Housemate-Hunting Is a Little Like Online Dating

Housemate-Hunting Is a Little Like Online Dating

We’ve attended some former housemates’ weddings and baby showers; with others, we trade email updates. A few, though, just vanished. What happened to Judah, who never did learn to sort the recyclables from the trash? Did Deb get sober and go to graduate school? And what about Ari, divorced with a two-year-old, who moved out after she was laid off from the vegan bakery? I hope she found a soft place to land.

“Aren’t you worried about having housemates, with a kid?” people ask, and I know they’re thinking about pedophiles and sociopaths. All I can say is that we rely on self-selection, intuition, references … and no small amount of luck.

My partner and her brothers grew up in a rambling house that welcomed a series of live-in graduate and exchange students; my childhood home always had an open door for a relative or friend in need. So this feels normal to us: extra sets of keys dangling on the rack, someone else’s music filtering through our bedroom ceiling, the soft beep-beep of a housemate coming home late, setting the alarm and padding up the wooden steps.

What will our daughter make of this shifting cast of characters? Maybe the thing her parents have long believed: Most people are good. All of us are flawed. And strangers are just the ones you haven’t gotten to know yet.

When Sasha was six, and our third floor temporarily vacant, she slipped upstairs with a silver Sharpie and inked the names of our housemates onto a corner of the blond wood: James, Grace, Cynthia, Charley, Munish, Deb, Judah …

We made her erase it with fine-grade sandpaper. But her touch was light, maybe on purpose, and the names didn’t completely disappear. If you squint, in the late afternoon when amber light spills through the dormers, you can still see them, all the people who left their indelible print on our lives.

Originally posted on Purple Clover

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