As I chatted with a group of parents at a 4-year-old’s birthday party recently, the talk over frosting-smudged paper plates inevitably turned to schools, mortgages, and condos. As I tried to slip another cupcake onto my plate, one of the moms turned to me and asked if we were going to sell our place any time soon. Not thinking anything of it, I said that we rent, and man did the needle come flying off the record player. I felt a few more eyes on me, and I had the weird feeling that I was suddenly the “renter” in a room of “home owners”.
Before that, things had been going swimmingly. I helped break the ice by making everyone mimosas, told a few wacky-parent stories (parents love a good wacky-parent story), taught one of the dads to do a soul handshake (awkward). But once I mentioned that we were renters, things changed. Suddenly the group was either sympathizing with me, questioning me with furrowed brows, or letting me know subtly that “it was okay”. One couple spent a solid 15 minutes explaining how long it took for them to find a place to buy in the city and to “hang in there.” Hang in there?! The awkward soul shake dad wrote down his realtor friend’s number, since he specializes in “up and coming areas” that are “a lot more affordable” than where we’re currently living. And one of the moms kept peppering everything she said with the phrase “which we really can’t afford,” while looking directly at me, as if to say, "See sister? I’m broke too!"
By the end of the kiddie party I wanted to make a public declaration on why we’re renting. Instead, I stuck another cupcake in my purse and left the party in confusion as to what had just happened. It was like a universal truth that renting = bad, but it's been an overall positive experience for us. I know it’s all contextual. We were lucky to find a space we love in a great neighborhood in the city. We painted and decorated and made the space our own and, in a way, life's just taken off while we've been here. Between marriage and two kids, and not enough hours in the day for the professional and creative endeavors we’re trying to propel, buying a home just hasn’t entered into the picture yet. I’m not opposed to it and, sure, one day the ability to fix up a kitchen and retile a bathroom sounds great, but I’m not lying awake at night in a panic because we don’t own our place either. So I was surprised at the level of concern expressed, as people tried to offer solutions to our “problem” when we’re in no hurry to fix anything because nothing feels broken. We don’t have a house but we most definitely have a beautiful home.
And, really, isn't all of life contextual and unique, including our living arrangements? For some people, buying a home signals their entree into adulthood, but that’s not the case for all of us. I suppose it’s similar to those who are unmarried by choice or childless by choice. We don’t all want the same dream. At the same time. In the same way.
So as renter’s month comes to a close here on Apartment Therapy, I wanted to give a little shout out to those of us who are renting who are not just out of college, who are working professionals (some even with families), who are not broke, who are not “hanging in there.” We’re renting simply because we are. And we’re okay with that.
(Image: Dean's Stylish & Social Greystone)