The Weekend: Friends, Food, and Clinic Escort Training

I used to volunteer at my Planned Parenthood in CT as a clinic assistant and pastoral counselor. When I started my job after school, I didn't have the flexibility to come into the clinic as often, but I knew that when I moved to DC, I wanted to have more direct contact with patients again--to be doing advocacy on a more grassroots level. This is important because 1) the need is great and 2) it helps keep me grounded in the cause of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice.

When I found out some friends were doing a training with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force this weekend, I asked if I could join. I'd heard of the group before but didn't know they had a training coming up. The greatest thing is I can just show up without reserving a space. I'm excited to meet others who feel strongly about the cause and about protecting women.

SCL and I were chatting today about weekend plans, and he asked about the training. Then, to my surprise and delight, he asked if he could join! I was speechless. Of course he's supportive, but I just never knew he was interested in taking part in activism. So, tomorrow we will go together to learn how to support women. I can already picture us getting up early some Saturday morning, walking hand in hand to be shields, to be supporters, to be comforters to the women in DC.

I feel blessed to have found someone who is my partner in so many different ways.

Statistically Nerdy

When I got back from my early morning workout, I came in to find SCL sitting at his desk (not unusual) with a big, boring book in hand along with a pencil (definitely unusual.) "Is that your stats book?" I asked. (Note: since he didn't take stats in college, he has to go to a week-long crash course in August which we've adoringly nicknamed "Math Camp." I can just picture a sea of pale, glasses-wearing, pocket protector-bearing kids ready to go with their TI-89s...though they probably don't even use those anymore. Shows how long it's been since I've been sitting in a math class.)

Let me say that stats camp doesn't begin until the last week of August. I asked him, "Do you have to do any reading before you go?" He said no, but that there's no way they could get through the entire book in a week--to which I responded, maybe that isn't the point. "But this will make it so much easier when I get there!" he responded, slightly defensively. I don't blame him. I was making fun of his nerdiness and warned him that he could quickly become "that kid."

When I went into the kitchen to get my coffee and oatmeal, I was expecting SCL to stay at his desk, reading his book, and I'd decided that I wouldn't say anything about it, figuring I'd probably be nervous about starting a doctoral proram and would like to feel prepared in some way, even if it seemed a little silly from the outside. But as soon as I put my coffee cup down, SCL turned off his desk lamp and joined me at our little kitchen table.

That's why I love him.

Financial Figuring

Over the weekend SCL and I sat down with our calculators and computers to construct a rough monthly budget. Up until now, we've just been keeping track of our joint purchases with receipts, but now that we've opened up a joint account with ING Direct, we needed to figure out what our monthly contribution would be for joint expenses, which is practically everything for us.

I thought we might have some minor disagreements about how much to budget in certain areas. At times when one of us would suggest a budget item, we'd sit in silence for a bit. I'd be thinking of a figure but was hesitant to say it aloud, worried that it would sound unreasonably high or low. But in actuality, it took us very little time to come to a consensus and now I'm looking forward to seeing how accurate we were in our estimations.

Tips for budgeting together:
1. Use Excel, which not only adds up everything as you work on it, but also provides nifty graphs to analyze your budget break-down.
2. Start with fixed expenses, like rent, utilities, etc. from most expensive to least expensive and then do the same with discretionary spending, like going out to eat.
3. If needed, clarify what categories cover. For instance, I wanted to know if groceries covered paper products or if that was under household expenses. Also, I "needed" candy the other night, and I wanted to know if that was under groceries (because it's food) or under "fun" (since candy is totally fun). You can also decide these things along the way.
4. Decide what you will do if you have a balance at the end of the month. Will you roll it over into the next month? Will you put it into a savings account?
5. Determine how you will keep track of purchases, either using a checkbook, online banking, or an Excel sheet. I'm also considering signing us up for Mint.com, which tracks spending by categories.

I hope this is helpful. I'll keep you updated on how we did during our first month!

Things I've Learned from Cohabitating (Week 1)

1) Two people make a lot more laundry than one.

2) Two people make a lot more dishes than one.

3) The dishwasher in our apartment has made #2 hardly noticeable.

4) There is nothing better than drinking coffee together in the morning.

5) Living together is nothing like having your partner stay at your house overnight and share your toothpaste, even if you did that all the time before you moved in together.

6) Living together is way better and way more challenging than #5.

Mini Freak-Out

Yesterday I had a moment of feeling really afraid that I wasn't going to be able to do this shared living. I feared that I was too selfish and too unwilling to share to make it work--and that I was going to be unhappy.

These last three weeks have been exhausting for both of us in different ways. SCL dealt with all of the logistical aspects of the move (and his own emotional piece as well). I dealt with the time crunch and starting a new job. The newness is what got to me yesterday. Nothing feels familiar. That isn't to say that I dislike my new job, my new apartment, my new city, my new life. I am very happy here, but nothing quite feels like home yet. I haven't had time to put things away or just relax with my man.

