Choosing to house-share via a website is a bizarre leap of faith. I mean, you email back and forth, arrange to meet and then if all goes well, move in a few days later. What on earth can you figure out about a person you’ve just met online that makes you decide you can co-habit? It’s speed dating on crack.
Of course, there’s the obvious things to look for; do you like the house and your room, is it conveniently located to where you work, does the neighbourhood possess all the amenities you’d be needing like a supermarket, bakery, brothel, I mean church? But does this person have an ice pick under their bed? Not so easy to check.
In one more week I shall be an unemployed bum yet again. Most people would be upset by this, but I’m quietly hoping I didn’t get that job I went for last week because a dose of unemployment will give me time to write. Plus without any money, maybe I’ll lose a couple of the kilos I’ve put on after four months being stuck to a chair for eight hours a day.
The job is at a university, helping manage flat rentals for students. They’re at the stage where they’ve lived with each other for a couple of months and personality clashes are beginning to show. Of course, all this has done is make me ponder my own
disastrous colourful history of flat-sharing.
I’ve been through this process many times now. My decisions are usually based on nothing more concrete that a feeling, an instinct and, surprisingly often when I think back on it, alcohol. The first time I opted to live with strangers I was 26. The ad said they were looking for someone over 28 but I chose to ignore this. It was 11am when we met and within a few minutes they were serving me champagne. Three hours and many glasses later, I left with a new home.
Instinct paid off here and I lived happily there for three years, until one of the three housemates started a relationship with a manipulative psycho bitch and the house dismantled. Two housemates left and instinct failed me abysmally with the choice of replacement.
It’s probably my fault. I was, not for the first or last time, led astray by aesthetics. The best candidate of a bad bunch was also the prettiest. And at first he seemed fantastic, but it soon became evident that he was a habitual liar and, we came to suspect, a gay male escort. I wouldn’t have minded the gay escort part – whatever, each to their own – but he caused no end of problems with his lies, and worse, when we finally got him to agree to leave, he owed us an enormous amount of money.
As I helped him load his belongings in his parents car, he spewed more lies to them in front of me. I was so angry I wanted to spew some truths back at him, but they looked like such nice people and obviously thought the sun shined out of their son’s overworked bum. He looked at me with his damn pretty face as if to beg me not to shatter their illusions, so I didn’t.
Another time, I came close to ignoring my instinct. I saw a place, wasn’t overawed by it but needed somewhere to stay quickly. I couldn’t see any glaringly obvious freak tendencies from this woman. Plus she had a cat, which gives you instant points in my eyes. Something wasn’t quite right though and I knew it, but I was ignoring myself and had all but made up my mind to accept her offer. Just as I was walking out the door she was hit by an afterthought and said “Oh, by the way, I’m Jewish, so there’s no eating bacon in the house. I hope that’s not a problem.”
Well hell yes woman, you betcha that’s a problem! Bacon is one of my five main food groups and, after cake and potatoes, it’s the most important part of the day.
Moving to London I had three choices of flatmate. Again, I was in a hurry and wanted to be set up somewhere within two weeks of landing. The first offer I got turned out to be a scam, run by a group of Africans entailing some dodgy “you must place £500 in a Western Union account before you can see the place” instructions. I suffered a day of ignorant gullible tourist syndrome and thought that perhaps this is just the way it’s done in London. Luckily my brains returned the next day.
I had also set up a time to meet two other potential housemates. One girl was some sort of alternative therapist. She sounded interesting, but the judgemental part of me was picturing crystals, hairy under arms and a house that made you scrunch up your nose involuntarily each time you entered from all the peppery incense.
The other one ticked so many boxes, as far as my
shallowness interests went, that instinct told me she must be too good to be true. She had a background in film production, once worked at Pinewood Studios, was a singer, a dancer, her brother was a session musician and her friends were all some version of creative. More importantly though, we emailed each other that week almost every day. In fact every email I sent was a humorous one and, starting to feel all alone in the big bad city, I was enjoying the chance to connect with a human being in that way. Anyone who understands my sense of humour and can hold my interest in written form gets even more points than a cat.
So of course I met the second one first. We talked for two hours, including discussing the all important house tradition of wine every evening, after which she declared she had an instinct about me and offered me the room. And that’s how I became an Eastender.
I could write a book on how and why that living arrangement went wrong, but let’s just save my fingers all that work and say attractive people + drama + Jack Daniels = disaster for me. But you can’t say I’m not trying. According to (2009) figures from the website Beautiful People (online dating for the world’s genetically blessed), the least attractive people in the world are in Britain. Yet somehow I still managed to get myself into a mess in London. According to Beautiful People, moving to Sweden, Norway or Brazil would be certain disaster for me.
Maybe the Scots will prove to be much less attractive than Londoners. One can only hope.