I am a stay-at-home girlfriend. When my boyfriend goes off to work, I spend my days cooking, cleaning our two-bedroom Greenpoint apartment and trying to look good for him when he comes home. I never planned on this lifestyle; my corporate job of four years was outsourced in October when we were already living together. What was a matter of convenience before is now a matter of financial survival — while I’ve always been someone who’s really into keeping her boyfriend happy (that’s how I was raised), it’s now my primary occupation after job-seeking. I’m not alone. I was actually the third of my female friends living with her boyfriend to wind up out of work, and all of us, to some degree, adhere to stereotypically Stepfordish rules to keep our relationships afloat and ourselves sane. Here are mine:
Don’t sleep in: When my boyfriend wakes up at 6, I get up with him, turn on the television, chat with him, and try to make him a simple breakfast, maybe scrambled eggs or just cereal and juice. It’s bad enough that he knows I’m home all day, no need for him to think I sleep until noon.
Keep the place clean: When I was working, the cleaning usually didn’t get done until Saturday — now it’s part of my daily to-do list. Like any other busy person getting ready in the morning, he throws his clothes on the floor, takes a shower and leaves the floor wet etc. Why leave it there for him to take care of when he gets home? To be spiteful? I’d much rather pick up behind him — I don’t want to live in a messy home either. It also gives me something to do when my brain reaches its resumé-submission limit.
Cook or order dinner every night: I happen to love cooking. I was making dinner at least three to four times a week when I was still employed, except then I could actually afford to go to the butcher and get the best racks of ribs. Now that I’m not working, it’s only right to keep the meals on the table. If you don’t cook, order something. Put a cold beer or glass of wine on the table along with it. My boyfriend loves it. He’s always grateful for any and all of the little things I do; it never gets too predictable because I try to do something new every time.
Keep yourself up: I can’t afford to go to the hair and nail salon once a week as I did when I was employed. Those $60 Brazilians every month are definitely out of the question. I learned how to do my hair myself, went to Duane Reade for an at-home wax kit (proceed with caution!!) and have my friends give me manicures. I even turn on the Health channel and do some of the cheesy morning aerobics. There are plenty of ways to look good on a budget and I have made it my mission to find every single one. My trick to keeping my actual clothing hot and inexpensive is actually fairly simple; I wear things that are totally out of season. If I’m at home, I’ll throw on a pair of denim shorts and a tank top or a tube top with jeans and flip flops. Stay covered when you need to leave the house, otherwise pretend everyday is a 90 degree day.
Pamper him. One of my fellow SAHGs buys her boyfriend’s favorite chocolate milk and puts in the freezer (because that’s the way he likes it) for him to find when he gets home from work. I always have beer or whiskey ready for my boyfriend, and when it gets colder outside, I’ll mix a warm cocktail, which he’s a big fan of. Needless to say, the surprise doesn’t always have to be of the alcoholic variety but a nice treat while dinner is cooking is always a great way to keep him happy.
Sexy Time: Everyone knows there is nothing more important in a relationship than that special time between the sheets. I have eight to nine hours everyday to send out my resumés and clean and make dinner, by the time he comes home from work I am well rested. Frankly, there’s no real reason (time of the month aside) why I shouldn’t be ready and willing when he is. I try very hard to keep my boyfriend happy and this is a key part of doing so.
Leave the house: To stay sane, I have to get out of the house at some point everyday or I go completely crazy. Whether it’s to go to the grocery store, take a walk around the block or go daytime boozing with one of my unemployed friends. My friends and I go boozing at least 1-2 times a week and it is FANtastic. There ‘s nothing better than going to a restaurant, sharing a couple of appetizers and a bottle of wine (or two) with another unemployed girlfriend. The lunch specials at a lot of NYC restaurants are quite inexpensive. You can even spring for a whole meal if you feel like it. If you’re not the booze enthusiast I am, enjoy a great meal with a friend. Getting “me” time outside of the apartment is so important. I am aware that a large part of my unemployment schedule is based on keeping my boyfriend happy, so having time to myself away from the confines of my living room really makes my own life better.
All in all, I think being unemployed has made us closer. He gets a clean house and dinner, and being unable to go out all the time has forced us to spend more time together. If there’s one thing I’m sure he’d like to change it is the way I cling to him when he gets home. After spending a large part of the week talking only to myself, having him walk through the door ready to talk about something other than toilet cleaner is really exciting to me. It makes him crazy.
I’m positive some people reading this will assume I’m a brainwashed and battered woman, and I can’t say I’m all that concerned. The thing is, even though I’ve gotten the whole domestic thing down to a science, the idea of being an actual housewife is not at all appealing. I still fully intend to have a career of my own. Until I land that new job, I’m doing the best job I can as a stay-at-home girlfriend.