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Every morning I find my husband on the sofa in the parlor with the girl dog, drinking coffee and scouring The New York Times. By the time I arrive to join them with the boy dog, he has already read the important news of the day and played—and usually lost—"The Hunt."

"The Hunt" is a game in the Times whereby readers are introduced to a real, live Manhattan-dwelling couple in search of a new home. Readers are told what the couple are looking for — things like proximity to schools or the subway, necessary number of bedrooms, whether they prefer a townhome, condo or apartment, their price range — and then fed information about two real estate options. You, savvy reader, are to match the couple, based on their stated desires and needs, to the home that most closely fulfills their dreams.

By the time I get to the living room, my husband is usually in a huff, claiming that the win was stolen from him. "They didn't mention House No. 1 had HOA fees!" he yells, or "How was I to know House No. 2 was closer to the wife's workplace? They didn't tell me where she works! Of course I'd have picked the other one!"

In short, there is always a reason he's lost "The Hunt," and it's always because the Times withheld crucial information. Usually I just give him a sympathetic nod — I've been awake exactly six minutes, and Manhattan real estate is seldom the first thing I wish to ponder — but one recent morning I decided to delve. What is it about "The Hunt" that he finds both so satisfying and so frustrating? If he's no good at it, why keep playing? It's not like it's a skill he needs to hone for his work, and there's no prize if he chooses the house the couple ended up choosing. Really, what is the draw?

"Look around," he said.

So I did. What I saw is that we live in a fabulous house in the woods that is very different from the fabulous house we lived in just eight months ago in a golf community, which was very different from the fabulous house we lived in three years before that, on Missionary Ridge, which was way different from my favorite — and our first — house, on 10 acres in Chickamauga.

"We've been playing "The Hunt" our whole lives," he said. "I just really want to get it right."

A lot has been said about the concept of the geographic cure, much of it by me. In my book, "The Body Tourist," I wrote about how my homes — the ones I chose before my husband and I lived together — were a reflection of the state of my mental health. When I was ill with anorexia, I lived without furniture or heat; as my physical and mental health improved, so did my living conditions. But what does my husband's years-long search for home suggest?

"It's like that story of the porridge," he says, referring to "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." That's the tale whereby a child wanders into the den of three bears that have gone for a walk and samples their food, their chairs and their beds, searching each for the perfect level of comfort. There are many interpretations of this fairy tale — and in fact, Goldilocks is a retelling of the original, which employed an old, ugly woman rather than a pretty little girl, and was a sinister tale of boundary infringement. But the one that works best for his particular narrative is that we've had a lot of homes, each of which offered varying levels of comfort, but there would be one home, if only we could find it, that would comfort perfectly. Hence, the hunt.

With our most recent home, we are finally at peace. I no longer angle for long weekend drives out into the country to look for land, and he is house hunting only in theory now, and only for other people. He still loves the thrill of "The Hunt," but not because it's reflective of his own search. Now, it's truly just a game.

That said, certain information was withheld from us before we bought our current house. Nobody told us that the elderly dishwasher would take eight hours to complete a wash cycle. Or that the Bridge to Nowhere (a bridge that starts at the door of my husband's office and dead-ends at the fence line) would need to be rebuilt if we intend to keep using it for nothing. Had we known, well, savvy reader, it's anyone's guess where we'd be now.

Dana Shavin is a national award-winning columnist and the author of "The Body Tourist," a memoir about recovery. Email her at Dana@danashavin.com, follow her on Facebook at Dana Shavin Writes, and visit Danashavin.com for more.

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Dana Shavin / Contributed photo

 

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