Every Job I’ve Had: Anti-Sweatshop Agitator, Tutor for the 1%, and More

For one glorious summer, I roamed my old day camp flirting with counselors from around the British empire with 7 year-old girls in tow (a delightful age, too young to distrust adults but old enough to have insights into the universe).

Solidarity Forever! Talking With a Radical Coop-Living Bride

Ester: Hello! Could you introduce yourself in a general way?

Rebecca: Um, I am a radical leftist extrovert nerd feminist Jew. I work as a fundraiser and communicator for a racial and economic justice community organization. I have lived all over the world and the East Coast.

Ester: And you are getting married this weekend!

Rebecca: That too! I am a “bride” and a “fiancee” (though I don’t identify as the latter). I am a partner to my partner as I have been for a while and a housemate and householder-homeowner-homemaker with three other people including said partner.

Ester: Your housing situation is unusual and — I think — fascinating. Can you describe it a little before we get into the details of the upcoming nuptials? Billfolders love real estate.

Rebecca: My partner and I were living in an awesome co-op house with four other folks, and our dear friends MB and JB also lived in an awesome co-op house. We all wanted to keep living the big-house-with-lots-of-people lifestyle and in several cases had done that from during college. So 10+ years into grownup co-op life I didn’t want to get married and disappear from my friends and really from myself into some partnered love/torture cave of nuclear family loneliness.

We talked with MB/JB a lot about living together and then there was this crazy confluence/opportunity: 3 sets of mutual friends own houses on the same block and we sort of happened on an open house on said block. The house was in some ways just another rowhouse but in others really ideal for a 2-family shared situation — like, there’s sort of 2 suites of bedroom/office/bathroom on the second floor, and a big 2-car garage, which is unusual in our city… so all of a sudden we were like OK let’s buy this thing. A week later (and a lot of fevered financial dealings, honestly) we had an offer accepted.

Ester: This, I should tell you, was always my childhood dream. To live with and among friends. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. But did you envision something like this when you were young, or younger?

Rebecca: This has been my dream as well, since let’s say college. It was always a little vague because it seemed sort of impossible: how do you find the right people who are also ready and willing at the time, etc.? I sometimes imagined myself in a bigger commune-y kind of thing but I like living in the city. I seriously feel very lucky and blessed to have these friends who were down for the whole idea and all of us are just having the best time. Lots of people’s response is like yours — they want this kind of thing too. It’s shocking to me that more people don’t try for it, but it is pretty unusual.

Ester: My best friend lived in an anarchist co-op once and she hated it; no one washed their dishes. And I lived on kibbutz once. It was less than ideal. But I think the reason a lot of people don’t try it is that it’s hard enough to mingle finances with one individual, a romantic partner — the idea of getting your money tied up with that of another couple can be pretty daunting. Money can kill relationships faster than anything, after all, except sex.