Should People Move?

Hazlitt editors investigate.

A photograph of the writer.

SCAACHI KOUL was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, BuzzFeed NewsThe HairpinThe Globe and Mail and J...

Anshuman Iddamsetty was Hazlitt’s art director and audio/visual producer. Before that they were an associate producer and sound designer for such CBC ...

Jordan Ginsberg: Greetings, friends! We are talking to each other, on our computers, at a bar, like prisoners very quietly passing each other wry yet urgent notes, due to our office being closed ahead of us moving into a brand new one on Monday. How does everyone feel about moving? (This particular instance and all others, I suppose?)

Scaachi Koul: Moving is bad except when it is not.

For example, my Dumb Boyfriend and I just moved in together, and the entire process was a true nightmare, except now that we are moved in, he makes me pizza and my cat finally has a father figure.

But the process of moving is almost always very bad.

JG: Did you hire movers?

SK: We did not because we are also bad people. We got our friends to help us and paid them in the customary pizza and beer. The main issue was that the apartment was not entirely finished when we moved in so it was hard to actually get settled. There's a little bit left to do but it's still nice to not be thinking, "How much bubble wrap will I need this weekend?"

And I, for one, am looking forward to the office move.

Anshuman Iddamsetty: I’m sort of inured to the concept of moving. Call it immigrant finesse, work precariousness? The idea of packing up and moving on, sure, whatever. Another round, please.

JG: I'm fine with it. I've lived in my current apartment longer than I've lived in any place in at least a decade, so if my home life has taken a turn toward the stable, I'm happy to have some work-related chaos.

SK: And our new office is going to be open-concept! Which is an interesting change after our old office being a series of walls and doors for, what, 15 years?

ALSO THIS BAR IS PLAYING THE DOORS. AND I HATE IT. James Morrison, goddamn it, YOU'RE JUST NOT GREAT. So self-involved, Christ, is this an accordion???

JG: It's an organ, Scaachi.

Wait. By going open-concept, isn't our company also sort of saying ... fuck doors?

SK: You are literally Hitler.

You are worse than Hitler.

Like if I could go back in time, I wouldn't stop Hitler, I would stop you.

JG: While I absolutely appreciate being in such elite historical company, let's get back on track.

SK: Fine. Jordan, your last move was ... interesting.

JG: Before my girlfriend and I started officially living in sin, you mean?

SK: Yes, before you and your girlfriend began living in sin, Jordo.

JG: Well, I had signed a lease on a new apartment that I was going to move into a month later. In the time between, I met someone at a chic little downtown jazz club called OKCupid, and after a few dates, we decided we enjoyed each other's company. I told her where I was moving and she said she lived in the neighbourhood, so we made plans to get a drink after I picked up my keys. I texted her once I had them, asked where I should meet her, and she replied with ... the address of the building I was standing in front of.

I had signed a lease for an apartment in the same building as this person weeks before knowing she existed.

People always believe this story and never assume that I stalked the shit out of this poor woman.

AI: Truly, the golden age of TV.

SK: You're not the stalking type. You have heavy feet.

JG: I'd make a terrible spy.

Anyway, after a year of accidentally living one floor apart from each other, we've now been living together for almost four years, and everybody is very happy for us and never shoots me any side-eye or knowing nods about my "methods."

SK: Have you moved in with a girlfriend before?

JG: Not really. Ended up in that no-man's land several times, where you'll often spend multiple nights in a row at someone's place to the extent that you feel like you're on the precipice, but I always had my own bed and snack cupboard and toilet to return to if need be.

Are we all first-time co-habitators?

AI: Not my first rodeo, no. Though my current living situation is leagues ahead of the first time I decided to move in with someone. No wacky hijinks, either. We came, we saw, we hexed the fuck out of anyone applying for the space we were looking at.

The move itself was fine? Yeah, fine. I don’t know, the concept of moving seems more fraught than the act itself. Maybe. I like movers.

Has anyone experienced a horrible move?

SK: My boyfriend and I moved in together and it's the first time for both of us. Except his whole family and all his friends wanted to know why it took so long and my parents are extremely disapproving and threatened disownment multiple times, so I'd say that the process for us took about four years and a lot of tears and fighting and arguing until I could eventually reach a point where the approval of 96 percent of my family didn't matter anymore.

AI: Oh god, wait, scratch that. WACKY FAMILY HIJINKS, YES. Going back to Jordan’s Life of Sin: Can’t say my family approved the first time I moved in with someone. I distinctly remember the pressure dropping when they saw our bedroom and its one bed. Like, a hissing.

JG: But they must have lightened up when they went into the office and saw your standing bed?


That was bad.

SK: I hate you so much.

AI: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


JG: You hinted at this, Anshuman, but did you guys move much growing up?