I decided last night that I needed time in the morning to be on my own to work out and that I needed one of the big walk-in closets to have only my stuff. So far that's helped. I also put away some remaining clothes, bags, etc. last night, so I feel like the space is coming together better. It's a process.

Thank goodness for good communication and a patient partner.

Is this toothpaste mine--or ours?

SCL and I moved into our new apartment on Sunday. I'm in love! We're still in the unpacking process, especially because I'm at work and can't do much, but SCL has done a lot of the organizing and setting up. God bless him.

I honestly didn't think that living together would feel like much of a shift, but it is, especially in the little ways. It's hard to switch from saying "mine" to "ours," not because I'm a possessive two-year-old but because I'm just not used to saying it or having things that belong to us both. And, I'm living with another person, in the same room. Weird!

This morning I got up early, thinking I'd let SCL sleep in while I primped and got ready. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see him standing right outside. I thought to myslef, "What is he doing here?" and then I remembered that he lives there and maybe that means my routine will change, even my sacred getting ready ritual which involves a lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror.

But, in other ways it's so easy. I love getting up in the mornings and having breakfast at our table together. I love not having SCL scurry home to his own place to get ready for the day. I love living with my partner and friend and knowing that he'll be there when I come home from work.

All in all, a wonderful decision for us.

The Night of Moving Day Eve

Tomorrow is the big day! Moving into the new apartment!

I asked SCL if he'd carry me across the threshold. Might be better to wait until we've successfully unloaded the moving truck--if he's still able to move at that point.

Good night.

Authentic Feminism, Not Fear

With little on my to-do list (an odd occurrence in this office, or so I’ve been told) I came across this charming piece on a not-so-charming display of chauvinistic dumbass-ery at its finest. Honest to goodness I wish I could say this was satire, but no one at AskMen is clever enough to be satirical. I’m left wondering, who reads this shit (besides feminists who are blogging in reaction)?

My second thought is that I’m so glad to have found a responsible, mature, and supportive partner who is practically as feminist as I am. I feel lucky. But why should I feel lucky? Why shouldn’t the expectation be that men be sensitive to issues of gendering? Why should it be so rare to find a person who wants to be in a partnership rather than a traditional gendered relationship?

Of course not all women want partnership either, so I guess SCL should be glad that he found me, too!

Being in partnership requires more work, I think. For one, I know I have to constantly combat the way I have been cultured to behave—as well as fight against my feminist impulse to embody the polar opposite of that societal norm.

Take cooking for example. When my mom got divorced, the act of cooking was a painful reminder of her unhappy marriage, so she simply quit doing it. We’d go out, we’d make sandwiches, we’d eat ice cream for dinner—anything but cook a real meal. I, in turn, picked this up and ran with it, not to mention that my mom didn’t teach me how to make anything. When I got to college and dated someone who loved cooking, I was immediately put off by the idea. Rather than admitting the truth (that I didn’t know how and was afraid to try), I claimed it was symbolic of my mother’s oppression as a stay-at-home wife and mom, and I refused to do it. Sounds silly now.

SCL and I love to cook. I’ve gotten into trying new recipes, and we’ve starting adding little odds and ends to our kitchen collection, which absolutely thrills me now. I love it because we do it together, we share, we take turns, and we enjoy each other while we do it. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is having a shared kitchen where we can try different recipes and invite friends over for one of our (soon to be famous) bacon and mashed potato pizza.

I hope the fear of the unknown doesn't prevent me or others from trying something new--like a new kind of relationship. It's totally worth the risk of failure.

Changing Zip Codes

I got word that our application was accepted, and our official move in date is this Sunday. At this moment I am just thrilled and not thinking about the pain of moving into a new apartment. Of course the building has an elevator, but this is a new thing for those of us moving from apartments in old houses with staircases too narrow to carry much of anything up them. As I've said, SCL has done/is doing most of the work: renting truck, packing it, driving it. I'm still dealing with the self-imposed guilt.

Life is overwhelming at the moment, but mostly in a good way. I had fun during my lunch break updating my address on magazine subscriptions, credit cards, etc. It's so nice to have an address; I cannot overemphasize this. And, my friend from ATL called to say that she could come visit next weekend because flights are super cheap. I told her I couldn't promise that our apartment would be put together, but she's more than welcome!

Countdown to move in: 5 days

Keeping my Anxiety in Check

If you have just signed a lease, here's a little advice. Please do not go to apartmentratings.com and read the reviews of your building. It will only make you anxious.

First of all, the people writing reviews are big whiny babies. I figure most of the people who go to a website like that are going there to complain. (Honestly, I cannot think of a time I've written a serious review to talk about how great something was. C'mon, people love to bitch.)

Second of all, our respective apartments in CT were complete messes. Complaints about management? Ha! Talk about not having any management at all in CT. For the last year only half of the electrical outlets in our kitchen worked. We couldn't have the toaster and the microwave going at the same time because it would blow a fuse. My landlord couldn't even be bothered to show people around our apartment, so he'd ask me to do it. Or, he'd show up unannounced, stating that he thought we usually weren't home at ____ time on ____ day. SCL's landlord did not list his own number but SCL's as the contact for people to call to look at the place. The nerve!

