Thursday, April 2, 2009

Strangers in the Night, Second and Final Part

I don't want to admit what I'm about to admit. It feels like an admission of some horrible , embarrassing weakness. But I'm not sure why this is, so I might as well come out and say it: I like to come back to my house at the end of the day and know roughly what to expect there.

I know, I know, I'm a huge wuss. You'd think I have some kind of aversion to adventure, but that's not true at all: I've climbed Mount Fuji in a monsoon, worn Hawaiian-print pants, and came out as asexual. I think that because I'm a writer, I can handle any weird situation that happens to me. You know, I can just use it later for material. However, I still want my home to be my relatively uneventful castle. Is that really so strange?

And this is the problem of living with strangers-- a problem that I think asexuals in the San Franciscos, Londons, and New York Cities of the world are especially likely to face. Maybe I'm just extrapolating my own situation to other people-- I tend to do that. But I really do think that asexuals, who are less likely to have live-in partners, are more likely to live in inadequate situations. When I lived by myself, this was the most unusual thing that happened: I came back from a trip to find that my friend who had been cat-sitting had left the hot water running in the bathroom, and every surface in the apartment was covered with condensation. I can't remember walking into any unexpected circumstances in my time living with friends. I usually just came home to people sitting around playing MarioKart. But when you live with strangers, you're never quite sure what will happen. You could come home to your housemates doing anything from building a spare room to growing marijuana in the garage to having their friends live in the house while they're on vacation. All that, plus sharing a cubicle with 5 people during the day, is just more than I can handle.

I feel like as a "young person", I should be able to take this all in stride. But saying I "should" do something doesn't change anything. You've probably heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs-- frankly, I'm tired of hearing of it. But from my recent experiences, I've been able to come up with my own hierarchy of living situations. Here it is, from best to worst:
  • Living with people I know, whom I like, and who would be good housemates (similar neatness levels, schedules, etc).

  • Living by myself.

  • Living with people I know and like, but who may not be compatible in living styles.
  • Living with people I know, but not well enough to know if I like them.
  • Living with strangers.

  • Living with people I know and don't like (I tend to think the devil you don't know is worth a shot).

I don't know why I value "living situations" so highly-- enough to make them a semi-regular topic on this blog. I wish I could just live anywhere, but apparently, I get extremely indignant if a place isn't up to my standards. While I can joke about crashing on the Velvet Undergrounds' manager's couch a la Jonathan Richman, I'd find doing that for more than about a week profoundly unsettling.

My current situation would be fine-- and not even worth mentioning-- if it had a forseeable end. But it doesn't. Even though the economy is in the outhouse, rents have stayed stubbornly astronomical here. This isn't just a personal problem or an asexual problem-- it's a social problem, especially in places like San Francisco. I've talked here before about how asexuals seem to have greater rates of mental illness. But mental illness, and stress-related illnesses, are on the rise for everyone. I think a lot of this could be ameliorated (woot, SAT word) if we just had a little more peace, quiet, and personal space. Sure, some of us have chemical imbalances in our brains. I am absolutely not making light of anyone's problems, especially when I've had them myself. But should we really be trying to adapt to a crazed world? According to the Stoics, the key to happiness is living life in accordance with nature. How I'm supposed to do this in such unnatural surroundings remains largely a mystery.


Lia said...

I agree that concerns about one's living situation are not specifically an asexual problem. Finding adequate housing is an almost universal problem, especially with our current economic troubles and the ridiculous cost of housing in places like San Francisco and NYC. However, for an asexual who may not be expecting the conventional type of family, I think there are extra concerns about having to live with strangers or incompatible people. It's nice to live with "significant others", whoever they may be, and aces have to work harder to find those people and situations. That's why this is such an important topic to keep putting out there on this blog, on AVEN, and wherever else it can do the most good. Maybe that will facilitate the exchange of ideas and meeting up of people who want to find a better way to live.

Ily said...

Thanks, Lia. I know I can be really hypersensitive to my surroundings, so I'm glad you agree that it's an important topic :-) From my own conversations (nothing scientific), it seems like a lot of people just assume that at some point, they'll move in with a partner, so whatever situation they're in now is temporary. I don't mean this as a bad thing at all, but I don't think we can necessarily assume that, whether we're sexual or asexual. We shouldn't have to settle on a partner just because we can't afford housing. And we shouldn't be at some permanent financial disadvantage if we're single. It's like that movie "Slaves of New York" where a woman stays with her abusive boyfriend because she couldn't afford another apartment. Sadly, I think that situation could actually happen.

Isaac said...

Housing is an issue also in Spain. As you both have remarked, it is an ace-specific issue since for us is no longer a temporary situation. It's evidently a life-long issue for aromantic people, like me, but also for romantic people who are in a relationship at distance. A cause of nowadays housing problem is urbanistic speculation. Spain has long tradition of housing speculation. In first decade of 17th century, the King's favorite Duke of Lerma moved twice the court in order to take advantage of the added value of housing in the capital. I think it is another consequence of straight-couple and family-values privilege. Housing unities are designed and built for nuclear families; that's a fact. Students groups are adapting themselves to live in rental apartments originally designed for families, since this is what they find in the market. This situation may last he first years of their careers, but their expectations are eventually settle in an apartment in property with a spouse, with or without formal marriage. Mortgage is the new form of marriage. Recently, as the first consequence in Spain of the world-wide crisis, the housing market bubble has burst. There are too many housing unities in the market, so there will be no new building in the next years. Therefore, family-designed housing will be the market for the next years.

I wish a more single-friendly housing market. My preferences are almost the same than yours. For me, living by myself would be the first item, and living with strangers the last one. In my opinion, it's better a known drawback than an unknown feature.

Ily said...

I agree, Isaac, it's a problem that the housing we have doesn't really fit what our families are like now-- more people are staying single longer. Then again, in cities, we don't really have the room for every individual to have their own house or apartment. My wish is that there was a better way for people like us to connect-- those for whom living with non-family is a more permanent situation.

The Impossible K said...

I've had a lot of roommates- some more crazy than others- so I definitely feel ya on this... One of my roommates was so OCD and obsessed with getting married, she'd lecture me anytime I left a crumb on the counter- "threatening" that I'd never get married if I couldn't keep an immaculate kitchen :P
(Of course, it took all my energy not to laugh or make a snarky remark)
Needless to say, roommate situations really can affect your mental health. I swear, I've had some that drove me to the edge of crazy...

Ily said...

I guess I've been pretty lucky so far, because I've only ever had one roomate that really drove me nuts. I think this was mostly because we shared one very uncomfortable room that was roughly the size of a closet-- I think I would start to hate anyone in that situation.

NancyP said...

Is co-housing a potential future solution for asexuals and other singles (including elderly) who need affordable housing and would like both privacy and community? Small cluster of studio or one-bedroom apartments with common area? Childless couples might also be interested in one-bedroom apartment co-housing units. Admittedly, I live in a low-cost market, but I know someone who lives in a co-housing unit in a converted old 6-flat (for the non-Midwesterners, that's a 6-unit apartment building - 2, 4, 6 flat buildings are often family owned and occupied by extended family members, or owner lives in one unit and rents out rest).

Ily said...

I think cohousing is a cool idea, and I wish it would catch on more. There seem to be a relatively large number of cohousing communities in this area, but they have long waiting lists. And the cost of buying in would be prohibitive to most. The price might go down a bit if it was a more common thing.