I end the tour of my very own apartment with a flourish and a smile, and await my parents’ reaction.
“It’s very nice,” Mum says with a nervous smile. “Very cozy.”
“I like that they haven’t bothered with a kitchen,” Dad says. “You can make your tea while you’re watching the news! Genius.”
“A lot of apartments don’t have full kitchens in New York,” I reply, lowering my arms slowly and reaching out to reassure my fridge that it hasn’t done anything wrong. “And I hardly even cook anyway.”
That was how I’d convinced myself I should take the place, so why didn’t it seem to be working on them?
“Are you not eating?” Mum seizes on this piece of information with wild eyes. “I thought you looked thin. David, didn’t I say she looked thin?”
“She did,” Dad confirms. “But not in a bad way.”
“You don’t need to lose any weight,” Mum says. “I knew when you moved here you’d get too thin. They’re all too thin on the telly.”
“I’ve been here five-and-a-half years,” I point out. “And I gained ten pounds in the first six months; it’s taken me this long to lose it again. Who’s too thin?”
“Why are there so many locks on the door?” she swerves the subject, wiping a fingertip along a shelf that I hope to God I dusted. “Is it not safe?”
“It’s Park Slope, Mum.” The excitement of showing my visiting parents my first-ever, solo, grown-up apartment was wearing off faster than a three-mimosa–brunch buzz. “It’s very safe.”
“Where do you eat? There’s no dining table?”
I didn’t like to tell her that for the first six weeks I lived here, there wasn’t even a bed.
“Floors are a bit uneven,” Dad says, putting his full weight onto his left foot. “Feels like I’ve had one too many.”
Mum and I stare at him blankly for entirely different reasons.
“Fun, though,” he says thoughtfully. “It’s a fun little place.”
For almost six years, I’ve sampled some of New York’s more eccentric apartments: the Fort Greene place I shared with a professional cat-sitter and a cokehead, where you couldn’t turn on the bathroom light and watch the TV at the same time without blowing a fuse. The Williamsburg two-bedroom that had a shower in the kitchen and two Eurotrash bros next door with an ever-changing roster of naked girls in their hot tub. And who could forget the fifth-floor Soho walk-up with the crazy lady and her lovely but voyeuristic dog? Finally, I had my own place. Finally, I could come home, use three different keys on three different locks and watch Law & Order: SVU in peace.
“Shall we go and get some dinner?” Mum suggests, already halfway out the door. “Our treat.”
“Your mum isn’t being mean,” Dad says in a low voice as I fish out my keys to take care of the last lock. “We’re not from here; we never lived in a flat. You’re doing all right now. I think she thought it might be a bit, I don’t know, nicer.”
“It is nice,” I say, stung. “For New York.”
“Exactly,” Dad rests his hand on my shoulder. “But 32-year-olds don’t really live like this anywhere else.”
“Yeah.” I agree. Just like that, I’m smiling again. “But why would anyone live anywhere else?”
British-born author Lindsey Kelk wrote the international best-seller I Heart New York, which was translated into 22 languages. But her career highlight remains ghostwriting for The Muppets. She lives in Gowanus. lindseykelk.com