Every Marriage must have a home. A marriage without walls around it is a flimsy thing indeed. You will need a cozy nook for just you two. More specifically, this should include a kitchen, bathroom, and at least one room for living and sleeping.
Choose a good, well-kept apartment building and you will find they have all these rooms and as many others as you need or can afford.
Some say that it takes a heap of living to make an apartment a home. This is true. However, it takes a heap less than if you are driven into a free-standing house, surrounded on all sides by con-stantly growing vegetation, with its own furnace, hot water heater, plumbing, storm windows, cess-pool, roofing, chimney, paint, calking, wiring, and snow-covered sidewalks.
You will discover, however, that every woman wants a house of her own. From the very moment you move into your apartment she will make it clear that she thinks of it only as a temporary expedient–until you find your dream house.
Your first reaction will be blind resistance. You will have visions of being torn away, miles farther from your work and your cronies, and from the protec-tive wing of the building superintendent and handy man.
You will have nightmares about leaking pipes, bursting boilers, rotting shingles, growing weeds, and icy driveways. You may fear you will have little energy left to carve out your career, small chance to conserve your strength.
And of course all these fears are completely justifiable.
"Should I Resist Openly?"
You must not. however, stand in her way. You will be putting yourself in a bad light, you will win small love or affection and–most important–you will get nowhere.
It is like telling a bird it cannot leather its nest. You are fighting a basic instinct.
Don't resist. Take the opposite approach. Be eager. It is far more becoming, will create better feelings around the house, and is infinitely more effective.
Open the Discussion
The really expert husband makes it seem that he is taking the initiative. Time your opening gun carefully. When she begins looking through the real estate section, prepare yourself. The first time she clips something out, but before she actually says anything, fire the first shot.
"Oh, I love you, Phoeb, but sometimes I wonder if we're really suitedto each other . . ."
"Why, Davie, I—"
"You seem so well adjusted to this easy apartment living, but– I–well, I feel fenced in. I want to get out–'way out!"
Daring as this may sound, it will put you in a good tactical position for the difficult maneuvering that will follow.
The Classified Advertising Phase
Your wife will now begin to read the real estate advertisements more openly —and soon will even begin to read them aloud.
At first you will have little difficulty in simply countering the advertisement itself.
"Listen to this one, David. 'Artist's dream house––' "
(All houses in the classified section were built for artists, though you will never actually catch an artist living in one.)
"Hand hewn timbers, paneled living room, mansard roof."
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing. For a minute I thought you said 'mansard roof.' "
"Oh, well, then."
"What's wrong with a mansard roof?"
"Phoeb, do you know what a mansard roof is?"
"Well, no, not exactly."
(If she does, you will have to play the ball into some other court.)
"Just as I thought. Well, you know what a thatched roof is, don't you?"
"Oh, David, not a thatched roof!
"Almost as bad. Imagine living under a mansard roof!"
Easiest of all is to attack the location.
"And it's only nineteen thousand, Davie!"
"Where is it again?"
"East Frampton or West Frampton?"
"It doesn't say."
"Well, then! If it's West Frampton they always say so. Nobody lives in East Frampton. Blighted. Has been for years."
The Telephone Phase
The advertisement phase may continue lor months, or even years, depending upon your skill. Eventually, though, your wife will embark on the next or telephoning phase. She will begin to call up the numbers in the ads –unless you act quickly.
"Let me call, Phoeb. I want to check on the tax and mortgage situation."
"Oh, all right, David."
While talking to the party throw in an occasional "Oh, that's too bad!" or "I suppose you do get used to it, don't you?"
"Well, what did he say, David?"
"Sounds pretty good, pet."
"What did you mean, 'You get used to it?' "
"Oh, nothing, really. He was just telling me about the kitchen. Tricky arrangement–in the basement, kind of. Dry basement, though, he says, water only comes through in the rainy season. Beautiful apple trees. Sounds fine!"
This technique may stave off the actual expedition for many months.
The Expeditionary Phase
Eventually you will be forced into the field, at first perhaps alone and later accompanied by a real estate dealer.
You will be in grave danger. Keep your mind alert, and remember these simple rules.
1. Be Enthusiastic.
A dour attitude will spoil the fun. Praise everything extravagantly, but find some simple fault.
