Over the weekend, my husband and I moved from our cramped, rundown, one-bedroom apartment near crowded Times Square in Manhattan, to a spacious, gut-rehabbed, state-of-the-art two-bedroom brownstone on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn. To say I’m happier in the new place would be an understatement. It’s as if I’d eaten McDonald’s hamburgers — not even cheeseburgers or Big Macs or Quarter Pounders, but regular ol’ tiny, boring, junk-food hamburgers — at every meal for the last several years and now I’m suddenly sitting down to delicious, nutritious, home-cooked meals of the finest cuts of meat and freshest veggies whenever I’m hungry. It wasn’t easy getting from one place to another though, both literally and metaphorically. It was a long time coming, and in the weeks leading up to the move — the very first move Drew and I have ever made together — I wondered if we’d even make it to our first wedding anniversary next month. Few things in life challenge a relationship quite like moving does, but I’m happy to report we survived the hurdle.
It all started almost three years ago, when I made the big leap from Chicago to New York to close the gap in our long-distance relationship. Settling into Drew’s bachelor pad in Manhattan was a serious adjustment and I never really felt at home in either the apartment or the neighborhood. It didn’t take long before I realized Brooklyn had the same laid-back vibe I missed about Chicago, while still maintaining a fun, cool urban feel. A lot of our friends lived out here, but Drew, a life-long Manhattanite, wasn’t as quick to embrace the idea of moving as I was. So I started working on him. I got his friends to work on him. And slowly — very slowly — he started coming around to the idea.
We began looking at open houses, thinking we’d like to buy a place. For a whole year we looked at properties, but nothing in our budget was anything we could see ourselves living in for the long term. Meanwhile, there was one place that Drew had his eye on that was ridiculously over our budget. The apartment was in a brownstone that had been purchased by an architect and then gut-rehabbed and redesigned in spectacular fashion. “Visualize yourselves there,” my mom, a fan of wishful thinking, advised. So we did, even though we knew it was sort of silly. In the meantime, I was losing hope. We still weren’t seeing anything in our budget to buy and I was getting absolutely desperate to get out of the city. I was starting to get depressed and wanted to nip that it the bud before it got worse. So, we altered our plan. We decided to rent instead of buy. Just about that same time, the apartment Drew had coveted so much disappeared from the market. “I guess the owner finally realized he wasn’t going to be able to sell it for a profit in this market,” Drew said.
By now, you can probably guess where this is going. And you’d be partially correct. Drew’s dream apartment suddenly appeared in the rental ads the weekend we decided to start looking at places to rent. In fact, it was the very first place we looked at. Even to rent, though, it was still way, way out of our budget. But the apartment below it, half the size and almost half the rent, was comfortably within what we could afford. It had been rehabbed and designed by the same owner and in the same style and it was just beautiful. We filled out an application immediately, which included pay stubs from our jobs, bank statements, letters of employment on company letterhead signed by our bosses, and, I kid you not, a personal freakin’ essay about ourselves! About the only thing we didn’t have to provide was a urine and stool sample, though if pressed, we probably would have happily complied with that too.
After three nerve-racking days of waiting, we got word that we’d been accepted for the apartment. The celebration was short-lived, though, once we realized how much money we were suddenly going to spend (first month’s rent, a month and a half deposit, and a 12 percent broker’s fee! Yikes), plus all the work we had ahead of us. Finally, the real fun was beginning. Over the next few weeks, I almost bit my tongue in half as I kept myself from criticizing Drew’s organizing and packing skills (or lack thereof). Having lived in the same place for 16 years and being a sentimental guy to boot, he was not only inexperienced when it came to moving, he had accumulated so much crap he had no idea where to begin throwing things out. Contrast that with me, who has never lived anywhere in her whole life for more than three years and believes that you should be able to fit all your keepsakes in one box, and it was all we could do to keep from screaming at each other constantly.
A week before we moved into the new place, we went to the paint shop to look at colors for out new bedroom, kitchen and dining area. It was there, in the Benjamin Moore aisle that the stress of the last few weeks — nay, the last few years — finally exploded in a fantastic flood of waterworks. We couldn’t agree on a shade of green, see; Drew snapped at me — something he never does, and suddenly, right there in front of all the other customers, I started bawling. Big, snotty, crocodile tears. It only lasted about three minutes, but it felt like an eternity. It was completely embarrassing, but also a little cleansing, and I learned something that may prove to be one of the most valuable lessons ever when it comes to relationships: tears work. Like, they work immediately. In seconds, Drew went from hot anger to compassionate sympathy. I’m not much of a crier, so this lesson — one I’m sure many, many women would be stunned I didn’t already know — was a real revelation for me.
So, here we are then: a brand-new apartment — one with central air, walk-in closets, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and a balcony that overlooks a field of trees — and more than one important lesson learned. In addition to the crying trick, I also realized — or, I suppose re-realized — just how important it is to compromise in a relationship. This whole move has been a series of compromising and I was reminded over and over and over that you have to bend and stretch a little if you want the other person to meet you in the middle. In the end we went with a shade of green that was exactly in between what we both had wanted. I wasn’t surprised when we painted it on the kitchen walls and realized it was the perfect color after all.