New York Times trend pieces can be pretty irritating, especially when they focus on Williamsburg residents who can their own figs and take their pet goats to a dog park. Still, even the most irritating trend pieces about a city where value systems are so remarkably exaggerated (and, therefore, seem absolutely bonkers to those living outside of the Manhattan Panopticon) manage to find some people with a seeming lack of self-awareness.
Take, for instance, the people the Times interviewed for its latest story about people who break up, but (twist!) are still signed up together for an expensive New York lease. Does this happen often? Does it matter that real estate competition keeps people tied to apartments out of sheer geographic convenience because the prospect of abandoning an uncomfortable living situation and wading into the ghost swamp of random roommates on craigslist is simply too daunting? Maybe it does. More importantly, it has provided us with some excellent insights about what it’s like for young New Yorkers to downgrade their relationship status from dating to rooming.
Take star-crossed couple Mike Byhoff and Cassandra Seale, who met while Seale was doing an internship at a little media company called Gawker. Office romance, right? Actually, Seale insists that although Byhoff, “was in charge of training the interns,” the two “didn’t start dating until after.” And why did they start dating? Because they really liked each other? Because they both enjoyed Thai food on Wednesdays and sushi on Fridays and pancakes on Sundays? No! Said Byhoff,
She had always lived in not the best areas of Brooklyn. She liked me, but a really big thing for her was she always wanted to live in Manhattan.
When Byhoff’s lease was up, the couple made the seemingly logical decision to sign a lease together in the same convenient neighborhood. Explained Seale,
Part of the reason why the relationship accelerated was that he was in the Lower East Side and it was really convenient for me to stay there, like all the time.
That sounds pretty icky and business-like, but the Times reminds us that arrangements like Byhoff and Seale’s aren’t a product of geographical shallowness — New York is a tough place to live. It’s like a rat cellar filled with angry, disaffected people who are gnawed on all day by rats and other people. Going it alone can be difficult, not to mention financially impractical. New York City residents, so the Times claims, forge ostensibly romantic live-in partnerships based on practical necessity, which is how we get to a place where people like Seale have to tiptoe past their slumbering exes after hooking up with someone else:
I came home once from hooking up with a friend of a friend, and I remember coming home really early because I was like I don’t want him to know.
Living with an ex is awkward, sure, but these things only make good fodder for funny stories later on. What’s worse is when a dispute arises over the terms of a lease. In those cases, things like this nightmare scenario, as related by a New York real estate agent, can happen:
[Ivana] Tagliamonte said the worst case she had dealt with involved a couple who were sharing a studio for which only the woman had signed the lease.
Toward the end of the lease, the rent payments were so far behind that Ms. Tagliamonte, on behalf of the landlord, went to evict the couple. But when she got there, she noticed that the closets contained only men’s clothing. She realized that despite being the leaseholder, the girlfriend had moved out.
Ms. Tagliamonte tracked down the woman, who had no idea that her credit was being ruined by an ex who was squatting in an apartment for which she was legally responsible.
The young woman immediately called her former boyfriend, who within 24 hours paid the outstanding $9,000 in full. “The threat of a lawsuit and going to court was obviously not as threatening as getting an angry call from an ex-girlfriend,” Ms. Tagliamonte said.
Wow, it seems like a lot of people can relate to the hilariously awkward situation of living with an ex. Someone should make a movie about that very thing happening. Oh, wait.
All Over but the Lease [NY Times]
Image via AP, Mark Lennihan