LIVING UNSCRIPTED: City Mouse, Country House

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New York City dwellers like to get away for weekends and I’m no exception. Some head north to the Berkshires; others, east, to one of the many sandy beaches that line the south shore of Long Island. I’ve got a place in Amagansett, 5 miles east of the rich and famous who summer in East Hampton. Mine’s not a fancy house; it’s a multi-colored, whimsically decorated, family home on a dirt road, within earshot of the Atlantic Ocean, in a private beach area referred to locally as “the dunes.” Actually that’s code for smaller cottage-type homes, built so close to one another that if your neighbor sneezes, they can hear your “gesundheit” from next door.  Ok, so not quite that bad, but still… Some have pools, others manicured yards -ours has neither.

My ex and I bought our house decades ago (at a time when we could afford to) and put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it over the years. It’s our family home. So somewhat predictably, neither one of us is ready to let it go quite yet. It may be mortgaged to the hilt and every so often his pre-menopausal Madison Avenue anorexic blonde and her silly little dog (someday I’ll tell you how I really feel about them) take over shelf space in the kitchen (gourmet dog food) and the master bathroom (high-end skin cream), but my ex and I have managed to share it fairly amicably since the divorce.

I like going out there.  It’s peaceful, it’s quiet — and I get to fill up the empty bedrooms with people I don’t have to put through college.  And now that my tenant  extended his lease on my apartment in the city (I’ll get it back a year from now) and I’m subletting a small studio with a chunk of the difference between what I deposit and what I pay, I’m intending to use my house more… Which brought out the dark side of my ex, who seems to be concerned that I might be having way too much fun without him. Really? Let’s not go there.

All I know is that when I got back from my marathon journey (aka “Eat, Pray, Hmmm…”) and suggested I’d like to make the beach house my primary residence, my ex handed me his version of the cider house rules along with a his and hers color-coded calendar, strictly restricting my use of the house to every other week (shouldn’t he be more focused on holding on to Blondie??).

Not to be thwarted, I quietly rearranged my schedule, invested in a used car that I can leave out there –and opened my door to fresh air and a fresh start in an old familiar hood.  If my ex loosens up the schedule after fishing season, I might actually have a chance to see how it feels to live mostly there and less here.

Of course that means having to teach myself how to build a fire in the fireplace, use the grill –and vacuum (ouch).  Okay, so I may not like taking out the trash so much… but I do like entertaining.  And I like being able to offer my pals a nice respite from their daily grinds. All my pals.  At least I thought I did –but like a bad scene out of a tween flick, my gal pals turned up their noses recently and backed out, after taking me up on my usual open invitation, when they realized I’d invited other guests too.  Turned out to be just as well, and the wackiest weekend ever:

  • One guy pal who did show up, wound up in the emergency room of the local hospital where he spent the rest of the weekend recuperating from a painful infection;
  • The other guy pal was a business colleague who arrived a day later with his girlfriend and über generous with the gifts: 4 hand-painted champagne flutes, 3 bottles of champagne, 4 coasters, a giant vase, a painting, an expensive watch, two beach cruiser bicycles, –and they eventually gave me a ride back to the city in his private helicopter. They also ate me out of house and home, went through all the firewood for the fireplace and set off the smoke alarms cooking bacon in the middle of the night.

Luckily no one died (not even my buddy in the emergency room).


Barely able to juggle between the two extreme behaviors and circumstance of my pals that did show up that weekend, I was actually grateful for the ones who didn’t, (the Universe does work in wondrous ways) but still… How much had my relationship with my friends really shifted? Our gal-group culture was seemingly cock-eyed…

Emma opened up the philosophical debate about the potential hazards of an open door policy that inadvertently puts restrictions on who comes and who doesn’t, depending on who else is there. And to her point: the more isn’t necessarily the merrier and sometimes, what happens in Vegas (i.e., my wacky weekend) –isn’t meant to happen in the Amagansett dunes, but I could feel my jaw tightening and my feet planting before she got to the end of the first paragraph: it is my house.

I’m still playing catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen for a while and I like the spontaneity of an open door policy… I love the concept, conceptually, of being with the original four, and us being with each other, but I’ve never been big on cliques –and I don’t necessarily want to host it, open-ended, twice a month.  Not even once a month on my allotted allowance of every other weekend.

Ok, so I dug a little deeper, trying to figure this out… Could I have trust issues, fitting back in?? Well, there’s safety in numbers and I can hide out in a full house–OR is it that living alone in the city, maybe I like mixing it up, hearing a lot of noise, in my house in the country.

Shaking it off to deal with it yet-another-day, I replaced the firewood, took bacon off my shopping list and asked my gal pals to cut me some slack and give me a couple of months time to find my footing. Clearly the way things are (giving up a 2-bedroom for a studio in the city) are not quite the way they were (a family home, emptied)?? But it’s all a process and sooner or later, if the love is there, I’ll wiggle back in to a comfortable position on the checkerboard along with all the other checkers.

In the meantime, I’m (finally) unpacking the boxes of clothes I left in my storage locker, admiring the designer labels that somewhat defined the me that was and mixing & matching them to dress down for the life I’m choosing to live now. Happily, most still fit.

NOTE TO SELF: …eventually, I will too.


About Shaz

I’m 59 and never expected to be divorced and, having raised a big family in the city I grew up in, to be still living there now completely on my own. My parents are gone and my grown children have opted for smaller towns. My father passed away this past February and my children suggested I take off and make a world tour of all my friends overseas…In piecing that together in my mind, I imagined taking a boat across, as I did the first time I went to Europe with my grandmother, as a teenager – and in that vision, I imagined taking those first five days and writing. Writing about where I’d been, writing about what I want, writing about the crossing over from my past to my future.

In reestablishing myself as a single woman, I’ve made new connections with some fabulous women and realized I’m not the only one going through this; there are other women out there who are also on a journey to becoming whole again. I hope my personal adventure will help us all find humor in the aging process –and confidence in following our hearts.