Are You Ready To Trade Keys?

You and your sweetie have been dating for a while now... here's how to know when the time is right to offer up drawer space or a key to your place.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

ou and your love have been dating, and things have been going swimmingly. But how to secure a hairbrush and a change of skivvies when you wake up at your new sweetie’s apartment next Saturday morning? And what about when your mate has volunteered to spend the afternoon at your place awaiting the cable guy who graciously gave his window of arrival anywhere between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.... are your exotic tropical fish going to open the door for her? After a certain stint of dating and sleepovers, accommodations for the sake of creature comfort are inevitable. How do you handle the issues of drawer space and key giving? Heed this advice.

A smidgen of storage space
It begins with the hostess’s kind gift of a spare
After a joyous trip to the hardware store, The Key is bestowed
toothbrush or the host’s offer of a makeshift pajama outfit composed of an old AC/DC concert tee and a pair of flannel boxers. Why not be the one to display such a generous flourish first? If the love keeps blossoming, expect guest amenities to now include your very own mouthwash cup, square foot of storage under the bathroom sink, and two hangers-worth of closet space for business outfits and swanky shirts. After all, no one wants to eat weekend brunch in yesterday’s smoky party clothes while others are munching Belgian waffles in fresh, comfy slacks. Thus, the need for extra space at your lover’s pad. Remember, even the late Mr. Rogers liked to slip out of his work clothes and into a soft cardigan for hanging around the house.

The key exchange
Convenience and trust intersect when, still rather early on in a relationship, her plants need watering during a business trip or your bulldog needs walking on some busy evening. It dawns upon one of you that perhaps a key exchange should occur. After a joyous trip to the hardware store, The Key is bestowed. You should never ask for the key at this early stage, as it should generally be given out of practicality, not some relationship status check. Giving a key isn’t a marriage proposal or necessarily even a let’s-move-in-together feeler—though it does reveal a good degree of trust.

Do the walk-through
Before any keys are surrendered, you need to secure the house. Like baby-proofing before little nieces
Note, key-giving is normally reserved for exclusive relationships
arrive for the weekend, perform a walk-through to sweep away obvious stashes of ex-fiancée paraphernalia and piles of racy pictures sitting idly on a bookshelf. Unlike a move-in proper, where under-the-bed boxes of old romance mementos must be reconciled, key-givers must stow only those objectionable items left in “clear view.” In return, key holders who find themselves unchaperoned in their lover’s abode should neither rummage nor snoop—and never violate the Goodie Drawer Privacy Law of 2005 (a little known provision of the Patriot Act).

Heed these warnings
First, note that key-giving is normally reserved for exclusive relationships: Who needs to worry about a new lover checking her email on your computer after you’ve gone to work, only to have strange IMs from your other admirers popping onto the screen? Second, understand that once a key is bestowed, there’s no obligation to reciprocate immediately. What if you’ve given her yours but she hasn't returned the favor? You’ll have to be content with the key to her heart for now, as requesting a set of her keys might be more pressure than she’s ready to handle.

Additionally, anyone with roommates should pause before handing over keys. Living with someone who never does dishes (you, perhaps) is hard enough on other housemates, without adding surprise guest appearances to the mix. Lastly, in the event of a breakup, keys must be returned within 48 hours, even if you have to send them via overnight mail or hire a Saint Bernard (with diminutive whisky barrel) to mush it through snow back to the rightful owner. Be considerate, and set aside your revenge fantasies: Changes of heart take time, but changes of locks take time and a locksmith who bills by the hour.

Phineas Mollod traded his J.D. for the editorial life and is often found riding the congested E train with his wife and daughter in New York. Jason Tesauro pushes pen and ink by day and leads the lifestyle seminar series by night, ne'er far from his sweetheart and a Brady Bunch houseful 'o tots in Virginia. Together they are the authors of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice and The Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses, and Ringless Carousers.
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