endgame for humble beginnings

| 22 Nov 2016 | 03:59


Tiny homes are back in the news. Apparently, this is a movement that won’t go away. I am not trying to deny anyone their right to a roof over their head or the option to live as they choose, it’s just that the whole thing acts as a trigger for me.

I live in a three-bedroom apartment in a doorman building on the Upper East Side. I am not bragging or trying to rub my living arrangements in anyone’s face. I need to say it allowed to remember I am lucky and grateful. I have come a long way — figuratively, not literally.

In 1983, when I journeyed from my outer borough of the Bronx, to make a life in Manhattan, the only way I could afford a doorman building (for safety, not prestige), on my entry-level ad gal salary, was to move into an apartment in the pre-renovated Tudor City — the Turtle Bay complex, across from the United Nations, that’s been standing since 1927.

I waited on a list for a year, and because I am nothing if not persistent, I became a stalker of sorts. I filled out an application, and called the TC in-house rental agent every Friday after lunch, to the point where she’d answer her phone: “I knew it would be you.” Then, one day, she called me.

My studio went for $398 a month; it had no stove and was the size of a shoebox, but I did not have to deal with roommates, and besides, I was young. Whoever stayed home? I was at work all day, then about town in the evenings. It was a place to lay my weary head for a few hours each day.

That was how I felt in the beginning. But I lived there until I got married four years later.

Right of the bat, my then-boyfriend, who would eventually become my husband, christened the place “Tudor Closet.” (Yes, Mr. One-bedroom In The East 60s was so funny.) Even though in that time I got two new jobs and the raises that went with them, yet still couldn’t afford a glitzier more palatial place. I clung to my rap that “It’s small, but mine; my lack of space keeps me from acquiring stuff;” and the aforementioned, “I’m hardly ever there anyway.”

The truth is it made me feel bad. In a city where there is such opportunity, you want to feel as though you are keeping up. Even if you know that you will probably never be able to afford the penthouse in Trump Tower (even as a sublet, while the man himself is occupying the White House), you want to believe you can improve your living situation as you move up the ladder.

I read recently that a recently homeless man had won a housing lottery. Hey, a tiny home is better than a park bench. Good for him. But another story recounted how a couple gave up an upstate home for city life. (I can’t blame them.) They chose a view of the park over space, and now live in 320 square feet. It made me want to cry.

I know you’re thinking: Hey, if it doesn’t bother them, what’s it to you?

Because it makes me fear that I might one day end up back where I started.

The reality is that if they are happy, that’s all that matters. But if they or others like them ever invite me over, I would have to decline. I don’t want to visit, let alone live in, a place takes me back to my humble beginnings. I don’t want to drop by even in my mind.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels “Back to Work She Goes” and “Fat Chick.”