Field and I are in a relationship.
We don’t fuck.
It’s a relationship where we split the bills and squabble over what kind of cheese to buy; where I get away with picking the bacon I want, and she has all the salt-and-vinegar chips her little heart desires; where we have long sprawling conversations at eleven o’clock at night about Books We’ve Read and Why Television Is Hard; where we email each other from our respective workplaces about what we want to eat for dinner, what we’ve read on the internet news that day, why four hours sleep is not enough, whether it’s a good idea to buy more wine (yes). But at the end of the day, we go to our separate beds in our separate rooms and close the doors.
And it’s invisible.
A few nights ago we had a conversation about how we want to refer to each other: we flatted with each other (and with Nish) for six years, but this is something new. We’re hiring plumbers now. In the end we decided that “co-owner” fit the best, but that’s not quite right either: too much business in the front, not enough party at the back. “Partners” has connotations that I in no way disapprove of, but which just aren’t accurate; it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if people thought that Field and I were a couple, but we’re not. I toyed with “lady-wife”, mostly as a joke, but while that kind of shit is fun with friends it’s difficult to say with a straight face to your lawyer, your electrician, your bank-manager, your mum.
So co-owners it is for now, and we’ll change it if it stops being the closest match for what we are.
But we’re invisible, this thing. When I talk about buying a house with Field, I’m talking about my long-term life plan. I’m talking about planning a garden, about where we’re planting the fuschia (me) and the hebes (me) and the carpet roses (Field) and the agapanthus (over my dead body). I’m talking about the six-month conversation we’ll have about whether we’re going to wallpaper or paint the lounge, and what shade it should be, and what the curtains should be made of. I’m talking about how we run the kitchen, how we cook together, how we make plans to go to the supermarket and what our budget there will be. I’m in charge – always and forever – of making electronics Go; she’s in charge of the alphabet because my god how I hate reshelving books.
I’m talking about the two or three years of planning that went into this. I’m talking about how I researched suburbs and public transport routes; about how grateful I am that Field got her full licence and a car, and how much easier that made the house-hunting process. I’m talking about the gin-and-tonics she made us tonight for dinner, before she went to lie down on her bed in the summer evening sun and I came online to watch comedy routines on youtube and write this post. I’m talking about the expression of my hopes and dreams, my plans and schemes, how I’ve wanted to do up a house for forever (as long as Nish has known me, and that’s a bloody long time).
I’m talking about how we started having conversations about how we wanted this to work 18 months ago, how we set up a joint savings account over a year ago, how we now have 2 joint accounts plus the mortgage, insurance in both our names and shared household goods. I know where she was born, her date of birth, what her passport photograph looked like when she was thirteen. I chat to her mum sometimes on the phone a bit. She knows these things about me.
And so I have conversations with people about buying a house with Field, and what they hear is of two good friends buying a house together, and what they say is:
Have you thought about what would happen if you didn’t want to live together anymore?
No. No, it isn’t sensible, you utter moron, do you know how much it would devastate me if it all turned to pot, how difficult it would be to disentangle our lives? Our finances are complicated and not wholly governed by standard law, but that’s the least of it when we have mostly shared friends and I can’t remember exactly how to cook dinner on my own anymore, when the kitchen seems strange when she’s not there to navigate around and pass me spoons and pepper.
Yes, what, you think we set up a joint savings account and talked to banks and lawyers and looked at houses and put in an offer and went unconditional and settled and moved without ever thinking about what we were doing? Without ever talking to each other about it?
This wasn’t an accident, this house in this street. It wasn’t the easy or the simple choice; it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t a calculated financial decision. My life isn’t good financial planning – single girls without options, women on the shelf looking to get on the property ladder. I may be a spinster with a cat, but by god I have done it with intent.