In Defense of Roommates

This post is dedicated to all my trill roommates, past & present.

Oh, roommates!

A few months ago I stumbled upon this blog post about the benefits of living alone. At the bottom of the post, readers were asked to post their own roommate horror stories. It bummed me out times one-thousand. As I read, I noticed a pattern in the comments (and the preceding post), they all reflected the belief that the most desirable trajectory for adult living situations is this:

Roommates until you can afford to live alone—->Live alone—>Live with a romantic partner.*

That trajectory doesn’t sit well with me. I’m sure there are a lot of valid reasons to live alone, and I don’t doubt that for some it may be ideal. But I don’t think it would be ideal for me, and I think it’s problematic to consider it ideal for everyone.

There are the obvious reasons. Number one: it’s expensive. Not everyone can afford to pay 100% of rent, utilities, and household expenses. Number two: our planet’s pretty crowded. I’m not sure it can support 7 billion private kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms. Even 3.5 billion seems a little high.

Then, there are the less-obvious reasons. Perhaps my biggest reason for questioning the ‘roommates suck’ paradigm is the general consensus that living with roommates is the WORST but living with a significant other is the BEST.  I mean, helloooo, isn’t a live-in partner just a roommate with benefits? Well, sort of. The primary reason for moving in with a significant other isn’t usually saving money. (I have heard of some couples moving in together because ‘the rent is too damn high‘, but I’m pretty sure that’s mostly a New York thing…)

This might sound kind of crazy, but I think roommate-ing would be so much more fun if we treated it like living with a significant other. No, I’m not suggesting everyone forms weird cults. What I mean is that living with other people is much nicer when the primary reason for living with them isn’t that you can’t afford to live without them. For me, living with roommates is fun because I am the nosiest person in the world (no, really. I find even the most mundane details of other people’s lives interesting. What did you have for lunch? I would love to know. Feel free to text me about it every day!). I love learning people’s favorite foods, hearing childhood stories,  catching up on everyone’s days, and being able to ask for recommendations for things to do. Living with other people has broadened my horizons. All of my roommates have prompted me to cultivate new interests; they’ve helped me have spontaneous fun; they’ve shared some really good music, movies, and TV shows with me.

I will admit that living with roommates is hard in some ways. But living all by yourself is hard, too.

As a lone dweller, I couldn’t call someone to let me in if I locked myself out. I’d have to take out the trash all the time. Nobody would remind me to pay rent if I forgot. I’d have to eat or discard all my food because I wouldn’t be able to share with anyone. No one would say ‘Welcome home!’ after a hard day at work.

Doesn’t sound so great in those terms, right?

Or maybe you think those hardships are worth the luxury of having a sacred space where you don’t have to compromise on anything. While that does sound appealing, I’m surprisingly grateful for the compromises I’m forced to make as a co-habitator. Which isn’t to say compromising is fun. I have preferences on almost everything, and I’d like to believe that I’m always right. On top of that I lead a life that doesn’t much challenge the notion that I am indeed always right. I choose what to eat, when to go to bed, where to get my news, what to wear, how to commute…you get the idea. This lifestyle is nice but dangerous. I worry about becoming close-minded and intolerant, unable to get along with people who don’t think and act exactly as I do. So I find it helpful to have areas of my life in which I am clearly not the boss. It keeps me in check and helps me understand other perspectives. (Maybe it will save me from becoming a megalomaniac? We can only hope, right?)

When it comes to roommates, I’ve been inordinately fortunate. I’ve heard some heinous things and am sensitive to the roommate horror stories of others. Some living arrangements can be toxic, and it’s best to get out of them as soon as one can. However, when I think about my own history, I think it would have been a shame if my first roommate had been so terrible that I’d written off living with others for the rest of my life. (For the record, my first roommate was lovely and is one of my best friends.)

We don’t advise people to STOP DATING FOREVER because of a bad break-up or to QUIT THEIR FAMILIES if they have a fight with their siblings or to DROP OUT OF SCHOOL if they take a class with a bad professor. In my opinion, living with roommates should be treated the same way. You might have some bad ones, but if you stick with it and do your dishes, you could find yourself in the best living arrangement ever. Complete with fresh-baked cookies and dancing and home-cooked dinners made by someone else using their mama’s favorite recipe.

Doesn’t this look like fun?

And now, if you are so inclined, share your best roommate story!

*In the event that you don’t live happily ever after with said romantic partner, the ‘right’ thing to do is to live alone until you find another romantic partner with whom to co-habitate.

