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  • Apartamento: You Had Me At Your Book Collection

    — By Alice on November 27, 2012

    I love writing for Apartamento. This is a piece I wrote for the latest issue (#10) about falling in and out of love with people and their homes, habits, things…

    It’s not nice to admit to ourselves that we’re swayed by material things when it comes to matters of the heart, but early on in a relationship I can be instantly turned off by certain things – futons; Sony PlayStations; an excess of sporting paraphernalia. It’s not that these possessions are a measure of status: it’s that they are benchmarks for compatibility. And, for someone who likes a soft bed with mountains of pillows and hates video games, I think it’s fair to assume that it won’t be true love.

    There are things of course that make me instantly enamoured. One guy I dated had a shelf full of books written by many of my favourite authors – I think I fell for him on the spot. Ironically it turned out that the books did not actually belong to him but to the room’s previous occupant, who eventually came to reclaim them. Sadly, all that was left behind was a well-thumbed copy of How to Quit Smoking and Sting’s autobiography.

    A close friend of mine once dated a man who collected Star Wars figurines – a hobby that no doubt has a polarising affect on women. He had a great number of pieces carefully displayed on his sideboard and, luckily for him, my friend found it endearing. I also once had a flatmate who had a collection of porcelain Jesuses. They were very kitsch and it was kind of bizarre, but it certainly didn’t deter any of the girls he dated. That’s probably because private quirks and obscure aesthetics are much better than a lot of things, like, for example, prison-style décor. Walking into a home with four blank walls and just a bed is almost as bad as discovering a TV in the bathroom, though not quite.

    As a general rule, girls seem to be pickier than boys about these things. A quick survey of my female friends and colleagues produced an endless list of turn-offs (boys, take note): reading material in the toilet; motivational slogans – especially if they are written on the bathroom mirror; bongs; a lack of books; beaded curtains; sheets used as curtains; no curtains/ blinds at all; no art; bad art; shagpile rugs; and an excessive amount of tinned food. (I think it’s fair to assume that women want to date grownups). From my male friends the ‘turn-off’ list was more obvious: annoying housemates, poorly behaved pets, and extreme dirtiness.

    As we get older, we get pickier. I have memories from high school of going back to my (then) boyfriend’s house after class. We would go straight to his bedroom, turn up the music, and make out all afternoon. I can’t remember anything about the details of his room —‘things’ didn’t matter then— I was only worried about his parents walking in on us. Now, though, I can walk into a home and notice the furniture, décor, books, and instantly fall in or out of love.

    We’ll never meet someone with exactly the same taste as us, though. In most relationships someone inevitably has to compromise. This is why some couples end up spending most of their time at the one person’s house, as if there is an unspoken agreement that their place is the better of the two. If things are going well, a way to get around this is to move in together – most couples merge into the one aesthetic sooner or later.

    Belongings aside, a person’s most intimate habits and rituals can be even more seductive than the way in which they have curated their space. I love to watch men shave – the ritual of the shaving cream (the smell of the cream, even), and the scrape of the razor. I recall one of my ex-boyfriends hanging every single one of his T-shirts on coat hangers. They took up a lot of space in our wardrobe yet it was a quirk of his I really liked. He was blasé about most things in life, but for some reason he was really methodical about this. I would watch him hanging them up earnestly, making sure they were all lined-up properly and colour-coded. Although, rather than this being a strange fetish on my part, it could have simply been a case of opposites attract – most of my clothes end up on the ground, or on my ‘floordrobe’; and I’ve yet to meet a guy who finds that particular habit appealing.

    Apartamento issue 10 is out now.

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