Last August, my lovely roommate left to go to school at Cambridge. I tried and failed to find a friend of a friend who was looking for an apartment, so I had to turn to Craigslist. Pathetic, I know.
Still, I was so confident. I had a great apartment, so I was sure girls would be banging down the door to live with me. And yeah, I got a lot of responses. But things didn't go as well as I had hoped.
I Love Exploring the City!
Turns out I was at a disadvantage. You see, I live at the intersection of Gramercy Park, Murray Hill and Kips Bay, not far away from Stuytown. I love my building, but the neighborhood is a vapid, cultural wasteland. All the bars are sports bars. When the Super Bowl, Santa Con, or New Year's Eve rolls around, I flee before the hoards of chanting and yelling bros descend upon my street. Every retail store is full of the same sequined, made-in-China miniskirts. There is a lot of sushi. Anyone who has lived in NYC for more than a year knows this, so only people who are new to the city or love sports bars and Santa Con want to live here.
Add to that the crazy requirements of my rental agency (salaried income, social security number, guarantor, perfect credit, commission doesn't count as income, three years' tax returns, no criminal record, ancestors came on the Mayflower, etc., etc.,.) and I never could have picked up a freelancer, creative or even pot smoker as a roommate.
As I read through what seemed like a the 20th exact same email, they all blurred together. And I wondered, who are all these girls? Is drinking wine and watching TV really their favorite pastime? If so, why not GTFO and go live in in the suburbs or Hoboken, where the cable is a few bucks cheaper and there is nothing interesting to tempt you outside of your home?
Here's the sad truth, though: I recognize this girl. Because I was her. When I moved to NYC, I loved "exploring the city." I think I even had that in my Twitter profile. I worked in advertising. I liked going to bars like Tonic and Brother Jimmy's with my friends. But would I want to live with my 23 year old self now? Nope. Definitely not.
Plus, it was weird how all the women emphasized, without fail, how super laid back and drama-free they are. Guys are laid back, if a little messy. Girls are not. They are passive aggressive, judgmental, or just plain insane. So at least 30% of these girls are either delusional, or lying. In interview after interview, each girl was like, "OMG, I'm never passive aggressive. I've had that happen to me and it sucks." It reminds me of when a guy is like, "All my exes are crazy bitches." Well, maybe it's not them. Maybe it's you.
What follows is a condensed email from about 30 different women who were really excited to see my apartment.
(I excluded the crazyface ones that I deleted. Italics are my asides and thoughts. The numbers indicate how many times I saw that almost exact phrase.)
"Hi! My name is Chelsea/Kate/Megan/Jennie. I'm relocating to Manhattan next month (4)/just graduated from [liberal arts school] (2)/moved here a year ago (3) and love it! I'm a 23 to 29-year-old professional female working in accounting(2)/consulting/advertising(4)/finance (5)/law. I'm clean (5) and organized (4), outgoing, very chill, down to earth (2), laid back (2), drama-free (4), playful (whoa, maybe save that for the OK Cupid profile), easy going (6) and respectful of privacy and space (3). I keep the common areas clean, though sometimes I have clothes on the floor in my bedroom! (3)
I have a very busy social (4) life. My hours are kinda long, depending on how busy it is, I usually work from 9 to 7:30 (4). On the weekends I love to go out with friends (5), go to the gym (3), grab drinks or dinner/check out restaurants with my friends (6), explore (5)/discover/walk around/make the most of the city, relax (3), go running (4), grab brunch, cook (5), paint my nails (That's a legitimate past time?), do hot (2) yoga (4), bake (2), watch football, and shop (2). My weeknights are usually chill (3), I like to come home and cook dinner, but I wouldn't mind grabbing a glass of wine (7) and catching up on bad TV (5) or watching movies (2). (Seriously, the wine and bad TV thing. Wow.)
I have lots of friends in the city (3) and Hoboken, and go out occasionally but I'm very respectful and don't bring the party home (8). Sometimes I like to have friends over for dinner parties, though! (3) (Be honest: you don't have friends over for dinner parties. You just think that you are the kind of person who does. You have people over for pre-games and Housewives re-runs with popcorn and ice cream.)
I currently live with two Craigslist girls and we're really good friends (3). (Actually, you hate those bitches and you aren't speaking to each other because they always leave dirty dishes in the sink. Am I close?) We love to get sushi drink wine and attend work functions together. (I am never attending your awkward work function. Ever.) But I want to live closer to my work in midtown (4). Your place is gorgeous and I would love to check it out and see if we are a great fit. (I can't wait to meet you and have you tell me how you love all music except for country.)
I was just overwhelmed by responses, and didn't even know where to start. There was one British girl that I really liked at the time, but because she wasn't a US citizen, she never would have qualified for the crazy requirements to get on the lease. Too bad, I feel like we would have gotten along.
It was getting close to the deadline, so I settled and ended up with a girl who pretty much was the exact description above: worked in finance, liked her wine, watched TV on her computer always, got drunk with friends, painted her nails, went to the gym. It didn't work out. And not because I had a hipster hissy fit and kicked her out. She just up and left the city after two months and went back to a wealthy suburb out west.
I started a search and then was like, this is stupid. Now I rent the extra room out on AirBnB. I meet lots of interesting foreigners and turn a bit of a profit on the rent. I'm pretty happy with it.
The People I Do Want to Live With
It didn't have to be that way. If I had to do it over again, here are the responses that I would email back right away and tell them to stop by, because they are unique (each response is from a different person, none overlapped) and sound like they have interesting things to say.
- I was born in Russia but emigrated here with my family when I was five.
- I'm the sales director for our Africa division, which in simplest terms means I plan safaris. I spent a few years abroad, and have been back in the city now for three years.
- While most of my friends in New York live or are finding places in Brooklyn, I'm going to be working 60 hours weeks and am looking for a reasonable commute to 59th and Park. I'm reaching out not just because the apartment sounded nice, but also because many of my friends are journalists or writers of some kind, so I thought we might get along. (You sound like one of those cool finance people who are biding their time until they save up enough money to quit their job and start their own restaurant.)
- Outside of work, I enjoy theater (in an ideal world, I'd see a play every week), consuming and attempting to make cocktails (at least she's creative about her drinking), long conversations over dinner, and reading long-form journalism and literary fiction. (Oooh, let's have conversations about the latest non-fiction story we read! I will definitely join your book club.)
- I love to travel! I do it as often as possible. In the last year I've been to Chicago, Napa, San Francisco, Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. (Dude, nice.)
- I haven't watched TV in three years. (Yes, fuck reality TV.)
- I love being outdoors. I spend most of my money on good food, concerts, and traveling--and I have absolutely no regrets about it. (I like your attitude ... as long as you can pay rent.)
- I typically spend non-work (and non friend) time taking Latin dance lessons at a studio in midtown. I'm also on the board of a charitable organization which along with dance keeps me pretty busy! (Aw, I like this.)
- I’m the type of person that always likes to know about all the fun/unique/interesting/artsy things going on in the city. Traveling is my passion and something I just can't ever get enough of. Music is my favorite past time--I like house/electronic/indie/classic rock and I go to shows often, but I don't bring the party home. (Word. Let's party together.)
Who knows if I'll go through this process again. But at least now I have a plan of action if I'm ever looking for a roommate. Ditch the TV watchers, get the girl who Latin dances, is on the board of a charity and has traveled to five places in the past year.