The fact that each person’s share of income is only about $5,000 presents one of the biggest challenges of living at Twin Oaks. Life here is modest. Members make do with a monthly allowance of just $75 for personal expenses, including travel, toiletries and treats. “Objects of envy,” the Twin Oaks term for cars, dining room sets and similar pricey items, must be donated to the community on joining or given away.
Most residents I speak with say they were drawn to Twin Oaks by its values and unconventional lifestyle. Many came at solitary junctures in their lives. But, according to some members, the community’s one-bedroom-per-person policy seems to encourage breakups and new romantic pairings. A resident called Tigger, whose ex-partner and child have left the farm, told me only half-jokingly that the community feeds on the drama: “Since we don’t have TV, that’s how we amuse ourselves.”
By the time I return to Brooklyn, I realize I could never make a home for my family in an intentional community. All the meetings, the coordinating, the accountability to others seem like too much work. Instead, I decide to experiment with a more informal arrangement. When I pick up my son after school, I invite his friend and her mother to come over. Her first response is an incredulous “Now?” Happily, her second response is a shrugging “Why not?” and we wind up spending the rest of the cold winter afternoon pleasantly holed up together.
Just as they’re leaving, I take an even bolder step. Kate, one of my oldest friends, who has two boys around the ages of mine, phones to hammer out a brunch for next month. “Why not just get together tonight?” I say.
“Like right now?” she asks with that same tinge of surprise. Yes.
That evening Kate and I sip wine and assemble the lasagna we’ll all eat for dinner. Our conversation meanders. Nothing we say is momentous or deep. Yet it is precisely this kind of mundane togetherness that I’ve been longing for, a small step toward a more connected existence. It’s not a commune, not even a sleepover. But I’m happy to have had these few hours of connection—and afterward, I’m happy to have my time alone.
Sharon Lerner is the author of The War on Moms. Her next book is about ideal places.
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