Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Valerie Retrospective
Part 2: The Living Situation

For years, I have been living in a shared house. Though some people have trouble conceiving of it, it's pretty much the only thing I know. Before I lived in a shared house, I lived in a dorm or with my parents. I have never been on my own. At first I liked it. And then when I slowly stopped liking it, I kept telling myself that living in a shared house is a good way to keep in regular contact with other human beings. But it's not.

More on this in a second. Right now I want to rant about something related. You know what I really can't stand any more about the shared living? It's the smell! One of my housemates has a problem. I don't know what it is - if it's just an aversion to bathing, or some kind of disease or what - but he trails a stench wherever he goes. I have to avoid where he's been for 10 minutes or so until the odor dissipates. It's worst in the bathroom, where not only does his smell accumulate in the small, warm space, but he also splatters water everywhere with reckless abandon. I'd feel bad for him, except he's so antisocial, it makes me angry. He never speaks to you or looks at you unless he wants something. He just fills the entire house with his possessions (OK, now he keeps them confined to his two rooms and the basement and a shed outside, but still! You should have seen his crap everywhere when he moved in!) and works on propagating his odor.

The rest of the housemates are only marginally better.

People talk about how sad it is that most people don't know their own neighbors. But is it not infinitely sadder that I don't even know the people who live in the next room? I am used to feeling isolated because I'm so inhibited and socially incompetent, but in this case I don't think it's my fault! Of the other three housemates, two of them don't spend much time at home, and when they get here, they immediately rush to their rooms and close the doors behind them. The fellow-renter-and-also-landlady is the only person here who makes any effort at being friendly, but once she starts talking, it's impossible to escape from her. I find myself avoiding her completely just so I don't have to get trapped in an hour-long one-sided conversation.

I keep thinking there might be some hope for interaction if we had an appealing common space. But our living room has no television (the one thing that might draw people together), and the couches smell like old dog. Even after two steam cleanings.

Living here is such a downer. Sometimes I wonder if I should search for a new place--someplace where the people are not so absorbed in their personal lives that they ignore the people right around them. Or maybe, if only to get away from the reeking otter that I live with, consider an apartment of my own. But how will I afford to live alone? And why move somewhere that's almost certain to be farther away from where I work?

Conclusion: Yes, my housemates suck, but at least none of them are homicidal maniacs. I guess living in a place with cheap rent and people who don't bother you is not that bad. I just have to stop thinking that my housemates are going to be my ticket to friendship, and start thinking of them as what they are: self-absorbed robots who aren't worth worrying about.