Moving back in with my parents lost me my loverIt seemed the ideal solution as Nat and Tom saved for a place of their own. Big mistake!
21:18 GMT, 25 April 2012
Our romantic evening had been going so well. After a lovely Italian meal at a cosy trattoria, my boyfriend Tom and I had enjoyed a leisurely stroll home, arm in arm.
Now we were lying on the bed, listening to music. As he leaned in to kiss me, the bedroom door crashed open and my mother wandered in. ‘Ignore me, I am not here,’ she said, rifling through my sock drawer.
We lay back and made small talk with her as she put away my clean undies (she was very chatty for someone who apparently wasn’t there) and the sexy mood curdled.
Home comforts Nat missed her privacy when she moved back in with her parents Gustaaf and Gaynor
It might be the sort of dating scenario you expect as a teenager. But it’s less than ideal when you’re 28 and in a long-term relationship.
Just a short time before, the situation had been very different. Tom and I were renting a flat together in North London. Both stand-up comics, we’d met three years earlier through work and had been a couple ever since. Life was actually pretty great.
Tom and I wrote all day together, went off to our respective gigs, got home in the early hours of the morning, ate pizza and put the world to rights. Our tiny one-bedroom apartment required — demanded — minimalist living.
Demanded, but never got it — our flat was like living in a jumble sale. And so, one day 18 months ago, after finding a saucepan in the bath, I snapped. I would have cried, except it would have steamed up our three windows.
I'm back: Nat returned to her childhood home to save money – but it cost her relationship
This was no way to live, I decided. The flat was too small, Tom was too messy and I was too intolerant. So later the same day I impulsively — and disastrously, as it turned out — decided that we would move somewhere else. I handed in our notice.
Tom didn’t seem to mind the sudden change in our living arrangements. Optimistic by nature and uninterested in domestic issues, even major ones such as Where We Live, he had complete faith in me. In any case, we assumed there would be no shortage of alternative accommodation for us to rent.
But, as we soon discovered, there was nothing for us to move into. Estate agents showed me a succession of damp, funny-smelling pits and I struggled to stay polite. (‘Oh look, hardly any mice! I might just stand on a chair for this viewing . . .’)
Work and friends meant London seemed like the only option, so I persevered. But after four weeks of fruitless searching, we still hadn’t found anywhere new and our notice period was up.
Tom and I decided the most sensible thing to do would be to move back in with our parents ‘for a week or two’ while we carried on house-hunting.
So we returned to our childhood bedrooms — Tom’s in Bath and mine in Watford. At first it was fine. We told our parents we would be under their feet for a fortnight at the most. Maybe these two weeks would be nice and let us spend time together as a family Like a holiday.
My parents looked unenthused, but I thought it would just be great to get my washing done properly for once.
I offered to pay rent, but Mum insisted this was still my home — though Dad suggested he ran up a tally of what he felt I owed them. If I dropped a glass or ate all the salami, he grabbed a pen and ‘added it to the tally’.
Three's a crowd: The stand-up comic found living at home wasn't all laughs and she soon began to feel like a child again
Soon it became clear the new arrangement wasn’t working. All my belongings were in the garage and I was allowed only one box in my bedroom at a time. It meant dressing by lucky dip. Some mornings I’d open a box and find jeans, stilettoes and a teacup.
Luckily my parents each have two jobs. My mum, Gaynor, is a teaching assistant and waitress, and my dad, Gustaaf, is an accountant and barman.
Had they been retired and at home, I think we’d have driven each other insane within 24 hours.
They also seemed to have a very active social life. ‘You’re out all the time!’ I marvelled.
‘Yes, this is a new thing,’ said Mum, looking at me through narrowed eyes. I realised watching me drink all their wine and talk through Coronation Street probably wasn’t a home life they wanted to rush back to. Our old flat was cramped, but at least Tom and I had privacy. The idea of conducting my sex life within half a mile of my parents made my libido vanish. There is only five feet between our bedrooms and I could hear them cough gently in the night.
I either had to make love more quietly than a gentle cough or live like a nun. A nun with a furious boyfriend, admittedly.
Given the pressure to make the most of our time alone, I developed an erotic Pavlovian response whenever they said: ‘We’re off to do a big Asda shop!’
It's over: Nat and Tom are now just friends
But a sex life dictated by how quickly your parents run out of soup rather takes the fun out of it.
What was most damaging for our relationship, however, was the return of the parent-child dynamic, which reduced me to the role of dim-witted infant.
It’s impossible to conduct a normal adult relationship when living with your parents is making you more childish every day.
You can’t maintain maturity when you’re banned from using the oven or sitting on the cream sofa, and told off for Walking While Holding Something (they are not entirely neurotic. I have caused enough fires, floods, stains and domestic misery over the years for their fears to be justified).
I couldn’t just suddenly snap back into being an adult when Tom came to stay, flinging aside my pyjamas to leap into lingerie Mum had helpfully ironed and folded. Even the thought of that makes me feel a bit queasy. And whenever Tom came to stay, he was treated the same as me.
My relationship with Tom began to fray. I was becoming snappy and controlling because I was so powerless at home.
I hoped that once we found a flat everything would go back to normal. And after six months we found a granny flat in Muswell Hill, a desirable London suburb, that twinkled at us: ‘Welcome! My previous tenant has only just died.’ We slapped down a deposit.
Now, I thought, we could resume our perfect life together as if the past six months had been a bad dream. But it soon became clear we had changed.
I’d become a convert to my parents’ views on drinks coasters and the importance of Washing Up Before You Sit Down To Eat, while Tom was used to being brought meals by his parents and was hopeful I could carry it on.
The spark had gone. After six weeks of fighting, we decided to split, and Tom moved out.
No, I can's really blame my parents for my wrecked relationship — perhaps the fact that Tom and I couldn’t last through a few months of living apart means the break-up was inevitable sooner or later.
He’s my best friend and we still work together. However, if I’d known the consequences of moving out, I’d never have done it, no matter how many kitchen utensils I found in the bath.
Nothing sours the delicate balance of romance and camaraderie in a relationship quite like moving back with your parents.
So if there’s anyone reading this who can stack the dishwasher with dad, have a biscuit with mum and then nip upstairs to be someone’s sexy girlfriend, I salute you.
Jerry Hall reckons: ‘You must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom.’ But I think even she’d struggle if these rooms were in her mum and dad’s house.
Cuckoo In The Nest by Nat Luurtsema (Hodder & Stoughton, 13.99) is out now.