Me and Peter Pan
In today's SF Chronicle, Carol Lloyd writes in her Surreal Estate column about young people who are basically choosing homelessness as a part-time option because they can't afford to buy real estate. (I'm not summarizing it well, but hey, it's 5 am -- I'm surprised I'm coherent enough to type.)
Anyway, in this article she makes the point: "In America, where society expects young adults to grow up, move out and make a life (or risk being ridiculed as "failing to launch,") our entire mythology of adulthood rests on access to affordable housing."
I think I love that line "entire mythology of adulthood." I have previously mentioned my severe case of house envy. While other women might crave motherhood and quick-step to the ticking of their biological clock, I crave walls that I can paint any color I want, kitchen cabinets I can resurface, and all the freedom that comes from actually owning where you live.
I know that home ownership brings with it more than its share of headaches. But as a life-long migraine sufferer, I'd love the chance to have a headache that actually gets me something I want. In all honesty my longing for a home borders on a depressing obsession. Depressing, because in the Bay Area buying a house is pretty much impossible unless: you get help from a rich relative; your Google options vest; you have a 2-income household where you both earn six figures and neither one of you has spent a penny in the past 10 years; you win the lottery; or, you buy a 500-square foot tool shed that you share with 9 other people.
None of the options, alas, apply to Husband and me. And so, houseless in wonderland, I haven't made that step to adulthood that Ms. Lloyd points out.
Perhaps that's while I can't believe I'm in my late 40s. I don't have any adult milestones. I have no kids. I have no house. I have no brilliant career. And when I think of people in their 40s, I see them in my mind in their SUVs, driving Trevor and Blythe to soccer practice and then home to their McMansion. When I think of me, I see someone who still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up.
In many ways this "I can't be an adult, I don't have a house" mentality is real. That sort of nagging feeling that you have nothing to show for your years on earth. No visible sign of achievement. I suppose I could start walking around with my Master's thesis under my arm to prove that I have, at least, gotten out of my jammies on occasion. But I mourn the fact that I'll never have the one thing I really, truly want.
The house down the street from us is for sale at $1.6 million. $1.6 million!?!? It's a 1950s suburb special! There is no possible way that house is work that much money. In Topeka, or someplace sane (real estatingly speaking) it's a $300,000 house. Here it's an astronomical wonder. Hubble-worthy.
You know what phrase I absolutely hate? "Starter home." What the hell is that? Is it like sourdough starter? Do you put a little home in your fridge and wait for it to ferment? In my parent's day (I can't believe I just wrote that phrase), you did not buy a house with the firm intention of selling it in 5 years to buy a bigger house. You bought a house because you needed a place to live. What a concept! A house as a house -- not as an investment, a stucco college fund, or a retirement plan. And that shift -- from home to bank account -- is where everything began to fall apart.
If Husband and I could afford a house right now I'd wither want to buy the place where I've rented for 14 years (good lord) or someplace similar. I neither want nor need 18 foot ceilings, 4 bathrooms for 2 people, granite countertops, or a sauna. I just want a cozy little place where Husband, Cat, and I can relax. And I could easily see us never moving.
But I'm still a kid. The biggest symbol of adulthood continues to elude me and probably always will (unless we move, which I really don't want to do as all my stuff is here, as well as most of the people I love). My friends are all grown-ups. Most have kids, all have houses. Luckily they put up with my immaturity. And I keep tossing the real estate section of the Sunday paper into the recycle bin before it makes it into the house because why window shop when it'll just depress you? So until I win the lottery, get adopted by Google, or move to Peoria, it looks like I -- like Peter Pan -- will never grow up.