AI: Constantly. Kuwait to India to Kuwait to Canada. Zooming in: Halifax to Clarenville to Kingston to St. John’s to ... here. Good ol’ Toronto. I think. I’m skipping a few places, I’m sure of it. Maybe that’s why I’m so blasé about the act of moving? My brother and I grew up perpetual army brats.

SK: That's a lot of moving for a little Anshuman.

AI: I mean, I could be a carry-on, yes.

JG: My mom more or less stayed in the same place, one major move aside, but it felt like my dad was living in a different apartment almost every year from the time I was six or seven years old, and then once I moved away from home, I was also moving nearly every year. My Ikea bookshelf is 15 years old and is mostly held together with wizards' tears at this point.

AI: Was it a Billy.

SK: It's always a Billy.

AI: Were you moving by necessity or … okay, corny as this sounds, wanderlust? I think the latter is very real.

JG: A bit of both. The first time I moved out, it was because I was 19 and it felt like it was time. An ex-girlfriend and I got a place together, not as a couple, which was a good and smart idea. She injured herself at work a couple months in, immobilizing herself, and there seemed to be an expectation that I'd help look after her, but I was pretty selfish with my time, and after throwing out garbage bags full of barf after a bad reaction to codeine, I started planning my escape. I made it four months, which felt like a real failure.

SK: Woof.

JG: Then I got a job in Mexico, writing for a magazine—moving there was my first time on an airplane, which in hindsight is I suppose pretty wanderlusty. I was there for nearly a year and had to come home due to Family Illness, which, despite the very understandable circumstances, also felt like a failure on some level.

The lesson is, any time you leave a place, you have failed.

(That is not the lesson.)

SK: Thanks, Dad.

Leaving can feel like a success, though. I feel that way about leaving Calgary; I think Anshuman feels somewhat similar about leaving his hometown?

AI: Ohohoho, yeah. Small town Newfoundland wasn’t … ideal. Not for a queer brown boy, anyway. Scaachi, what made you want to leave Calgary? And how do you feel about your time since leaving?

SK: I left when I was 17 because I got accepted to Ryerson and I always wanted to move away from Calgary. My parents are pretty protective and while, as an adult, I can understand a part of that instinct, it was still infuriating to have your own parents Other you so much. I also don't like driving, so I wanted to move somewhere I wouldn't have to. I’ve never ended up going back for more than a few weeks, and I think my dad has always held that against me. But, it was essential.

I lived alone for two years in two apartments, and was then very broke and very depressed but unwilling to move home so I lived with my very kind cousin for a year, rent-free. It was supposed to just be for the summer but then my new apartment had bed bugs so I wasn't about to go anywhere. And then I moved in with my pal Barb, and we lived very comfortably there for four years.

JG: I lived in one apartment where, somehow, my roommate got bed bugs, but I didn't—literally my lone success as a person who has lived places. What's the worst place you guys have lived?

SK: Probably the first place I lived in when I moved to Toronto. Ryerson lost my application (ha ha thanks guys) and with it, my deposits and my spot in line for residency. So I had to move into a student residency that was actually just three floors converted into residencies at the Primrose Best Western, down the street from Ryerson's campus. We had to share single hotel rooms with another person, and I had this exchange student who did not want to speak to me and was not used to cold climates so she would crank the heat to 40 degrees, even in the summer. The only privacy you got was this weird, cardboard divider they put up between beds. Also our mattresses were foam encased in plastic. Also it got bed bugs. Also the staff harassed every girl living there.

But there was a Tim Hortons in the basement so that was nice.

JG: At one point, I ended up separately renting the basement of a house in which my dad and brothers lived on the main floor, which shared the lot with another house behind it, with a communal laundry room connecting the two. It was a mother and her two sons in the other house, which they demolished and disrespected as thoroughly as I've ever seen. By the end, their place was so full of garbage and detritus and Organic Waste that the landlord had to gut the entire unit and rebuild it top to bottom. They also ended up with a serious roach problem, and the roaches were so plentiful that they crawled over to infest our place, which was decidedly not a trash heap.

Also, at one point, a cousin of theirs, who was a sex worker, moved into their place, and more than once, I'd go into the shared laundry room and see her there with clients in situations that were wildly inappropriate for a shared laundry room.

Anyway, that's when I started stalking my current girlfriend.

AI: I was 9, maybe 10. My family relocated to India after narrowly escaping the Gulf War. We lived across the country but I vividly remember our time in Surat, a city in the state of Gujarat. Might as well have been the city from Shane Jones’ The Crystal Eaters. It kept growing, exceeding its boundaries, and no one knew how or why? We lived in a high-rise that was still under construction. The floors above us were ribs of rebar and my bedroom had a view of cranes, just … everywhere. And every Tuesday the city had a timed power outage because the demand outstripped their infrastructure. First the power went, then the water. We once came home from an exceptionally fun dinner and found our neighbours running cables into our fusebox to tap our electricity. Surat.

