I never imagined myself being one of those bitches who moved in with her boyfriend after only dating him for seven months. My brain has always considered the decision of cohabitation to be necessarily long-brewing—a gargantuan resolution strategized in advance, like becoming a dentist or investing in a high-quality BBL. In the same way that one doesn’t just decide overnight that other people’s healthy teeth or a juicy, $10,000 ass would bring them satisfaction, I never really thought that couples should decide to live together without sitting on the idea for a long, long time. And until the pandemic, a long, long time meant at least a year. 365 days seemed like the minimum amount of time I would need to deduce if my relationship was cohabitation-ready: legitimate enough to officialize in the form of a legally binding lease agreement; harmonious enough to survive for, at a minimum, the length of that contract.
But, like everyone else, my 2020 was bloated with strange happenings. So here I am: living with my boyfriend, of now eight months, during a panini, co-signed lease and all.
My story isn’t unique. The health crisis has accelerated reality in a manner that only the most apocalyptic of events can. In dating, this also means polarization: some couples established pre-rona have called it quits sooner than later, while others have hunkered down for the indefinite haul. But the speedy progression of my own relationship—which, as a reminder, has never existed outside a catastrophe context—has made me realize that for the first time, my lifestyle feels more adult than I’d like it to.
To avoid sensationalism, I’ll refrain from saying that I’m experiencing the beginning of the end of my youth. Yet, the sheer concept of a comfortable love life feels freakishly grown. Like many straight women, the bulk of my dating dossier was splotched with distress caused by the evils—e.g. underdeveloped emotional intellect and/or overbearing egos—of 20-something cis-hetero men. But this all felt sadly normal for a woman my age: all of my female friends have dealt with their fair share of verifiable male losers. Girls who met their true matches early in life were just lucky, I’d assumed as I closed Hinge and opened Tinder, deleted Bumble and desperation-installed OkCupid. So it’s ironic, now, that I’m reveling in the assurance of being coupled with my soulmate. As a textbook romantic, this is the love I’ve always wanted. But it also feels controversial that I’m one wide step closer to everything I recently considered lightyears away.
Serious commitments outside of simply loving someone—engagement, matrimony, birthing life into this fucked-up world—still freak me out. I’ve always told myself I’m one of those people who wouldn’t mind dating their partner for 15 years before getting married, because why not? Tax benefits are cool. But even cooler is that hot, debonair 40-something couple you meet at an art exhibition one night downtown: kid-free confidants who have “been together for pretty much always,” not really married, but unfazed by such typical assumptions as they continue detailing to you their latest trip to Dubai, or their shared love of an obscure cheese variety only crafted in the French countryside. Those people are the antithesis of boring. And, of course, that’s what I’m really scared of—boredom.
Now, I know I sound foolish, implying that all married couples lead a mundane everyday. I also know I need to stop discussing engagements and babies, as my boyfriend will be reading this essay and I don’t need him to have too much insight into the cogs and gears of my cranium when it’s not in no-thoughts-head-empty mode. But the correlation between growing older and growing boring is no conspiracy, and neither is the millennial cohabitation-to-marriage-kids-death pipeline. Penning this from a two-bedroom apartment, overhearing my boyfriend put the toilet seat up to take a piss, thinking about how we need to clean the house, reminding myself to Venmo request him for half of the groceries we got last night from Trader Joe’s: all these things scream that I’m officially, for the first time, part of the system. And it almost feels asinine to imagine myself outside of this structure of fast-tracked maturity when many of the forums and fortunes that symbolize a spirited youth—boisterous gatherings, social spaces, spontaneous travels, turning strangers into friends—are mere daydreams, not to again exist in our reality anytime soon.
Indeed, if it weren’t for the pandemic, and the concomitant prohibition of fun, I wouldn’t feel so screwed—yet, if it weren’t for the pandemic, I would’ve averted this entire crisis altogether. My boyfriend and I’s decision to live together sooner than originally anticipated was the result of what at first felt like a glitch in the simulation: days before I was scheduled to undergo a long-awaited surgery, I unexpectedly tested positive for COVID-19.* I’ll spare you the precise details of what events ensued in the two weeks that followed this fiasco. But here’s what I am willing to spill: the series of unfortunate events almost felt like a disguised boon.
