she decorated the banquet hall, such a great use of the natural ambience.” But when they’re talking to the camera one-on-one they say, “I just do not understand having your wedding in a banquet hall. No amount of decorating can make a banquet hall look nice. I’m giving Tammy a three out of 10 for her venue choice.” And then the girls give scores for venue, food, efficiency and dress. And then the winner gets to ride off into the honeymoon-winning sunset with her husband as the other three girls sulk back to their miserable existence.

Say Yes To The Dress: Brides who go to a wedding dress expert looking for the perfect dress. But not perfect in the way you’re thinking. Perfect in that it pleases the bride, her parents, her brothers, all of her bridesmaids, and even her weird male lifelong friend. You can imagine how well that works. And the people who run the dress shop are constantly pissed off at the brides for wanting to find the perfect dress. What, are they supposed to shop for their wedding dress the way I shop for shoes? Walk in store, close eyes, spin in circle, buy the exact pair you’re pointing at when you open your eyes. And then, when the bride still isn’t making a decision, the owner says “It’s time to jack…her…up!!” I always expect something negative to happen when she says she’s gonna jack someone up. Like she’s gonna yell and belittle them, or tell them she doesn’t want them as a customer, something. But it turns out “jack her up” means “spoil this fatso by dressing her up in jewelry, tiaras and other accessories to make her look extra special.” I don’t understand any of this.

Having all of this knowledge in my brain about these shows feels as useless as when you accidentally memorize the lyrics to bad songs. I’m not mad at my girlfriend for any of this because I know I’ll get my payback on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays starting in September.

Summertime TV Blues: Sifting Through the Junk That You’ll be Seeing on TV Over the Next Three Months

Do you hate the summer TV schedule as much as I do?  Are you confused by why the best TV shows all take their hiatus from June – September?  I actually tried to research why all the TV stations give their best shows the summer off, but I couldn’t find any legit info.  My best guess is that back in the times before DVRs, TiVo and On Demand, these networks realized that summer is when families take vacations and spend a lot of time outside…meaning that’s when people are least likely to be sitting in front of their TVs every night.  But now with so many different options to tape your favorite shows, doesn’t it make sense that the schedule would adjust and there would actually be decent shows on during the summer months?  Apparently not.

I took the trouble of monitoring Entertainment Weekly’s “What to Watch” section for three weeks in May to see what new summer shows they were promoting.  Sadly, here they are:

United Stats of America – Twin comics make statistics about the USA interesting (doubt it) – History Channel, Tuesdays

The Devils Ride – Inside look at the conflicts and drama of a motorcycle club in San Diego (there was already a show like this that I didn’t bother to watch, wasn’t there?  Sons of Anarchy?) – Discovery Channel, Tuesdays

Around the World in 80 Plates – Competing chefs travel the world and learn about international cuisines, then try to cook the local flavors (sounds like every other cooking show) -Bravo, Wednesdays

Common Law – Cop partners have a problem—with each other.  So their captain sends them to couples’ therapy (what an incredible twist on the typical cop show!   Two men that have to go to couples’ therapy!  Groundbreaking stuff!). – USA, Fridays

Mom Caves – An attempt to show the world that moms need their private spaces for relaxation just like men need their man caves (every woman I know relaxes by watching trashy TV and reading gossip magazines.  So this show is about a room with one TV and a bunch of magazines?  Boom, show over) – HGTV, Saturdays

Pregnant in Heels – A “pregnancy guru” helps expecting moms through the joys and perils of having a baby (I’m not sure I even have a comment here.  This woman apparently helps pregnant women deal with major dilemmas…like how to go on a date when you’re eight months pregnant.  Sounds awesome) – Bravo, Tuesdays

Duets – A play on those other singing competition shows…only this time the judges actually sing with the contestants (I don’t listen to Kelly Clarkson or John Legend sing regularly, and I don’t even know who Jennifer Nettles or Robin Thicke are.  So it’s doubtful I wanna hear them sing with wannabe singers) – ABC, Thursdays

I Cloned My Pet – This might have been just a one-episode show, but basically it follows people who had an obsession with their pets, and those pets died, and now they’re trying to clone the dead pet, or something.

Hip Hop Squares – A hip hop take on the old Hollywood Squares show (seems like it’s geared towards a specific viewer, and it’s not me) – MTV, almost every day

Men At Work  – Four men navigate work, friendship and women (I’ve actually watched a couple episodes of this show as it’s the only sitcom on this list.  It’s pretty terrible…recycled jokes about one of the guy’s girlfriends wanting to have sex too often…there’s the stereotypical ladies’ man, the nerd, the guy who just got dumped and is depressed, and the normal guy.  Don’t waste your time) – TBS, Thursdays

It’s a sad list of shows.  But do me a favor and let me know if there are any shows on this summer that are actually worth watching.  And do yourself a favor and go see some movies instead of watching Pregnant in Heels.  Specifically go see The Avengers in 3D.  You won’t be sorry.