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In Defense of Roommates

11 thoughts on “In Defense of Roommates

  1. annika says:

    agreed. if it weren’t for fantastic roommates, i would never have learned about some of the best things in life, like tofurkey/veganaise sandwiches. or red beans ‘n’ rice. or hunter rain boots. or the version of “my favorite things” that goes: “when the dogs bite…when the moon strikes…”

    xoxoo

    1. i STILL don’t know the actual version. there aren’t any action verbs that go with ‘moon’ except ‘shine’, but that’s not very scary. maybe it doesn’t say ‘moon’ at all? i just don’t know!

      if i’d never lived with you, i never would have known the joys of living in a self-proclaimed feminist household, with meeting agendas & chore charts & so many great conversations all the time. i might never have learned about the i-pledge program! oh, & i wouldn’t own an apron. have i ever told you how much i love my yellow apron? i wear it so much that sometimes i forget to take it off, & my neighbors make fun of me. also, you might be the only roommate in the history of the world to let a minor borrow her ID so that she could get into a poetry reading. thanks, a!

  2. Carol says:

    Well the only time I had roommates was when I lived in Belgium over 5 years ago. I lived with 3 Belgian girls; Audrey, Aureli and Marie, they spoke no English or Spanish at all and I didn’t know any French at the time. They were mean, selfish and extremely clean. Each of them had their own cabinet space where they kept their own plates, silverware, pots, pans, brooms, mops, etc. So I had to buy ALL that stuff for my 6 month stay over there, only because they wouldn’t share, not with each other and most definitely not with me. Our lovely kitchen was equipped with a stove and a fridge, that’s it, so 2 of them had microwaves IN THEIR ROOMS, so the rest of us wouldn’t use it. One of them had a toaster that she would take out of her room and toast her bread in the kitchen, flaunting her appliances, and put it back in her room!! I do understand the TV in their rooms, and not the common area, but appliances???
    They never tried to talk to me, they just left notes on the fridge that said things like “Carolina you have to take the trash out on Wednesdays.” Or “Carolina I’m having a dinner party on Friday, I hope it’s ok with you if I privately use the common area” I don’t know about you but for me it meant; stay out on Friday night! And the worst one: “Carolina please don’t make noise at night because we DO go to class in the morning, we would appreciate if you don’t have people over.” What did they mean with the “DO” that I didn’t??? Well I did! I might have missed some Friday 8am ones, but not all of them. Plus one of them would very loudly play Céline Dion’s “Pour que tu m’aime encore” in repeat every single morning, and don’t get me wrong it’s one of my favorites songs ever, but they didn’t seem to care very much about my sleep so why should I care about theirs?? I was respectful and even though my house was on the way back to all of my friends houses from all the cool pubs I stopped telling people “Sandwiches at my house!”
    To end it all; towards the end of my semester abroad we had a long weekend. I went to Amsterdam with my friends, but just for one night because we didn’t have much money to spend on a hotel. I guess my dear Aurelie did not think I was coming home so soon because when I got there she was “romancing” with Marie’s boyfriend!!!! After that she started being nice to me and she even offered to share a “Pain ou chocolat” with me once.

    That’s my roommate story.

    1. yuck! i’m so sorry! they sound like the kind of people who have roommates just because they can’t afford to live alone, & they missed out on all your sandwiches? (i know you would have shared.) weirdos. also, aurelie should have done way more than offer to share her pain au chocolat!

    1. it WAS super fun, & i think it counts as roommates. i remember your brief but intense love affair with tetris; i can attest to your love of milk; and i know that sometimes you take naps! blergh, this comment makes me miss watching SATC & next top model with you.

      wanna be on top? *brzh brzh brzh*

  3. Anda says:

    …or with 5 different types of break n bakes/non-dairy milk for the best taste test; with drake at all (the best) hours; with the most perfect First Day of Work Surprise Breakfast complete with that most contentious pastry: the chocolate croissant; or just someone with whom to watch GIRLS and discuss the soft trajectories of our mumblecoring lives.

    gonna miss u, wombmate.

    1. what do you mean ‘soft trajectories’? it’s hard out there for a LAG (liberal arts grad).

      i’ma miss your KALE!!! & salads!!! my diet is going to be so unhealthy without you & your greens.

      also, this: bit.ly/RcbChA

  4. Hi, your comment on my blog made me want to check out your blog! Aw, mutuality–which I also believe is the most important aspect of live-in relationships with others.

    As for a good roomie story: I once had a roomie who had a dog and cat at a time where I was not mature enough to take care of an animal on my own. This was also a point in my life where I was kind of afraid of cats, having the opportunity of living with these fuzzy beings opened my heart up to them. Another great roomie memory was always going out for breakfast with the roommates, or cooking breakfasts at home. It was in this way that I was introduced to tofu scrambles But possibly, the best part of having roommates was having friendos to come home to and gossip/vent/be goof off with.

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