My shoulders swayed side to side when I heard the opening bars of keyboard followed by snapping. I snapped along with the song as I moved my hips to the sound of the slightly slowed breakbeat. I raised my hands overhead as Flo Rida exhorts “It’s my house now, c’mon.” I closed my eyes and let the entirety of my body move to the beat, momentarily lost in the rhythm. My body felt strong, long, alive. I tipped my head back and laughed at how perfect the moment was.
I am quite sure that a nearly 40-year-old white lady dancing with her two- and five-year old boys was not the party scene that Flo Rida had in mind when he recorded “My House.” But has there ever been an anthem that better captures the heady, disorienting, terrifying, and thrilling freedom of living alone after more than 15 years of cohabitation?
When the father of my children and I decided that living together was no longer tolerable—that things would be better if we lived apart—I started to look for a new place to live. As the person who initiated the conversations that led to our separation, it only seemed fair that I should be the one to move out.
I looked at a half dozen versions of the same two-bedroom apartment, built in the 1970s, small bathroom, slightly larger master bedroom, between 750-850 square feet. They were on different floors, faced different directions, in buildings scattered around the less desirable suburbs of greater Boston, but they were basically all the same.
I chose the one in the best shape with the cheapest rent. I fully furnished, unpacked, and decorated it that first weekend I moved in. Given its size, this was not too difficult to do. When I brought my sons to the apartment for the first time, I was nervous. It was not in a nice neighborhood like the condo I owned with their father. It was much smaller than that condo. Part of my motivation in getting everything set up the way that I did was so that it would feel as homey as possible when they arrived.
After we got inside and hung up our school bags, I turned on my stereo—bought with savings from my first job at an apple orchard when I was 14 years old. I put the radio on as the boys breathlessly explored the apartment’s tiny expanse. When they returned to the living room, Flo Rida’s “My House” started to play. Our eyes met, and without speaking we moved our bodies to the beat.
The apartment’s small size, its location amidst an uninspiring stretch of strip malls and office parks, all the ways it was different from the life that we had previously known were swallowed into the sound as we danced. My older son recognized the aptness of the lyrics as we sang them aloud, jumping as he laughed.
“Welcome to my house,
Play that music too loud,
Show me what you do now.
We don’t have to go out.”
As my five year old wiggled his hips and my two year old spun around, we shouted the lyrics to the chorus. “Excuse me if my home’s draining the sad,” we danced together on a five-by-seven area rug, holding hands.
Sadness was replaced with the adventure of living and parenting my boys alone, all of it in my house. When we cranked up Flo Rida and moved our bodies to the beat, we knew that our house was (and is) a place of safety and acceptance, a place to be silly and joyful, and a place to make ourselves at home, bar by bar. After more than a decade and a half of cohabitation, having complete control over the space—and songs—in which I lived, however small and humble, was an unmitigated pleasure.
For all the churning and consternation it took for me to separate from my now ex-husband, for all the questions I had about whether it was the right thing to do, that first impromptu dance party to “My House” was an answer.
We listened and danced to the song on repeat that year, a family favorite in our tiny two-bedroom apartment that turned our small living room into a dance floor with all the heart and excitement of the hottest club. The freedom of making my own terms, the humble joy of our little family, the living beat of my house.
Courtney E. Cole (@cecswords) writes slowly and skis fast, fueled by hot coffee and cold weather. She is raising two young boys in Boston, and they are often found in the lakes and mountains of Maine. Her current hobbies include dance parties at home, eating waffles, and remote schooling.