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July 18, 2006

THE FLIPPED LID: Men and apartments — and not settling for less

Having very recently moved from my beloved one-bedroom apartment into an entire house, and having also moved into this house with my fiancé, real estate and men have been heavy on my mind over the last few weeks.

About a year ago I moved back to Louisville from metropolitan D.C., where I lived for five years. The last place I lived, a studio apartment described as “Cape Cod” style in the Washington Post’s apartment listings, boasted 350 square feet, including a tub under a slanted ceiling; stand-up showers were not an option, unless I chose to repeatedly bang my head and mutter mea culpa. This above-garage rental unit, replete with Berber carpet and a kitchenette’s kitchenette, ran $575 a month, without utilities.

Half a year later, I got the bright idea to pursue a doctorate in U of L’s Composition and Rhetoric program, and once the nice folks there offered me an assistantship, I began searching campus vicinity apartments in Old Louisville. I hoped for a space with character but without cat pee lingerings. Enlisting family members to view (and smell) places, I listened to details and approximate square footage with dubious scrutiny: built-in bookcases, hardwood floors, eat-in kitchen, high ceilings, central a/c and a dishwasher? $425 a month? 900 square feet? Sold!

In D.C., I could never have afforded five entire rooms, with windows in each, much less an apartment on the first floor of anything except maybe the 11th Street Hostel in Northwest. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the blessing that affording even an above-the-garage “Cape Cod” studio in suburban D.C. is, but can’t help but feel grateful for a stand-up shower. I also do not miss smelling lawnmower fumes during warm days when the garage below my studio heated up like a funk oven.

The Louisville/D.C. comparison I am about to further make needs to be explained delicately, but nonetheless seems accurate: Like inflated “charming” D.C. rental units asking way too much for way too little, average D.C. guys seemed to date super hot, smart and witty women. Damn it! This awakening repeated, much like I might have repeated the mea culpa shower routine. My head got bumpier and smaller as I accidentally slipped and fell onto 30-ish men who still lived with Mom, kept ecstasy in their back pockets, wore witch-hazel buckle shoes from the ’80s, and whose diagnoses included depression, sociopathic behavior, sexual addiction and chronic unemployment. (Bless their hearts.)

I tried. I’d explain how funny, kind, good-looking, smart and sensitive my boyfriend was. To myself. Over and over. At some point, a girl — at least this girl — wants more; to sit down and eat in the very same room in which a meal might have been prepared, for example, or a boyfriend who might, at some point, earn a college degree and keep a full-time job.

Ahh … Louisville. Land of great apartments and single guys in their 30s. Meeting my fiancé, “K,” felt as if I’d walked into an entire home with amenities out the, um, well-sculpted, jogs-every-day behind. After D.C. dating, I wondered how this guy could still be single? Are women really intimidated by good men?

Never married and 34 years old, “K” came with a tidy apartment, clean (running) car and a full-time job. He also came without smoking, drinking or a Flock of Seagulls wardrobe. His U2 to The Sea and Cake CD collection alone would have snagged me, but his book collection did the real damage. He reads everything from “The Three Pillars of Zen” to “Dungeons and Dragons” (old school). He’s also given me poetry, books, cards and thoughtful notes since our first dates. And despite aristocratic good looks, and belts that match shoes, he cusses like a railroad worker while vehemently dishing politics. The best amenity “K” offered, though, was an open heart (I know, gag, but still). As a 37-year-old with 20 years of dating experience, finding an emotionally intelligent man seeking (mature, fun) intimacy is like landing a studio at 29th and Q in Georgetown for $250 a month. (A friend offered it had I stayed in the area.)

Most of the differences between D.C. and Louisville dating probably aren’t geographic; my fiancé and I were ready for each other when we met. Still, upon arriving home, both real estate and romance in Louisville seemed much more engaging, reasonable and ultimately inviting than in D.C. I’ll be staying put for a good long time.

Contact the writer at carriemichaelle@gmail.com