It is horrible to own a house. Oh, right, that’s the American Dream….but I disagree. The American Dream is to be master of your fate, so you can pursue happiness. A house is unnecessary baggage.
We here in New York either own co-ops (condos to most of the rest of the country), or we rent. Either way, we don’t own a house, except for those intelligent and lucky few who managed to turn their savings into a country house or beach condo (call me!).
Most middle-class American adults (and I am one) either own a house or want to. Beware! Beware! Before you jump right in, hear my tale of heartbreak and woe.
Al (the hub) and I decided to buy a house, once. We bought a lovely historic carriage house in Mount Kisco, which is almost exactly like the town in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. After two weeks, we knew we wanted to leave. After 11 months, we ran screaming back to the city.
Here’s the list of the things that did us in.
The Neighbors Don’t get me wrong. Mount Kisco is a lovely, lovely town with nice people. There just aren’t very many of them. When you live in a house, you might never actually meet most of your neighbors for months on end. And we lived in the village itself, not in one of the sidewalk-less bedroom communities scattered about. The flip side of having few neighbors is meeting neighbors you don’t like – they can be in your face all the time, and there are not enough other people to even out the rough edges. When you live in an apartment, you can at least complain about 3B to 1B,2B,4B,5B,6B….etc.
America’s Sales Force Out in the unprotected wilderness, anyone can legally walk right up to your door and ring the bell, or do that thing where you ball up your hand and rap sharply with your knuckles. Who is it? People selling you stuff. Products, services, politics, religions – you name it, there it is on your doorstep. I guess you could get a “no solicitors” sign with teeth, a large dog, or one of those things that tell you who’s at your door, but we didn’t last long enough to figure it out.
Theme Restaurants Chuck E Cheese is the king of them all, but there are plenty more where that came from. They are noisy, painful, expensive, and, worst of all, open later than real restaurants. Your children will beg to go to them. In the city, you just laugh dismissively and send them out the door to the local park where they meet other kids and play for free. In a house, you’ll need to pop the Advil and cave in for the local princess-dino-themed-pizza-arcade at LEAST once a month or more.
Trash Day Isn’t it the job of the local sanitation workforce to actually collect the trash? In the city, you can put everything up to and including the carcass of a pig out on the curb, and they take it away for you (sometimes it goes in the trash museum). Because that’s their job. For larger items, such as grand pianos, try the East River.
Not so in the burbs! No, you’ll need to drag your suite of garbage containers onto the curb on ONE SPECIFIED DAY, AND ONLY THAT DAY (emphasis is mine). You’ll need to put the lids on tightly, or at a jaunty angle, depending on what the trash guys expect you to do. Recycling? Flatten everything and tie it up with a lovely ribbon or you can expect to see it out there smiling up at you when you come home from work. And yes, the bastards still expect an annual tip.
DIY-We-R-Not Roof leaks? Pipes leak? No gas in the stove? Cabinet hinges fell off? Barbie doll head stuck in the bathtub drain? Who you gonna call? Not me or Al, because we can’t fix a thing. Well, Al is pretty handy with wiring stuff (learned it in Taft High School in the Bronx ,) and I can tighten and loosen screws like a pro (kind of). For anything more advanced, we need help. In the city, that’s free or with a small tip. In a house, it’s a trip to Home Depot and a call to a local handyman. I know some of them work hard — but the ones I’m talking about open up a gold-plated tool kit, spend 2 hours twiddling some dials or putting a hole in the bathroom wall, and then hand you a bill for $200 with a suggestion that “I think the problem is with the Village water supply” (translation: I couldn’t fix it)
Gardening I well remember the day we first moved in. Al had said he thought he would love gardening! And we had a yard! He bought some potting soil. That was the end of that.
Gardening involves dirt, bugs, kneeling on the ground for long periods of time, physical labor, deadly solar radiation beating onto your neck, and plants that turn black and curl up like Dorothy dropped a house on them.
Apparently some people like it.
Scheduling The people who seem happy to live in a house are the ones who have stay-at-home wives. Please take note: stay-at-home husbands are not the same thing. If you have a stay-at-home wife, she can do all the scheduling of play dates, social dates, community service dates, repairs, and other fun outings. And they do need scheduling – no such thing as
a pick-up game out in the burbs! She can also attend to all the errands: driving to the pharmacy, driving to the grocery store, driving to the dry cleaners, driving to the repair places, driving to the bank, driving to the school, driving to summer camp, driving to driving lessons for teens, driving to play dates, driving to theme restaurants.
Walking I missed it. The day my kids whined because I said we would walk to the library (10 minutes from our house) vs. drive there (also 10 minutes, if you include finding a place to park) was the day I knew we had to leave.
Applebees They deserve their own rant, so stay tuned.