My primary resource was Craigslist, where the ads ranged from the unhelpfully vague (“Room available, call xxx-xxxx”) to the weirdly specific (“Looking for paleo Aries to help raise pygmy goats, troubleshoot Ruby on Rails, and occasionally cuddle”). Once in a while, though, I would come across a post that seemed promising, and fire off an email introducing myself.
(Fun fact: I got more responses when I didn’t mention my field of study.)
In these interactions, there’s bound to be a little harmless truth-omitting. The person advertising the apartment will play up the patio and private bathroom, but they probably won’t highlight the partying neighbours. They’ll warn you about their four dogs, but they might not mention their 4 a.m. shift at work. And really, why should they? That’s the kind of information that is best revealed once you’ve moved past the “casual Internet stranger asking if the room is still available” stage and into the “we might actually be living together; let’s make sure we both know what we’re getting into” stage.
And of course, in my email introductions, I coloured a few truths myself. Below are some of my oft-repeated lines, along with what might have been closer to the truth.
- “I’m pretty chill.”
- Translation: “I have a ton of pet peeves, but I feel it’s polite to inform you of only two. The others will become clear through a series of passive-aggressive sticky notes utilizing my yearly quota of smiley faces.”
- “I love cats. Yours look really cute!”
- Translation: “I’m a fan of cats in theory, but I feel that actually living with some might cure me of that. To be fair, though, they probably feel the same way about humans.”
- “I like dogs — yours looks super friendly.”
- Translation: “I am willing to interview canine applicants for the position of running buddy. I draw the line at food-stealing, shoe-gnawing, muddy paw prints, messy front yards, hair-shedding, the smell of wet fur, and generally everything that makes a dog a dog.”
- “I’m a pretty clean person …”
- Translation: “I once proposed a strict three-sponge system in the kitchen, in which sponges were designated for use on dishes, counters and appliances, and the floor by a Roman numeral inscribed in Sharpie, starting with ‘I’ for the dishes, which could then be easily changed to ‘II’ and then ‘III’ as the sponge got rattier and was better suited to less hygienic tasks.”
- “… but I do sometimes have a tendency to leave my books and things around the house.”
- Translation: “I have turned the corner of the living room into my personal office, complete with a post-modernist collage of bobby pins, old receipts, Latin homework, Nyquil, and Ikea mailers.”
- “As you requested in your ad, I am a Christian, but you should probably know that I’m pretty liberal politically.”
- Translation: “STRAIGHT WHITE CHRISTIAN MALE CISGENDER ABLE-BODIED PRIVILEGE [pause to wipe foam from mouth] SHOULD BE CHECKED AT ALL OPPORTUNITIES”
- “I’m a bit of an introvert.”
- Translation: “During the weekends of one summer in college, I sometimes scheduled time to step onto the porch for a few seconds. That way, when my sister asked me, ‘Did you leave the house today?’, I could truthfully reply that I had.”
Fortunately, all truth-omitting aside, I wound up finding what seems to be a great situation for all parties. My new roommate brings home a lot of organic produce to share; I’m happy to share my baked goods in return; and the resident cats and I get along famously.
Of course, I haven’t started singing in the shower yet, so that balance of happiness could change. I’ll keep you posted.