"Say, I do like this! Seems to have everything, doesn't it, Phoeb?"
"It is nice!"
(The real estate man will begin to take on a greedy expression.)
"Pity we can't just turn it around, isn't it?"
"Turn it around, Davie?"
"We certainly wouldn't want a house facing north, would we, Phoeb? Spoils everything. Some day we'll spot it, though!"
2. Set Up a Yardstick.
It is always good to have a standard for comparison. If it is a real one, so much the better.
"It is grand, isn't it! You know, Phoeb, it's almost as nice as Joe's place."
(Note:"place," never "house.")
"You must take me there, Davie."
"This tone work isn't quite up to Joe's, but–how much is this one, Mr. Frammis?"
"They're asking fifty-two, but I think they may take forty-nine."
"Honestly? Phoeb. you know what Joe paid? Twenty-two,with the pool."
3. Have a Vague Yearning.
Any real estate man is at your mercy if you have a vague, nameless yearning.
"Yes, it does have everything."
"Everything you asked for, Mr. Strong."
"It's all there–and yet–I can't explain it. It just doesn't seem to call out to me. Do you know what I mean, Phoeb?"
"Well, Davie, I ––"
"Somehow I just don't feel at home here."
As long as you don't pin it down to anything specific, he is helpless and he knows it.
4. Know Your Architecture.
If you know a great deal about architecture, so much the better. It is equally effective, however, to have strong preferences, especially if they are a trifle unusual.
Always start with a strong prejudice against colonial, since it will eliminate more than half the market. Both Norman and Tudor are good. No use overdoing it. Specify Moorish, Byzantine, or East Indian and you may be suspected of lack of cooperation.
Best of all, though, is modern. Demand nothing but modern and you will seem to be reasonable, yet you can be sure you will never be satisfied.
All real estate dealers have at least one "modern" house they show to everyone who specifies modern architecture. It looks like an ice box, is generally white and square, has lots of glass bricks and corner windows, and has been on the market for years.
All other modern houses were designed for the original owners. Buying a used one is exciting, but it is like buying somebody else's custom made suit.
"It is unusual, Davie!"
"Very ingenious on the inside, too, Phoeb. All built around a photographic dark room. You can make the whole house pitch dark!" Or, perhaps:
"Damned tricky, Phoeb. Only one bathroom, but hot and cold running water in the window boxes. You can grow orchids in every room!"
Remember, looking at contemporary houses is always a fascinating adventure! and one that involves small risk.
5. Be Baronial.
It is also effective to imply to the real estate man that you are used to better things, that everything he shows you is rather shabby, but that you are too polite to let on.
"Well, Phoeb, I suppose we could double up here.
(This is effective if the place is too large.)
"You want a bigger place, Mr. (Continued on page 60) Dream House (Continued from page 57) Strong?"
"Not exactly bigger, no. This almost seems too big. It's just that inside the rooms seem so, well, cramped. Guess the old halls of Vanderlay Manor spoiled me as a child, eh, Phoeb?"
6. Be a Financial Expert.
There will come a time when, in spite of all you can do, you will feel trapped.
"Have to admit it, Phoeb, it has everything we've been looking for, all these years. If only it faced south!"
"But it does face south, Mr. Strong!"
Only the mortgage can save you now. It will always be your ace in the hole. Pretend elation, but keep your head cool, your nerves steady.
"Well, at last! Never thought we'd find it! Why don't the two of us go back into your office. Mr. Frammis. and talk over the financial end of it?"
(Note especially "the two of us." Women cannot be expected to understand this sort of thing.)
"What a damned shame, Phoeb! You might know it has a second mortgage!"
"Is that bad, Davie?"
"And that's not all! It's in escrow —and there's a strong possibility of eminent domain. The legal battle alone could run for years!"
What a joy this expeditionary phase can be! Weekend after weekend you will spend out in the open air, whisked about the countryside for nothing in the comfortable cars of real estate dealers.
One day, however, it will have to come to an end.
The Building Phase
If your wife is driven far enough, she may suggest, "Why don't we just build one ourselves?"
Do not be frightened. In this direction lie your best opportunities. It is true, of course, that sheer disaster faces anyone who actually builds, and the fate of those who rebuild will not even be discussed in this article.
However, the man who plans his building program carefully can enjoy years of happy, carefree apartment living.
