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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarter

I have, myself, been looking for a new roommate to replace one who mistook my apartment for a halfway house for unemployed Europeans. (Miscommunication, perhaps?) Between untoward house guests rolling joints in my living room and questionable (at best) decorating skills (have you met anyone who has to see everything s/he owns at all times?), it's time to break ties. So this week I picked up Stephanie Wu's collection of essays on roommates, The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters to have a good laugh and remind myself it really wasn't that bad after all. (Sort of.)

Roommates are everywhere. From boarding school to college to adulthood in a big city, they are almost inevitable in the 21st century. They make up some of the most popular television shows throughout history including The Odd Couple, Golden Girls, Friends, Felicity, and even today, How I Met Your Mother. We watch reality shows that thrive on the roommate relationship. Some experiences are great and others are horrific -- few are a happy medium. In this collection of stories from Stephanie Wu, true tales of roommate experiences are shared all the way from boarding school to young adulthood. 

Oh, how prescient this book was. I had it in my queue for quite a while, but since I've been dealing with a problem roommate situation (as mentioned above), I decided to pick it up and read this collection of anecdotes about both good and bad roommates. Some of these stories made me grateful my own situation wasn't as bad, and some of them made me desperately miss living alone. The funniest part of the connection between real life and that in the book was that my situation most resembles those from the college roommate section. And I'm in my early 30s. I don't particularly love sharing my home, but it's the price you pay in New York City to live frugally. Whether it's because you have a massive apartment in a pre-war building (that's me), or you want to buy into a beach house share over the summer -- at some point in big cities roommates are inevitable. It's not ideal, but we're moving onward and upward.

One of the most memorable stories in this book was about subletting and having one's apartment quickly become the headquarters for a national gang. There was also the one about the stealing roommate who was squirreling toilet paper under her bed. (After all, some people use much more toilet paper than others and then are continually confused as to why the toilet clogs.) It was one part hilarious and two parts sigh inducing because quite unfortunately for most of us, we all had something similar happen. The absolute worst probably would have been the identity stealing roommate. Seriously – what the literal #%&@?

I am not sure that having roommates gets any easier for someone like me who desperately needs alone time and who is very particular about how her home is kept. I like for things to be neat and clean and in order, and living with other people can be anxiety inducing when their way of living doesn't match yours. Some of the stories in this book go further than that, and it's not about different styles of living than about actual violation of privacy and the right to a safe place to live. I also wish that I could say that things got easier as you got older. That's also not entirely true. I went from living alone to having two roommates, one of whom is wonderful and the other is a bit of a child. You can't win them all though. So instead, we just find replacements. Because when you live in a big city like New York, you'll rarely be without roommates. Therefore, having a collection of stories such as these, you get a chance to laugh and realize that it could always be worse. (Again -- sort of.)

For purchase below (Kindle version!). 

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