When I Stopped Waiting for We
Chinae Alexander discusses what happened when she realized she didn’t need a relationship to make a home
It’s been 12 years since I moved to New York City, and I’ve been in a lot of apartments. Hundreds temporarily as I visited…and lived in five of my own. I coexisted with multiple iterations of friends, with a 65 year old stranger named Bob, and then eventually just with myself in a small studio in Bedstuy, Brooklyn.
My art was always lined up along the baseboards, a suggestion of where it “should” be hung. Or worse, in stacks under the bed. Maybe I’d get around to hanging it all, but “ugh the holes that I’d have to fill when I move!”. The plates I ate on for countless dinners, a collection of Ikea and what was left by Megan or Catherine, the previous roommates. The bad landlord paint jobs perpetually coated each wall with mystery white that always had a little too much yellow for my liking. Just enough warmth to look a touch dingy and old. But I rented…and you can’t paint a rental. Coffee every morning was sipped from a mug stolen from an ex’s house, or in a pink cup that I got free from an event…because I was waiting to buy matching mugs when I was with my forever person.
Growing up in Texas groomed me. I was a kid who always admired the suburban frills of living and entertaining. Although we didn’t have much money growing up, I got my biggest highs when visiting the homes of my rich (or at least richer) friends. I would sneak to peer into the tall china cabinets stacked with fancy dishware…they were the kind of plates that they got out for company ( I found that I was not considered company by the way). Also, did you know you have to pick a china pattern and stick with it for LIFE? This was the type of faux-wisdom I picked up along the way. There were multiple backup sheet sets, and duvets folded and stored neatly in a hallway closet, just waiting for a guest to arrive. There were miscellany like punch bowls, fancy bar tools, and pans that were made specifically for one type of food (!). I was once almost beheaded for actually sitting and casually existing in someone’s formal living room.
The common denominator in all of these places was permanence and a “we”. Sometimes the “we” was two people, sometimes it was more…but it was never “I”. During those 21 years in Texas, I internalized that single “I’s” do not make a home, single “I’s” do not settle in, and they don’t nest. All they do is wait for the “we”. “I’s” do not have a china pattern or extra sheets.
During those 21 years in Texas, I internalized that single “I’s” do not make a home, single “I’s” do not settle in, and they don’t nest. All they do is wait for the “we”.
Two years ago, I outgrew my first studio apartment and decided to move to a bigger space. I asked my landlord if they had any available 1 bedroom apartments in the building, and she responded, “No, we only have two bedrooms”. Hovering to close the email, I thought, “well it doesn’t hurt to ask how much it is…”. So I did, and it was in my price range. I would just have to move upstairs. It was all going to be perfect.
So why did I have a pit in my stomach?
Moving day arrived and I was peppered with an onslaught of questions; “When did you guys move in?” the neighbors asked. “Is it just you?”, the movers inquired as they packed up my non-matching mugs. “ We just moved in today!” I was a fraud but it felt better than admitting the truth. There was that pit in my stomach again.
I felt like as a single person, I couldn’t move into my dream apartment. I felt as an “I”, I didn’t deserve two bedrooms, that I wasn’t supposed to take up that much space. That the second bedroom should have been filled with children, like all of my neighbors’ were. My inner feminist felt so ashamed that I had unknowingly been putting my life at home on hold for 12 years because I was waiting for my forever person to come along, so we could finally hang the art and register for the plates that I had always wanted.
I felt like as a single person, I couldn’t move into my dream apartment. I felt as an “I”, I didn’t deserve two bedrooms, that I wasn’t supposed to take up that much space.
That was the day I decided to marry myself, and make my house, my HOME.
I’m happy to report from the other side that they sell matching plates and mugs to single people. The landlord will likely not give a shit if you paint your bedroom moody blue-black, apologize later and repaint. Holes are easy to fill. You’ll see that art at eyeball level makes you a happier person. You can find a modern china cabinet and no, you don’t have to pick a pattern. Lastly, that the second bedroom makes an excellent beauty room and second closet.
Singleness and impermanence are no reasons not to settle in. Your relationship status doesn’t have to feel like a waiting room, it can be your home. What or who are you waiting for to settle down? I was so afraid to embrace that I could live my best life alone, because maybe it would curse a future with someone…that maybe it would scare someone away? Turns out, life doesn’t work that way, and anyone worth their salt will be thrilled to be a part of a world you’ve created with that level of confidence.
It’s almost a year since my forever person moved into my home and I’m honestly still mentally coping with how to give up storage space. I’m just so thankful that my comfort and delight wasn’t rooted in waiting for someone or something else. It wasn’t meeting him that gave me permission to feel at home. It wasn’t for him that I was crafting a place I could be proud of. It was for me, and while I’m so thankful we do this together, I am very thankful to first have created it on my own.