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Home alone no more

Can a confirmedly anti-social columnist
return to living with roommates?

Copyright 1995 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally appeared in Xtra magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.

bout a year ago I wrote a column on renouncing relationships, complete with a picture of me in my Therapy? T-shirt with "Leave Me Alone" written on the back in 600-point type. That decision was the second major anti-social move I'd made in my life. The first took place much earlier, when I swore off that other R-word -- roommates (or doom-mates, as one friend of mine calls them). But now, for the first time since 1988, I'm preparing to move into a shared place once again.

Like most people, I've had my share of roommate horror stories. Probably the worst was the time one moved out with no notice, and my remaining roomie assured me she knew someone who would be a perfect replacement. This perfect specimen proceeded to smoke in our non-smoking apartment, wreck my stereo, steal things, and plead poverty every time rent day rolled around, despite having enough money to go out clubbing every night.

Finally, I asked my other roommate just how well she knew her. It turned out the extent of their acquaintance had been one drunken one-night stand at a party. When asked what possessed her to invite someone she only knew from the waist down to move in, all she could do was reminisce about her outstanding anatomical features -- "Honest! She was so big, I fisted her by accident!"

But of course, living with others isn't always hell. I have very fond memories of one particular anarchist co-op house I lived in. Most of the inhabitants not only lived together, but played in the same band, worked at the same data entry sweatshop, and slept together in many and various combinations, all of which made for a insane level of intensity, both positive and negative. When we weren't at each other's throats, we had a great time.

The house's distinctive culture could sometimes put off newcomers -- like the time two friends of mine came over for the first time and were greeted by one of the third-floor residents hurling a rolled-up sleeping bag down the stairs at them while screaming "Neutron bomb!"

But I think my favourite incident from that house was the time several of us were eating dinner and heard two pairs of feet coming up the stairs, one marching smartly in high heels and the other stumbling and tripping. The door opened, and out came the man from the basement, blindfolded, his hands cuffed behind him and his pants down around his ankles, being led on a leash by the woman from the first floor. "He's been misbehaving again," she said. "Can I make him masturbate in front of you?"

All in all, roommates are a mixed bag, but one that I've refrained from dipping into for seven years now. However, as a recession casualty, I've been forced to face the fact that the one-bedroom I moved into when I was making over $30K a year is no longer affordable. Recently, I was grumbling about the utter lack of cheap bachelor apartments that actually had windows and were located above ground, when a friend of mine mentioned she was leaving her place -- which went for $200 less than I was paying. I'd seen her place -- two lovely little rooms on the top floor of a skinny Victorian row house in the Annex, complete with balcony. However, there was a catch -- two roommates on the floor below.

Hmmm. Could I handle it? Frantically, I debated. The apartment was beautiful, though badly in need of repainting, considering my friend was a heavy smoker. I'd been mentally planning the balcony garden before I even knew she was going to move. But roommates? True, I'd have the third floor to myself. And one of the two I already knew and liked, while the other was planning to leave and could be replaced by anyone we chose (preferably on a sounder basis than sexual prowess or internal capacity). So, in a rash moment, I signed the lease.

Now I'm getting ready to move, while waiting for the inevitable sense of panic to set in. And surprisingly, it hasn't. I actually feel pretty positive about the whole thing. I suppose the moral of the story is that miracles can and do happen. Of course, in six months I might be cursing the day I ever let myself be talked into this. But right now, it feels good. Who knows, maybe that other R-word will be the next taboo to fall. If I can move into a shared apartment, anything is possible.

Want to know how it turned out? Check out Nihil Obstat 301, one year later...


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