Do you know many 41-year-olds who don't own their own home? If you know me, then the answer to that question is "ho, yes!"
I am a career renter, ever since I ventured out to the esteemed institution of higher learning that happily took a pile of my parents' money. Part of this stems from my circumstance, because I have a rent-stabilized, two-bedroom apartment in New York City, a dwelling that is rapidly becoming as rare as a Yangtze River Dolphin. But another part stems from what has been my overriding philosophy of the renter-landlord relationship: Yes, I'm basically pissing money down the drain every month, but I'm also paying that money for the luxury of Not Caring. If the oven door fell off, or a bunch of bathroom tiles worked themselves loose, I could always look on with amusement, knowing I wouldn't have to go spelunking in the Land of Orange Aprons for replacement parts. Instead, my landlord would send over an army of paint-stained lumberbums to fulfill my every need.
I am hereby abandoning this mindset. I want autonomy. I want equity. I want to be able to tear down the walls, re-build and re-furbish, put in a sunken living room. This is due entirely to the influx of housing porn on TLC that lets you watch people buy, fix up, and flip a home in a tidy 30 minutes. It's all so easy! You can make a five-figure profit in the time it takes to heat a meatloaf! Who wouldn't want that?
Predictably, Robert has caught on to the new mania. His favorite parts involve demolition (naturally), which probably feeds the joy he feels when he dumps an entire basket of toys onto the carpet.
If only it ended there.
One day not too long ago, I came home to hear that we had a mouse sighting. I was initially non-plussed, because everyone knows most apartment buildings are vast ecosystems of many co-habitant species, and every once in a while a wayward creature ventures into Humanland. But we kept seeing them and not understanding where they came from. And why now? There wasn't any huge construction in the building, or anywhere nearby. Was this the time of the Great Whiskered Uprising?
It turns out, no. When I started hunting around for mouse-shaped entryways, I pulled the toy shelf away from the wall to find that someone had taken his demo worship to the next level and ripped 20 feet of baseboard molding away from the wall. Our building is old (the plaster and lath probably predate Boss Tweed) and not exactly brimming with craftsmanship (see lumberbums, above), so without the baseboard there was an inch-wide crack long enough to invite a wagonload of mice in for cheese and crackers.
This was not a job for a landlord minion. This was a job for me, the patriarch, acting heroically to stave off the tide of vermin. So I laid down five rolls of steel wool the length of the wall and hammered that baby back into place. And it felt good. Good enough to rip it up and do it all again.