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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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.

Adventures in Relocating: Losing My Mind over Home Entertainment Choices

I worry that I’ll come home one day to find Julie trapped inside my wire jungle

I have already lost two full days trying to solve this riddle, and there’s no end in sight.

In my current apartment, we have DirecTV, a DVR for recording shows, and a Blu-Ray player.  Our DirecTV package has most of the regular cable channels as well as HBO & Cinemax.  We have typically bought the NFL Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages to watch football and baseball when they’re in season.  Our Blu-Ray player can stream Netflix Instant content.  Those are all of the options we have available at this time. While Netflix Instant is affordable at $8 per month, DirecTV rapes us to the tune of $124 per month.

With the move to the new place in LA only two weeks away, I thought this would be the right time to do a reset of my home entertainment packages to see if I can A) leverage different services and devices to have a broader choice in TV shows and movies, and B) cut out some significant costs from my current situation.

As I started researching this topic via the web and chatting with friends, I came across an endless amount of options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Roku, AppleTV, iTunes, DirecTV, Comcast, On Demand, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, illegal downloading…

Don’t worry, this can go even one layer deeper in complexity when you start to consider the following: Netflix has its instant service and its regular/ship you dvd’s service; HBO GO only works if you have an active HBO subscription through a participating cable or dish provider, Hulu has free and plus services, Roku has four different devices with options on picture quality as well as having ports for your USB cable.  Not a single service seems to have “everything.”  For instance, Netflix Instant has almost every well-known TV show, but lags in making the newest seasons of shows available to you.  Hulu Plus’s claim to fame is that the newest episodes of currently airing TV shows are available the day after they air.  But their problem is they don’t have deals with all the major network and cable channels so some shows are missing.  Amazon looks awful for current TV shows but awesome for movies.

It also seems like if you were to create a spreadsheet that matched up all content providers (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) with all the physical devices that the content can be streamed through (i.e. PS3, Xbox, Roku), your computer would probably explode.  Just like my head was about to do when I started to consider all these options.

Maybe the first thing I should figure out is what I really want access to. Ideally I want to be able to watch any new/currently airing TV shows close to the date that the new episodes actually air.  I also want to catch up on old seasons of still-airing shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and 30 Rock.  I need the ability to watch the playoffs of all major sports.  But I also need access to every Red Sox and Patriots game. Movies don’t matter as much: I just want the option to see most new movies that are coming out on DVD.

I know some people who have gotten rid of cable/satellite service all together and get their content exclusively from the Netflix and Hulu’s of the world.  This is the dream scenario, and I eventually want to get there. But here are three reasons why I’m reluctant to get rid of DirecTV/cable: playoff sports still have a lot of games on channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT; without cable I feel like I might miss out on something (there’s no logic to this feeling, it’s just an emotional reaction); and Julie will go ApeShit on me because all of the ridiculous shows she watches are on Food Network, MTV, E!, and TLC, and I don’t think she could get access to all of that content from another service.

I guess I’m leaning towards keeping DirecTV (but going back to the most basic package possible), and then buying a Roku to stream Netflix Instant and the MLB.tv package on my TV.  This will probably satisfy me for three months, at which time I will buy AppleTV, subscribe to Hulu Plus, buy a PlayStation 3, add HBO to my DirecTV package again so I can access HBO GO, and of course activate the NFL Ticket just in time for football season.

I’m exhausted from this talk we just had…any better suggestions for me?