My boyfriend decided it was best for his mental health to move out of the house he shared with roommates—then we both agreed that we might as well live together now, rather than wait until the late spring (our one-year anniversary) as planned. Life happens (our respective therapists reminded us both), we’ve never been doubtful of our relationship, and diving straight into cohabitation made sense logistically. And though the scheduling was off, it was also seamless: my landlord who oversaw my old spot hooked us up with the one we currently live in, a freshly remodeled two-bedroom well under our budget. The unit wasn’t on the market yet, he said, but it was ours if we wanted it. We moved in two weeks later.
Comedian Amanda Seales has a podcast that feels like church. It’s secular, but good for the spirit. And like a true sermon, each episode always manifests in my life with impeccable timing. In a recent chat, Seales discussed the between “playing house” and “living together”—the idea that having a toothbrush at your partner’s place isn’t the same as having your heart there. “[Living together] is about commitment, dedication, and consideration… playing house is just that—you get to leave when you’re over it, and there’s no expectations or responsibilities.”
Seales is right. And any couple that’s ever transitioned from sleepovers to cohabitation knows it—even if many of us have had trouble articulating the palpable difference between the two situations. In my own relationship, sleepovers, or “playing house,” were integral—and on weekends, I practically lived at Jedidiah’s place. But the keyword here is practically: I was always a guest there, and guests are allowed to relish in the absence of expectations. I could also come and go as I pleased—choosing to head to my place when I felt too distracted from work stuff, or simply wanted to be alone. In the absence of responsibility—and, more importantly, the days-long, amiable presence of my boyfriend—I was also greeted with a youthful giddiness in preparation for these miniature retreats. Even Saweetie gets it: “Idk why but I still get excited to pack my lil overnight bag to go see my man lol,” she once tweeted.
In a pandemic, a spinnanight bag is especially emblematic; in a world where there’s nowhere to go that actually requires real luggage, a small, well-stuffed duffle and a quick 15-minute drive to your boo’s spot are, indeed, a reimagining of top-tier fun. But when you live with your boyfriend—and there’s no longer a magical destination to run off to—some of that girlish excitement and anticipation depletes. Tie this stationary lifestyle with housekeeping responsibilities, compromises, new bills, and the blurring line separating work-from-home and quality time, and cohabitation is, again, far more adult than the more juvenile adventure of “playing house.” I’m not saying these are shortcomings of living with your significant other, but they certainly are the lackluster realities. And most of them are simply supplementary spices in my gumbo of boredom—which already includes fleeting youth and a fear of what’s next, stewed in with a heaping quart of Miss Rona.
In an ideal world, I’m able to better compartmentalize the mundane that characterizes my current phase of life: boredom prompted by the pandemic, boredom prompted by the necessary trials and tasks of adulthood, and boredom prompted by human behavior. While tedium provoked by the health crisis is unavoidable and obviously for the better, I’m recognizing that countless aspects of growing up can also be interpreted as fruitful opportunities for self-growth.
Case in point: before quarantine, I led a shambolic daily life in which bad habits affected my everything—from time management and work, to sleep and diet. But now that I live day-to-day with someone who’s very committed to routine, I am, too (hi three balanced meals a day, bye disrupted circadian rhythm, you toxic bitch). And I’ll be first to admit that my subconscious was clinging onto chaos, construing it as a representation of unconstrained youth instead of self-negligence.
I’m also cognizant of the fact that learning how to Chill The Fuck Out would vastly reduce my overall dissatisfaction with where I’m at currently in life. When it comes to transformative decisions, inquisition is justifiable—but catastrophizing a terminally boring adulthood upon the receipt of two apartment keys is just as irrational as making a BBL appointment on IG. And just as I couldn’t portend a pandemic, I can’t assume my boyfriend and I won’t be that fancy-cheese-loving, globe-trotting power couple at the art show that enamors everyone they meet. The simulation may even dare to glitch again: we’ll be married, with kids, and as beguiling as ever.
*I use the word unexpectedly because I was showing no symptoms. More importantly, my boyfriend, his old roommates, and I strictly follow California’s stay-at-home order. I live alone and was part of their household bubble. Despite multiple tests, my boyfriend never received a positive test result during my 10 days in quarantine. I also tested negative for antibodies three weeks after I tested positive for the virus. We assume my case was a rare, but not impossible, false positive.