Saturday, February 7, 2009

Strangers in the Night

A new label has been added: Living situations. I think that where you live and with whom is important in terms of relationships, but unless those relationships are romantic (ie, how to combine your home decor with that of your spouse), living situations are rarely talked about past college roommate issues. So guess what I'm going to do? Yep, that's right, talk about them.

Up until last month, I lived with my 2 cats in a large (although decrepit and overpriced) studio apartment here in San Francisco. Then, the cats and I moved to a house on the other side of town. We now live with two people, a dog, and another cat. The reason for this move was mostly financial-- my rent is now a little more than half of what it was before. But I was also often lonely living by myself, and I thought living with other folks would be a nice change. It turns out that may or may not be true. Like many people in San Francisco, my housemates are from Craigslist, people who were complete strangers before I answered their ad seeking a housemate. I don't know if this is a common thing in your area, but here, it's not relegated to just the young and poor (although I happen to be both). Some of these random people do become good friends. But I think most people who meet in this way continue to lead very separate lives. And somehow, that's even lonelier than living by yourself.

I was surprised at the generally positive publicity that living with total strangers seems to get. I'm always told that living with friends destroys friendships, and that when you live with strangers, you're "on your best behavior". Well, I can finally compare the two situations from my own experience. In my senior year of college, I lived in a house with 3 good friends and one stranger. There was drama sometimes, and lots of it. But at the end of the year, I emerged still friends with my friends. If I wanted to be alone, I could go to my room or the usually-empty running track near the house. But if I wanted to see my friends, all I had to do was walk upstairs to the living room. Now, I have to take a bus to see them-- any of them. For me, living with people who were already friends is the clear win. But, awkwardly enough, I'm not sure how to go about achieving that. It's not like college where everyone changes their housing at the end of the year.

Also, totally unrelated: Per one of your suggestions, I watched A Home at the End of the World. You're right, I really liked the unconventional family in the movie. And parts of it ("Come on, we're all beautiful and lonely here") were really funny, although others were quite sad. But I totally didn't read Bobby as asexual. I can see why someone might, although if I had to choose, I would definitely call him bisexual.

7 comments:

Myself--Who Else? said...

Huh. Interesting. You're right... there's lots of room for discussion around the topic of living situations. Why don't we talk about it ever? Good call.

I've never lived with friends and I've always really wanted to. A couple of times it's almost happened, but things always got in the way... people went away to grad school, got married, etc. And now my friends are all living with boyfriends / girlfriends / spouses, so at this point I don't think it will ever happen.

Right now I live alone and I guess I like it... although having a roommate around would make me more self-disciplined I think. Get me to do my chores and such, not be a slob.

Ily said...

Thanks! Living alone is pretty rare here. When I used to tell people I lived by myself, they were always like, "REALLY??!!" One problem with roommates is that you probably have different ideas of how to do chores. People seem to tend to stick with the sorts of habits they grew up with.

cale said...

The book form of Home at the End of the World is far better. It is my go-to book whenever I have nothing to read. But you become far more aware of Bobby's asexuality in the book (I think it's explicitly mentioned as well), than in the movie. It's a tad long, but well worth the read.

Ily said...

Cool, I could tell from the movie that the book would be good. I'll have to put it on my list (which actually isn't TOO long at the moment...).

Coleslaw said...

Living with people... Oh man. You're right; in college, at the end of every year, there's a scramble for who lives with whom. My best friend and her boyfriend want me to move in with them next year, and I'm still looking into living with my first-year room mate...

I lived with a complete stranger this year, and while it worked out well, we didn't really have enough shared interests to build any kind of meaningful/lasting friendship. When I move out, we probably won't talk again.

I think the key to living with new people is finding something you're both passionate about and building a friendship around that while you cohabit the same place... I've never tried it, so I'm not sure if it works or if it's any more or less sucessful then the random roomies route, but... It's what I'll be aiming for when I need to get a place in the city. :)

birdnerd said...

The only people I've ever been able to stand living with are my parents. I actually did enjoy moving back in with them for my first couple years of grad school. It's too bad there's so much social stigma attached (and that my commute was so unbearably long). On the other hand, there is also something beautiful and intimate about cooking a nice dinner in my tiny studio apartment and setting the table for one.

Ily said...

Yeah, I think it's lame that there's a stigma attatched to living with parents. With the economy being so bad, there really shouldn't be. According to Ralph Nader (possible ace), we're the first generation to make less money than our parents. And hey, they're genetically programmed to not kill you!