I’m terrified of rebar.

JG: "Worst" has levels, I guess.

SK: I'd ask what the best place you’ve all moved to is but I'd hope it’s where you all currently are.

JG: It is! It is surprisingly cheap and in a pretty neighbourhood that's full of good places to walk my social anxiety-plagued dog and close enough for me to safely stumble home from my terrible local bar. Sometimes our elevator stops working for a few days at a time, but it's also the first apartment I've lived in that's had an elevator.

My girlfriend did get stuck in the elevator with our dog once, and my landlord got kind of mad when I went to his door at dinnertime and asked him to please rescue her, and then got extra mad when the repairman came and pried the door open and realized the dog had been in there with her, which I'd forgotten to mention, because my girlfriend was trapped in an elevator.

SK: I like your place! I like how many penis-related things are in it.

AI: How many are we talking? Ballpark, Scaachi.

SK: They could not all fit in a ballpark, no.

AI: :|

SK: Anshuman, I have not been to your place; do you like your place?

AI: I do. It occasionally feels like a spaceship. Some kind of vessel. Not that there’s anything extravagant about its layout, though we have two floors and the cat likes to do laps between them. I don't know, I’m talking about it from the wrong end of the telescope. The architecture is beside the point—my place rules because I share it with someone really rad. Creating something new from a blank space, together. What compares?

SK: That is a nice feeling.

JG: Scaachi, you are officially one month into living in a Home with a Partner. What have you learned?

SK: In order, here are the lessons I have learned:

1. My boyfriend would like to go to bed at 8 p.m. and it is considered "a compromise" to go to bed at 9.

2. He loves my cat and lied all the times he said he did not love my cat.

3. My cat does not love me. She never did.

4. The nicest feeling in the world is coming home to someone who already took the trash out and has snuggled your cat enough that she doesn't scream when you walk in and is already preparing baked ziti with SPICY SAUSAGE.

5. The second nicest feeling is having all of that happen and then going to another very separate room to work and masturbate and paint one's nails.

6. It's not as hard as I thought it would be.

7. People visit you when you have a back yard!!!

8. My parents are not going to disown me even when they say, "We will disown you."

9. It's one thing if I leave a bowl on the kitchen counter but if he does it, I will stab him, I will stab his goddamn face off.

10. We should be doing our laundry separately. Forever. Do not touch my precious bras. They hold my sex-sacks.

JG: I'm going to ignore all the horrible sex things you said but heartily second the bit about people visiting when you have a backyard. I don't have one, but very much enjoy the fact that my friends who don't work in journalism or publishing are buying houses that have them.

SK: You can visit my yard but I don't own my house and you work with me so we'll talk about work.

Also you will have to acknowledge my sex-sacks.

Sex-sacks in my sex-cave.

AI: I had a backyard, once. It was overgrown Narnia as fuck. You remember, Scaachi. The times we had, in the sun.

SK: Yes, the one time we had in the sun except it was nighttime.

AI: #blessed

SK: Also I was very drunk and dancing to “Blurred Lines” in a garage?

AI: I did molly for the first time and I cleaned like nobody’s business. Great time.

JG: My stepdad did a big landscaping job on our backyard one summer, which included installing a pond and buying ducklings. He also planted poppies, whose opiate levels were unfortunately insignificant for humans, but were decidedly not insignificant for the ducks, who would eat the poppies and get all fucked up and sit on the pond making quacking motions with their mouths but not making any sound. Sometimes they'd fall over.

SK: Aw.

AI: Duck bails.

Wahoo hoo.

JG: Anyway, I'm glad we're all happy for once in our goddamn lives. But what happens when we all recognize our own encroaching complacence? What's next? When we all make the terrible decision to move yet again, what will we be looking for?

AI: Something with a turret. A wee minaret. I miss altitude. We live at ground level and, sure, super, but I like seeing the city curve at its edges.

SK: The next time I move, it will be with me in a little coffin, or a coffee tin.

Moving is not fun and I did not enjoy this move.

And so I will never do it again.

And that is that.

JG: A yard would be nice, but I'd like a bigger kitchen. All of my spices are confined to cupboards, and I think visitors should be forced to bear witness to what a careful, nuanced, thoughtful cook I am.

SK: I thought all you owned was cumin.

JG: Go fuck yourself, Scaachi.

A photograph of the writer.

SCAACHI KOUL was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, BuzzFeed NewsThe HairpinThe Globe and Mail and Jezebel. She is the author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter.

Anshuman Iddamsetty was Hazlitt’s art director and audio/visual producer. Before that they were an associate producer and sound designer for such CBC Radio One programs as GOKnow Your Rights, and the award-winning Spark