I used to live with a boyfriend in a share house.
It was a time in my 20s that now feels like a scripted noughties drama. A crumbling five-bedroom house by a Sydney beach with an ever-rotating cast of housemates. Myself and a good male friend were the longest-serving tenants. We were the ones interviewing would-be newbies, creating hierarchies defined by room-size, timing each other's showers, policing washing up, sticking notes on fridges.
Someone was growing weed in the back shed. Someone had a small dog that caught the cockroaches and mice. The neighbours were often complaining. Someone always had their boyfriend over.
That became me. Eventually, my boyfriend moved in. Understandably, it changed dynamics. We became "the couple", in a house full of singles. But we resisted domesticity, because we were young, and fancied ourselves as wild and free, and our only responsibility was to the people who paid us, and to my friend who told us when to pay him for the gas, electricity and phone (phone!). We were like flatmates who had sex and argued sometimes.
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Then, another couple moved in. And they were very different. They were playing house in our chaotic communal home. She always cooked his meals, no matter what the rest of us were or weren't eating. She also cleared the plates, washed the dishes, and put them away in the cupboard they'd ring-fenced as their own.
She always came home with heavy bags of groceries and put their initials on packets and jars as she stacked them, neatly, on the peeling fridge shelves, next to the beer and the shrinking half-lemons and the lettuce quietly melting to mulch.
I never really liked the way her boyfriend spoke to her. I didn't understand the way he never moved from his chair to help her when she was carrying in his food. They were the first other couple I'd observed up close, day after day, since my own parents, who, in specific Boomer Leftie fashion, believed in domestic equality. If you cook, the other person washes up. Shopping is shared. If I'm doing the bathroom, you're doing the kitchen, if I'm hoovering, you're doing the bins, and so on. I was fascinated by watching this young woman serving her partner, as if he were.... what? Her boss?