Love and Real Estate – The New York Times

Marriage, children or neither — you don’t get to be the age we are without a good bit of baggage. After all those years of friendship, each of us had a pretty clear idea of what the other was lugging around.

Sure, I thought about Bruce’s past sometimes, until I learned to close that door, firmly, in my head. Oh, and by the way, I would ask myself, why would he want to take on me and my past?

No matter where you make a life with someone, you live within those walls, not just with that person, but also with facets and specters of the people encountered before you. When you’re approaching 60, a history of consequential emotions — thrills, hope, love, disappointment, grief, loneliness, contentment — are part of the deal. Really, how could you want less?

More pressingly, two strong-minded people used to having their own way had to figure out how to share 800 square feet. As we unpacked my books, Bruce began dispersing them into his own well-organized categories: hardcover fiction, alphabetized; biography; theater; softcover trade paperback; baseball history. Momentarily stumped by my cookbooks, he found empty space on a bottom shelf. I panicked, melted down, unable to explain exactly why I needed my books huddled together, even if they stayed in a box.

Sharing space might be the trickiest part of later-in-life romance, or any romance, come to think of it. More than one couple I know decided to avoid those shoals altogether, keeping their own places and visiting on weekends, or a few nights a week. Others moved in together but kept their old apartments, using them as studios or offices — or potential escape hatches. Whatever choices they’ve made seem to be working. Who actually wants to share a midlife medicine cabinet?

Eventually, photos of my family mingled with Bruce’s. Somehow we made room for a big farmhouse cabinet that held my grandmothers’ dishes. The kitchen became my domain (yes, I’m bossy in the kitchen), and we sat at the table to eat — a new idea for Bruce.

“Dinner at home!” he exclaimed over a lamb chop and a baked potato. “How come nobody ever thought of this before?”

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