On Being an U.G.L.I.T.A. (Unmarried Girl Living in Two Addresses)
I was watching an old black and white movie the other night, and in it was a scene that got me thinking. Picture it: a young woman and her gentleman caller go out for the evening. They take in a movie, share a malted, and at around 9:30 p.m. he takes her home and bids her good-night at her doorstep, nervously pecking her on the cheek. He runs to his car excitedly, and she runs into the house where, with butterflies in her stomach, she brushes her teeth and applies her cold cream.
So how many dates among people in their twenties and thirties still end like this? Judging by my friends' and peers' dating patterns, mighty few. It certainly isn't the norm for me. In this 21st century dating culture, people end up spending the night together fairly early on. Most move in together before they're married, or even thinking about marriage.
Fast forward to my living room - or shall I say our living room, (Grandma, cover your ears!) meaning mine and my boyfriend's. Yes, I watched that movie on a television that technically isn't mine in a house that I live in with a man to whom I am not married. I started out a young single gal living in my own apartment by myself, taking care of business just fine, when Mr. Right had to come along.
My beau (henceforth Mr. R.) pursued me on a wintry night in January in a smoky pool hall, where, in my red mini skirt and halter top, I was instantly enamored by a stately man who wore jeans - magnificent jeans! - and an L. L. Bean weathered poplin oxford. Our eyes met through the smoky bar...okay, okay, I'll skip the god-awful histrionics. The point is, we began dating. However, unlike our wholesome girl in the film, I managed to skirt the going home part and began spending the night at his place fairly soon.
After about a week of dating, though, I surreptitiously began bringing things to his house, first a pair of shoes. Then next thing you know, my toothbrush had its very own home next to his sink. I was there two nights a week, then four, then every night. I found myself making mini-moves every few weeks in my car, hauling shopping bags full of underwear and fistfuls of hangers dragging clothing from my closet into the back seat. Then I gave up on the idea of having two sets of everything (two sets of make-up? that gets expensive!) and brought all my toiletries over, living each day out of not even a suitcase but a heap of clothes and shoes piled up in his spare bedroom.
After a few months of this hotel-like existence, I found it extremely tedious to go to my house every day to fetch my mail. It was especially frustrating to make the trip home and find only a flyer for pizza, coupons, or a credit card offer I certainly didn't need. So I went to the post office and started having my mail forwarded to his place, care of Mr. Right. Big step, I know - the next biggest step to getting my own key, really. However, I still didn't really live there; I was becoming an UGLITA, straddling two addresses, half of my stuff in one place - all in its proper places - the other half in raggedy piles and laundry baskets at his. Move in, he would urge, and I'd shake my head no, no, I still need my own space (that I never occupied) and my apartment represents my independence and my identity and blah blah blah, I would blather on.
But I finally realized that a hollow, deserted apartment can't embody all the parts of me that I was trying so desperately to keep neatly stored there. A place didn't and couldn't define me as a person. Having a place of my own didn't mean I was secure or autonomous, it just meant that I liked living by myself. I realized that a house does not a whole woman make.
Little by little, I jumped from stone to stone, realizing along this little journey that I could still be my own person without my own place. I could have my stuff and my self within one address. I realized that being an UGLITA just wasn't for me. So I made the final leap, in several small bounds, to becoming an unmarried girl living at one address. I am now officially cohabiting with Mr. R.
But it's not just me. Everywhere you look you see couples in real life and pop culture who have made the move because of convenience or because they want to play house. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? some say. Well, each couple has their own reasons, I suppose. One is the influence of television and movies. The single life has almost become some cruel cliché. The number of single women and men is astounding; you see us in bars, grocery stores, the movies.
On television we watch characters like Chandler and Monica share an apartment together on Friends; on Sex and the City, Carrie, planning to move in with her boyfriend, comments that she hates sleeping at his place because of his 2-in-1 shampoo. And all of us UGLITAs are sitting at home laughing because we get it! We've been there and we know that it is truly a pain to use his man-shampoo and his hairbrush because you forgot yours when you were throwing stuff into a grocery bag that morning before work, knowing you were going to sleep at his place that night.
In High Fidelity, we see John Cusack and his girlfriend move in and out and back in with each other as if it were as normal and healthy as listening to records. When she moves out after breaking up with him, she hauls her stuff off in trash bags and again, we're all sitting there knowing what that's like! Then she has to come back for the dreaded "picking up a few things" phase of the breaking up/moving out process. Sometimes I wonder how many cohabiting relationships remain intact just because of sheer laziness. I heard a comedian the other day saying that when you want to break up with your roomie/partner, you think about having to wrap all your dishes individually in newspaper, go to the post office, change your address, search the ads for a new place...then you figure, okay, we can work this out!! If things go sour when you're living together, you're trapped between love and logistics.
To me it seems that for a relationship to succeed (whatever that means), you must believe that things are going to last. For it to thrive, you must put all of your effort into it. Moving in together is an action that symbolizes faith, and whether or not things do work out, you've at least made yourself a better person by taking that leap off a sometimes scary precipice. If you have one foot out the door at all times, you're likely to fulfill your prophecy and end up not only with a broken relationship, but a big question-marked part of yourself that will always make you wonder what would have happened if you'd been more involved, if you'd risked yourself more.
I am taking that risk. I am proclaiming my love to a man I hope to marry. We're just doing things a little out of order, that's all. The fact that we are living together isn't to say that I still don't get butterflies over him, in what's now our bathroom, while I'm brushing my teeth and putting on my cold cream.
© Ashly Callaway
Ashly Callaway lives in Nashville as a freelance writer and a full-time student. She spends her free time doing yoga, singing, and looking for a real job.
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