Property Bottom

Confessions of a bad decorator.


“When I woke I was alive in somebody’s room / I felt life and love and hope infested my bones” -Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, Quiet As a Mouse

“And I had been generous, too, I had helped him without getting anything in return. But that wasn’t true, I thought suddenly, I had gotten something in return, he had made sure of that when he followed me into the bathroom and made me see how much I wanted him. He hadn’t allowed me to be generous, that had been the point of what he had done. I had wanted to give without taking, but it must have been humiliating for him, not to have anything to bargain with, and I wondered now if I had liked his humiliation, if that was the pleasure I took in my generosity, that I was humiliating him in giving him what he needed while claiming not to need anything back.” -Garth Greenwell, What Belongs To You

“I assumed in the beginning I could do whatever I want. If you’re just doing that from the beginning, and don’t have any doubt about it, then that’s how it goes. I had no idea I was setting my own narrative by not acting a certain way or taking anybody’s advice.” -Fiona Apple, Fiona Apple Is Still Calling Bullshit by Rachel Handler

Some time last year I told a guy on Grindr I didn’t want to fuck again, and he called my apartment disgusting. I‘m not over it.

Since then, I am home-making slowly but constantly, cannot go anywhere without appreciating the light fixtures and upholstery, shopping, always shopping. I tell myself nasty delusions, like “a new desk will make me work at home more” or “I would take more selfies in a nicer mirror” or the evergreen “I need a plant.” I am escalating repair requests against my super. I am trying to divest from Amazon. At night I gaze at furniture sideways from the bosom of my laptop, and it helps me get to sleep.

I don’t think I did anything wrong by this man. He came over tipsy one night to have sex with me, and I found him good-looking but altogether disconnected from me, my body, or maybe his own. He did not hang out long. I chalked it up to poor sexual chemistry, a mismatch of vibes, because sometimes it’s just like that. It’s not a character flaw or a lack of skill, just dissonant approaches to sex. Also, he misrepresented his penis in photos. But even now, I hope he is happy somewhere, not fucking me. 

He seemed to delete his profile after each time he used it, following up over and over in scrubbed chat histories, quickly repopulated with the same dubious dick pics. I put off responding to him partially feeling tempted to try again, but partially hoping he would recognize a reluctance to respond as a reluctance to say yes, which is close enough to a no. By the third or fourth time, though, I felt a tug of obligation and replied that I wasn’t interested, and that I didn’t feel a good connection last time.

Isn’t this what guys claim to want? The courtesy of an explicit no, and because this always falls short of the caretaking men to which men feel entitled, an explanation? He took my reasoning personally, and insisted he couldn’t focus because he was distracted by his sheer disgust toward the place that I live, which I had never considered anything worse than shabby, but never really considered at all, until then. I could not unsee it, but I could unsee (i.e. block) him.

I don’t know how to convince you that my apartment was not disgusting, that this was just an easy jab from an emasculated, yuppy twink. I can guarantee it’s much better now. The criticism, like most others, burrowed into my head and softened into the concession that it was time to settle into my apartment, the first home I’d spent more than eighteen months in since I was seventeen. It seems so simple, living somewhere. But I’d always imagined myself in opposition to gay men whose desires were nuclear, who hid from sex and from all the unpretty elements of queer life behind picket fences. I suppose I wanted so badly to contradict domestication that I lived on abandoned furniture, left fingerprints on the walls, and called it punk.

It never stopped me from inviting men over to my house, but once I started fixing things up I began compulsively veering our pillow talk toward home decorating, reciting the provenance of what I had, wondering aloud what I need next, fishing for approval.

Inadvisably, I prefer to host. I’m aware of the cons: the difficulty of asking somebody to leave, the small but legitimate risk of theft, the work of making a guest feel comfortable in an intrinsically uncomfortable situation. I just like my own home, I like that it’s mine, that I’m free to have sex in it. I like answering the door with a dirty smile. I like leading somebody to my room, suggestively closing the door behind me. I like offering a glass of water or a hit from my pipe, and I like hearing somebody figure out where the bathroom is. I like watching how quickly they undress, where they look, if they look at me. Sometimes they sit on the edge of my bed, and I straddle them. Sometimes they stand, and I lay on my back and chat until they feel brave enough to come closer. I like to know where the lube is.

It shouldn’t surprise me that this power-laden approach occasionally backfires. Perhaps rambling about the curtains is how I comfort my partners, how I reassure them that I’m disoriented here, too. It’s worked in my favor, too. It’s how I found my newest roommate.

(I think it all began with my bed, and all the other home improvements spiraled out from there. My mattress felt lopsided, my slats were breaking, it was all wearing on me. My bed is sacred, the point of view from which all these obsessions peer out. It is the headquarters of my sex life, but also the place I think most about death. I’ve hoped and believed in my bed, that it could anchor me to this reality, while I entertain cynical or erotic others. 

I used to write mediocre poetry about getting out of my own bed. Depression feels more like a gravity than a grip, a life so heavy and cumbersome that all you can do is lie underneath it while other people remind you that it was a gift in the first place. Life is much lighter than this, it turns out, yours just came in obnoxious packaging, and it takes a ton of work to build the conviction that you can and should fish it out. And when have you thought to open something from underneath it?)