Living Together

On communal living and sharing space

Larissa Pham
Gay Mag
Published in
9 min readJan 9, 2020

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Illustration by Louisa Bertman

LLast summer, an article with the astonishing headline — “Seven Chinese girlfriends buy mansion to retire and die together” — went semi-viral, proliferating on my social media timeline like mushrooms popping up overnight. Rather than rely on husbands or other support systems in their old age, the seven women, all close friends, decided to buy and refurbish a house in rural China, preparing themselves to live in community in their retirement. Photos accompanying the article depict the property, surrounded by rice paddies: huge windows, sun-filled rooms. A tea pavilion, a swimming pool, shared spaces with low tables, floors cushioned with tatami mats. The seven girlfriends, all beautiful, and still quite young, pose for their picture in a vivid green field, holding fashionably clear umbrellas over their heads. They look happy, like characters in a TV show where nothing bad happens. Some of the women have children, the news piece notes. But they’re looking to each other to keep each other company into their twilight years.

Many group chats, I’m sure, sent the piece back and forth. One of my friends — I can’t remember who — pasted a link into our own group DM. Goals, we said. When we get old, let’s buy a house like this, we said. It was a nice fantasy to aspire to.

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