Living with Strangers, er, Roommates
What to do when you want to move but all your friends already have places? Share an apartment with a stranger? Eeek! Actually, it can be pretty great–if you know what you’re doing.
While starting by asking friends if they have other friends looking is a good idea, none of mine did. So, I went right to the Craiglist room/shared listings (most city weeklies also have similar want-ads). They’re organized by neighborhood and price, so it’s easy, on the surface, to see what you’re getting. That said, I had some questionable experiences. The first place looked perfect on paper and I arrived at the house excited to meet the two girls who sounded so nice, relaxed, and artsy on the phone. As it turned out, these nice, amiable girls were totally NUTSO and everything in the apartment was covered, walls, floors, and nothing felt comfortable. I wondered what I would do with my things that made me feel at home, as there was certainly no room here.
The lack of open decorating space was a good lesson about the reality of living with roommates. If you want to have a say in decor, you really need to move in at the start, otherwise life at the apartment will have already settled and you might always feel more like a subletter than an actual tenant. I looked at one other apartment in a different neighborhood and still felt my stomach doing somersaults, knowing it wasn’t right for me. Basically, the roommate search is akin to a blind date. You just know.
So I did what seemed like the obvious choice for a writer: I wrote my own want ad. I decided which neighborhoods I wanted to live in and put up my own post, describing who I was and what type of people I was looking for. I described in glaring detail that I was not a neat freak. I also noted my interest in the arts and that I’d love to meet fellow artistas. But, mostly, I wrote that I was looking for good people, and that they knew who they were. Surprisingly, I received over 20 responses. I met up with one girl who seemed nice, but after ordering only a chocolate chip cookie for lunch and then cutting it into pieces and not eating more than a bite, I worried that she had an eating disorder. She seemed nice, but again my gut was shouting no, no, no. Then I met another girl who also loves improv. And another who seemed smart and so very nice. And this time my stomach stayed put. It knew these girls were it.
This weekend we’re putting up holiday decorations together and making dinner. Not only did I find great roommates, but also I now have two terrific new friends.