Thursday, 1 December 2011

LIFE: Lodging

I didn’t want to be a lodger. I wanted my own soulless apartment, one where I could bring back men in suits that I’d met in cocktail bars. But life’s a bitch, you don’t always get what you want, and so instead I’m living with a middle-aged divorcee who has a tea-bag holder on the kitchen sideboard.

On the bright side, I’m paying a fraction of what I’ve ever paid in rent before. So, what do I get for my money?

The answer, the strange dichotomy of ‘my own room’ but in someone else’s (heavily stencilled) house. Mainly what I get for my money is a sense of uncertainty.  I find it difficult to define exactly what our relationship is. We’re bound by a financial transaction at the start of each month, yet our relationship amounts to more than tenant and landlord- she often gives me lifts to work, on occasion confides in me like a friend, but we both know we’d never socialise outside the confines of the house.

In some ways, we’re not all that different, penchant for Marilyn Monroe/James Dean memorabilia aside; we’re both going through a period of transition. I’m starting a new job in a new city, life as a young professional stretching ahead. She’s recently got divorced after thirty years of marriage having discovered her husband knocked up a waitress, and is facing redundancy.

Yes, okay, it’s fair to say her ‘period of transition’ is also a personal catastrophe, and even people who know me very well and dare to love me would readily admit I am not the person you want around in the middle of a catastrophe. When something bad is going down, I’m always the person entrusted with ‘minding the bags.’ In a way I can understand it, I’ve never lost a bag to date, except that time I was in Cineworld and two boys came over and I was so flattered that they were chatting me up I failed to notice one of them had swiped my mate’s Hooch drawstring. Dark days, but valuable lessons learnt.

So having me pottering around is not what this woman needs right now; she doesn’t need the stress of coming home every evening and finding me there ironing my shirt on the dining table having been beaten YET AGAIN by the ironing board’s opening mechanism. She doesn’t need me spilling Ribena on her stair runner and hurriedly trying to mop it up with a soaked bath towel and hand moisturiser. She doesn’t need me yanking open the front door THAT ALWAYS STICKS and then finding the letterbox in my hand.

But I can be a source of comfort as well as irritation. She was embroiled in a love triangle involving, and this is absolutely not a lie, ‘Kev and Trev’, a situation anyone would recognise hangs on a proverbial knife edge, one slip of the tongue and all goes up in smoke. In this instance I was helpful: I listened and I backed Kev, as any sensible person would. I saved her a lifetime of Gok Wan’s Fashion Roadshow by demystifying his expertise: put simply, add a waist belt.

So I have my uses, but ultimately it isn’t ideal for either of us. I’m too neurotic to handle a lodging situation; every night I’m torn between watching what I really want to watch in my bedroom, or joining her downstairs and sitting through another episode of Masterchef: The Professionals. I’m incapable of ending a conversation or leaving the room without the sign-off, ‘would you like a warm drink?’ Then I can be wildly inconsiderate in other ways, like leaving the cardboard end of the loo roll on the holder.

Am I alone in finding the lodger/lodgee relationship a stressful dance between two slightly disorientated partners?

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