So, disclaimer – I hadn’t had a roommate since literally half my lifetime ago. Even down to the time of year. Fall ’99, I had my one and only roommate experience. We spent one semester driving each other nuts until she moved to one of the apartments available to lower classmen.
To be fair, we did pretty well considering that the only thing Ithaca College matched you on was class year and smoker status. Because yeah, you could still smoke in dorms back then. (Weird, right?) Still, it wasn’t an experience that made me think “Oh yeah, let’s do that again.” For the rest of college, I lived in a single, then a studio apartment, then a 1 bedroom. And I was content with that.
After college, I immediately started living with Aaron. Fast forward a decade plus. I spent a year of bouncing around in 2015-2016 post-divorce. Which ended when I shacked up with Dave. To say I’m not accustomed to living with someone (as an adult) would be a lie. But it’s fair to say I’m not used to living with someone I don’t share a bed and a life with.
Once things ended with Dave, I realized that I needed to have a roommate to make this place feasible long-term. It’s the Unicorn of rentals – allows Boxers, fenced yard, dead end street, 3 bed, 1 bath with a deep tub (perfect for Epsom soaks), 1 car attached garage. AND close to everything, not out in the boonies. It even has reasonably responsive property management. The kind who occasionally do proactive things to keep the place in working condition. The only thing that isn’t ideal is the price. Well… and the 1 bathroom.
Back in the spring when I became a onesome instead of a twosome, I posted an ad on Craigslist. Staged some nice photos, wrote out a detailed description of the terms, and a snappy little summary of the great roommate you’d have. While I technically hadn’t ruled out men, I never got a response from one that I considered. I met with several women, 2 of whom I could not imagine living with because they were just too tentative about everything (Have I already gone on the “BJJ makes it hard to deal with weak people” rant yet? No? OK, some other time). The third I offered the room to but she had gotten a sweeter deal in the meantime. Burn.
At about the same time, work travel kicked up. I wasn’t going to be home long enough to get used to someone… or trust them with my stuff for a week while I was gone. So I decided to give myself a “summer of freedom” – to spend a total of 6 months living with no-one for the first time in my life. It put a ding in my savings account, but it was well worth the experience. Get home after BJJ training and feel like a last minute trip to the beach? No problem, I’m not leaving anyone in the lurch. Just grab an RxBar to hold me over and go.
I embraced not only the freedom of living alone but also the challenges of living alone. No one else around to remember that it’s trash day, or cook a meal when I’m too tired. No one around if I’m feeling lonely at night. Just me, myself, and I. It was a test of my self reliance and healthy coping skills. I’m pretty sure I passed.
As the days got shorter, for the sake of my bank account, I sucked up my “don’t wanna” and posted an ad again. I tried to aim for temporary roommates this time around, so I wouldn’t be locked in to one person for a long time. If it didn’t work out, they’d be leaving shortly anyways. I advertised as having a room for “traveling professional.” I mostly got people in transition: They were moving to the area and hadn’t decided which part of Greater Portland they wanted to live in long-term. They were coming up solo until their partner could move up, etc.
I found that the roommate hunt was a bit like dating, except you had to decide if you liked them enough to live with them right away. The same awkwardness. Trying to think of the right questions to ask before meeting. Struggling for what to say during the meeting. We would leave things open-ended when one or both of us weren’t 100% convinced it was a match but not ready to bail entirely. Add in the fact that everyone I ended up meeting this time around was male and there were some very unmistakable parallels. I even did my “single girl sanity check” of Googling their names and looking them up on Facebook to make sure they were who they said and nothing freaky came up.
Roommate 1 – The Short-Term Guy
At the very end of August I got a message from a BJJ teammate. He got caught without a place to land in the middle of switching room rentals. He had a young dog who’s sweet with humans but dangerous to other dogs, so I knew I couldn’t offer him anything long-term. But he happened to ask just when my work travel kicked up again and I found myself Delta-less for the month. That is how I found myself home to Pockets (19 yr old human*) and Stitch (2 yr old pitbull) for September. My other spare room was going to be their way station on a journey to find somewhere long-term.
At minimum, their stay was a gentle introduction to having a roommate and a hearty reminder of why I don’t want a puppy right now.
Pockets has been living with roommates for a while, so he was quiet, clean, and respectful. I even found his bouncer’s schedule less disruptive than I expected. I would wake up briefly when he got home in the wee hours of the morning, he’d let Stitch out & I’d go back to sleep fairly easily. In return, I made an extra effort to be quiet when I was awake during his downtime.
Stitch was very good at being quiet when he was closed up in the bedroom with Pockets while I was awake. He even stayed quiet when I started cooking bacon one weekend – impressive considering I would be a little upset to smell someone cooking bacon without me! He was also a fantastic snuggler. However his other manners left something to be desired, between food thievery and leather chewing (RIP 3 pairs of shoes & the ends of two belts). It’s been nearly 7 years since my last puppy and his antics saved me from battling any “puppy fever.”
Still, I was a little sad to see them both go at the end of the month, off to their next adventure.
Roommate 2 – The Long-Term Guy
Back to the hunt for a roommate and continuing with our dating parallels. Just before Pockets’s request, I started receiving “fix up” messages from my friend, Bridget. She had several friends on the hunt for a place. She figured person-to-person referrals would be better than strangers off the Internet (agreed!). They were all looking for something long-term, but with Bridget’s endorsement I wasn’t as worried about getting along with them.
Just as I was making arrangements with Pockets, I met Noah. He was Bridget’s childhood friend who had recently moved back to the area. After a good look at the real estate market, he’d decided to opt for renting for a while instead of buying. Sane choice.
He came over to see the place, meet Delta, and talk things over. It had a similar feeling to dating, the awkward “so, here it is” and figuring out what else to say. He and Delta hit it off right away. Delta continued to return his friendly advances until she had to stretch out on the floor to cool off. I laid out the terms of the rental and he said it sounded good. He was definitely interested but he didn’t really “close the deal.” There was some texting back and forth later, assurances he wanted the room but still no solid plans. We even had the “awkward run into each other in public when we weren’t expecting it” moment at the beach on Labor Day, complete with one or both of us doing one of those finger-gun hand gestures. He promised to follow up soon.
A little while later, I received a Venmo notification that he’d paid the first month’s rent. We made arrangements for him to pick up his key and chat about a few details. What came after was a bit like the “He’s Not That into You” dating scenario. You try to make plans but he’s vague and non-committal. Your mutual friend is assuring you that honest, he IS interested, he’s just really busy right now. I don’t know if you watched that movie, but the guy WAS into her. And Noah really did want to move in. And he did. Eventually. In early October.
I joked that the early days of living with Noah was a bit like having a new cat. I hardly saw him, I could barely even tell he was in the house most of the time. Occasionally I’d hear a door open and close or rustling in the kitchen, but that was it. And, like a cat, as he became more comfortable, I started to see him out and about more. Eating takeout at the table, chilling with Delta on the couch, etc. He started to ask to use things (the answer was always yes, but I don’t mind that he checked) and fill up the common spaces I’d cleared out for him.
It’s been a few months now and I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious. Just kidding. We are getting comfortable though. We can bitch about our work days or other stresses and generally talk about life when we’re in the mood. He’s figured out he can tease me on certain topics and we’ve both poked a little fun at each other. We still spend the majority of our time separately but in a companionable way. I think we’ll be just fine for as long as we both shall… need this arrangement.
*Side note/Fun fact: If you haven’t done the math – Pockets was born shortly before I moved in with my first roommate. One day during his stay, I was telling him about a Korn/Incubus concert I’d been to and realized it was over a year before he was born. Yeah, I feel old.