During the long, long planning stage your manner must continue to be one of cheerful cooperation. Do your best to help. Planning the new house can be pleasant and exciting, it costs nothing, and is an ideal way to while away long winter evenings.
In the process you both will be learning. The early, rudimentary plans will be torn up countless times as you discover all the daring possibilities.
"I think we've got it now, Phoeb!
Just look at this latest House Beautiful!"
(Keep bringing home these magazines. They are chock full of ideas.)
"I thought the plan was nearly all set, Davie."
"So did I–but wait'll you see this sketch! Makes our plan look old hat! Gives us a whole new approach."
Be open to all ideas, no matter how advanced.
"Close your eyes and picture this one, Phoeb. A solid glass wall, and right outside a reflecting pool that––"
"That would change everything, David."
"Don't change it yet. Just picture it."
A note of caution: do not, at this stage, consult an architect or builder. They will try to rush you into hasty action. Your planning must be done carefully, and with no immediate thought of actual construction.
Join a Co-Op.
Once you have reached the stage at which you can postpone action no longer, join a building cooperative, some closely-knit group which plans to build many homes together.
Your first talks with members of any building co-op will make it clear how much money you can save, how mass buying of land and materials, and centralized group planning can cut your costs almost in half.
This will not be quite true, as you will discover later, but remember your purpose is not pinch-penny economy. You are buying time, you are buying long, lazy years.
Join a young group, one whose ideas are bright, but whose plans are nebulous. Together you will spend stimulating years in eager, animated discussion. After a while, if you tire of the meetings, send your wife. She will be fired with enthusiasm.
"What was the meeting about tonight, Phoeb?"
"We found the most wonderful place to buy nails! Saves two dollars a barrel. Of course there was one faction that opposed it, but we blocked them in a sort of parliamentary double play. Technically I had the floor on a point of information, and I talked for forty-five minutes!"
"I'd have been proud of you, Phoeb! Did you buy the nails?"
"No, but we appointed a committee, and our faction outnumbers theirs three to two on it."
"Gosh, we'll have that house any day now!"
You will be learning, and you will be making friends, too.
If plans become too far advanced, join one of the indignant factions, of which there will be several. They will soon split off and take you with them.
The Temporary Rental
Some time during this process the generous husband gives his wife a chance to enjoy a house temporarily. Try to find a place which will give you—in a few short months—a cross section of the many interesting problems of home owning.
One way is to rent a place for the summer months. Choose this spot carefully. Some of the little tell-tale signs to look for are: iron pipes, rust stains, a high water mark in the basement, evidences of new concrete strips in the basement floor, screwdriver marks on electrical outlets, bits of friction tape lying about, and ceilings blistered or moist. Each little tell-tale sign will be a promise of interesting adventures to come.
Make the entire summer a time of discovery and joyful experimentation. Let your wife know how eager you are, too. If, for example, you notice scum on her ankles:
"Golly, Phoeb, isn't it great having our own little place?"
"David, I want you to have a look at the cellar."
"I love every nook and cranny."
"Davie. this nook and cranny is two feet deep."
"Oh, well, that's a house for you! Take the bitter with the sweet!"
When she complains, as she may, always defend the house.
"But I like a little rust in the water, don't you, Phoeb? Puts iron in you."
"It's cold, though, Davie!"
"We'll bathe in the sound! Makes you feel like a million!"
Choose a spot that is on an interesting commuting line, one that will be a challenge to you. In the New York area try the Long Island Railroad.
"Davie, you have to get home, the roof is leaking!"
"Get hold of a good bucket, Phoeb. May not see you for a day or so. Third rail's cut altogether." And make sure the house is out in fine, open country.
"Gotta use the car today, Phoeb."
"You can't, Davie! How will I go shopping?"
"Pick up one of those baskets with the little wheels. Mighty handy gadgets. You'll need one."
"But it's almost two miles!"
"Do you a world of good!"
Every clay will have its own little problem and every day you and your wife will find new ways of meeting them. After three or four months both of you will look upon houses with a new and more mature point of view.
One day, of course, after many little ones have arrived, a house may be a real advantage. When this time comes you should have the training and experience to act quickly and decisively.
Once you really want a house, the whole process can easily be accomplished in a single afternoon.
Next Month: "How to Handle Money in Marriage"