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