Third of all, we loved the apartment, and it's a great deal for the space and location.That's all that matters. And, we're just happy to be here in DC. We're not expecting paradise in our first apartment (hello, we're in our 20s). And if we don't like it, we can move after a year. Wouldn't be the first time.

Bye bye, apartment reviews!

New Apartment. Check!

As I said in my last post, SCL has been an angel throughout the whole apartment search. Unlike our previous city, renting in DC seems to have a slightly longer process for getting an apartment, mostly because everything here is a high rise with a managment company (not some nonchalant middle-aged bachelor buying up property to rent to grad students, so he can sit on his ass all day and still make money.) Applying for a new apartment several months in advance isn't unheard of. When I visited a friend on Friday, I went to his leasing office to ask about any openings, figuring it couldn't hurt to see a few apartments and believing that in this economy, people are desperate to rent. Ha! Not true for this building. The woman in the leasing office practically laughed in my face when I said we were hoping to move in by mid-July. And she said the same was true of the surrounding properties, which I never thought to question because it sent me into a panic.

Suddenly, I was in a tizzy, asking myself "Shit, where are we going to live? What if all the places we look at are shitholes? What if they're tiny and there's no room for our stuff and they cost $5,000 a month?" Not rational, hence my calling it a panic. I panic occasionally, in little 5 to 10 minute spurts usually. SCL is usually silent during them, which at the time I find infuriating but then afterward I realize was the best thing he could have done for himself and for me. Usually they end with me in tears, him comforting me, and me asking him for the millionth time, "Are you sure you love me even though I freak out?" And he always says yes, and that while I do freak out, that is not the bulk of who I am or how I act. Thank God for that.

Last night when we were planning our apartment hunt, my aunt handed us a huge book of property listings. I immediately began flipping through it and wanted to add new areas to our search. This was a little overwhelming to SCL, who had carefully chosen four properties all within our pricerange and within walking distance (more or less...) to the Metro. I decided at that point to calm down and only add one other area--Crystal City. I just had a good feeling about it, and those feelings are usually dead on. (I had one about my current job before my initial interview.)

The first apartment we saw was in another part of NoVa (Northern Virginia for all of you non-DCers), and it was fine. But the guy who showed us around was a tool and we found that the Metro was quite a distance from where we'd be. Not ideal, but it was definitely a possibility. But then---we found our match. Perfection. New kitchen, new bathroom, two walk-in closets. Did you get that? TWO WALK IN CLOSETS! A pantry, another closet, a huge living room, two entrances, a beautiful fitness center--the list goes on and on. We knew we didn't need to look any further. The gut was right once again.

And now we have an apartment. I am so happy.

New City, New Job

I have survived the first week at the new job, which fortunately for me was a short week. Things weren't quite as smooth as I'd hoped. First, my commute is a little ridiculous at the moment since I'm staying way out in the suburbs with my aunt. Getting to work requires a car, a bus, and the subway, but I'm getting the hang of it and looking forward to a shorter commute once SCL and I find an apartment (more on that later). Second, my supervisor returned from a trip out of the country and brought back a nasty stomach virus, so I have not even spoken to her at all. My hope is that she'll be back in the office on Monday and I can finally figure out what it is I'm supposed to be doing. But, I love my office and my colleagues! Last night they invited me to happy hour after work and filled me in on all the office gossip, which I hope means I'm now "in" with them.

Apartment hunting. Honestly, I can't tell you much about it because SCL has been doing ALL of the work: the calling, the online research, the google mapping, the review reading. I've been so overwhelmed with starting my new job, which is not as much of a 9-5 job as my last one was, that I really have not had time to do any of this even though I'm the one currently in DC. SCL has set up four appointments for us this weekend and early next week, all places that we can afford and are within walking distance of the Metro. He's really stepped up and done all this hard work himself, and all I can say is thank you and tell him how much I appreciate him.

This move has made me realize how difficult it is for me to let other people help me out, even people really close to me. I'm used to doing, doing, doing all the time for other people (and sometimes playing the martyr because of it--thanks Mom!), and it's hard for me to admit that I need help doing something. I had to leave my previous apartment a solid month before the lease ended, knowing that my roommate would have to do all of the cleaning and dealing with odds and ends that we'd shared. I finally just had to let it go. I also left everything that wouldn't fit in my car for SCL to load up in the U-Haul and drive down.

One of SCL's strengths is showing me he cares through helping me out and doing things for me, oftentimes things I'm certainly capable of doing but would be hardships without his help. And I'm learning to let him do that, accepting that he does it because he loves me. I know that in a few months when he begins his PhD, things are going to be stressful for him, and I just hope that I can be there for him in the ways that he's been there for me during my transition.

I can honestly say now that he's not just my boyfriend. He is my partner.