Friday, January 8, 2010

NYT: Men who hate homeowning

As a new homeowner, I empathize with this miserable-looking guy perched poolside at his nest of discontent. The Times yesterday featured Minneapolis resident Alan Berks as an emblem of
growing male dissatisfaction with homeownership:

Alan Berks the renter had spent his evenings with friends at African dance nights and jazz clubs. Alan Berks the homeowner lost an entire day rearranging the living room furniture. “I did find a spot for the couch that made me happy,” he said. “I was proud of myself. But where the couch is — that’s how I’m going to measure my happiness from now on? I remember thinking: ‘This is how people live? Why am I doing this?’ ”

Berks's other plaints are uncomfortably familiar. I can't walk to as many things as I could from any of my Boston-area apartments. Neither my husband nor I can or want to fix anything if we hadn't learned by our late 20s, what made us think we would suddenly develop an affinity for home maintenance? Home should be a refuge, not a place that makes demands of you. And like Berks, looking back, I too wonder sometimes why everyone encouraged us to buy a house. He says it well: “I understand why the government or society wants people to have homes — they fix them up, and their commitment stabilizes neighborhoods. I get it, the whole beneficial aspect of homeownership. But individually, I’m not seeing it as a moral good.”

We also had an incident eerily similar to that of the guy in the article whose neighbor took pity and came over to mow the lawn only in our case, even more ignominiously, it was the neighbor's teenage son.

I do wonder what makes the Times attribute this particular sentiment to men, especially when the data don't appear to reflect that. Men and women under 40, the article points out, report equal levels of satisfaction with homeownership. The fact that single women over the last year bought houses at higher rates than single men, along with a raft of anecdotes and gender-stereotyping assertions, appears to provide the basis for this "trend" story.

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