• Fri, Aug 31 2012

How Old Is ‘Too Old’ For Roommates?

A recent New York Times article on four straight guys who’ve lived together in New York for the past 18 years set off a barrage of criticism and defensiveness in the comments and around the Internet. (You don’t say!) Any man who fails to marry and have children by the age of 40, the conventional wisdom goes, is in a state of “arrested development” and needs to “grow up.” Or if he’s going to insist on being single, he should at least have the decency to punish himself with loneliness. How dare he form a non-traditional family with his friends?

Okay, so I’m paraphrasing and exaggerating, but you get the idea. The narrative for single and childless women is similar, only it’s tinged more with pity than accusation. These people are seen as unfit romantic partners, career-less drifters, and worse. (And perhaps some of these specific accusations hold water for some of the men described in the article.) And yet, I hold that there’s nothing inherently wrong or immature about adult people banding together to save money and form an emotional support system.

I say this as someone who grew pretty fatalistic during the seven years I spent looking for love in NYC. (I realize I’m still pretty young, but I’m way melodramatic when it comes to dating, and up until I met my current man piece, I was trying very hard to accept the fact that I was GOING TO BE ALONE FOREVER.) That shit is not easy! Sure, you can go on OkCupid dates or whatever (provided you can deal with how depressing and dead end it can be), but there’s only so much control you can exert over when and if you meet your person. It’s not always an individual’s fault that they’re single. (Plus, a small minority of the population is aromantic/asexual.) And just because you’ve hit a certain age after which it’s considered inappropriate to have roommates (30?) doesn’t mean you stop having emotional needs. Some people are fine with living alone and hanging out with their friends from time to time, while others require more of a family-like situation. Is it better to get a one bedroom apartment (provided you can afford it) and count down the days until you find a partner to fill the other side of your bed? Or is it better to have an awesome life that makes you happy and if someone comes along, sees how great your life is, and wants to be a part of it, even better? Anything but the latter option would drive me insane.

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  • Mikah

    Gee, this article for serious made me feel better about my pretty awesome 4-person house (not to mention, you know, my ForeverAloneTM status)

    • Jinxie

      No kidding. Most of the time I forget that having roommates past one’s 20′s ISN’T normal for most of the US, because I live in San Francisco and it’s just the done thing here. I’m 32 and I’ve got 2 roommates; most of my unmarried/partnered friends are in their 30′s-early 40′s and out of all of them only 1 person lives on her own. Living alone just isn’t possible for most of us here. Luckily I love my roommates and our home and our rent is relatively cheap because we’ve lived here for years, but…I’ve lived there for years. I am SO ready for a change and a different lifestyle and having my own space but I can’t do that unless I leave town.

  • Jinxie

    Oh! And the boyfriend (or girlfriend) thing! I’ve been with my dude for over a year, and we’re at a point where I’m thinking about the future and how I would, yes, like to live with him at some point, but that is not a decision to be taken lightly now. (Ok, some would say it’s a decision you should never take lightly, but whatever.) If we move in together, it means each of us has to give up our current apartments/roommates. Like you said, that sucks from the “I love my roommate like family and will miss her” standpoint but it’s also a mega big deal from a financial standpoint.
    Ugh, obviously I’ve got a lot of thoughts and issues re. this topic. Sometimes having roommates feels normal, sometimes I feel like a failure at my age having housemates, sometimes I just feel depressed because the market has me trapped in this housing situation.

  • mchuge

    Different strokes for different folks. The end.

  • Alysa

    Thanks so much, Jamie. You literally just made my day with the aromantic/asexual comment– we get so little attention from popular media, and if we do, it’s like that Fox news stunt a little while ago. Be my platonic life partner? (Or at least friend?)

    • Jamie Peck

      I’m happy to have made you happy. :)

  • Randi

    Omg…my last roommate was literally in her 80′s. I could never use the excuse of being too old for having a roommate when I lived with her, but I always wondered how she dealt with living with me.

  • RM

    I’m almost 40 and live with 2 roommates. I pay about half the amount of rent that I’d pay if I lived alone, and I get a much bigger and better apartment. That’s all there is to it.

  • Kj

    Well, it’s kinda like living with the parents. I admit that it’s not ideal due to the awkwardness with “overnight visitors,” (if ya know what I’m sayin’), and they do frequently make me want to tear my hair out, but we love each other and I can be here for my siblings and they are here for me and in many ways it’s much better than being alone.

    Although I do miss my walking around naked days. Le sigh.

  • Annamarie

    Yes, yes, yes, in defense of housemates. Please call them housemates. They aren’t sharing your bedroom after all.

    There are way too many lonely people in our society. I’m hoping more find their way to sharing housing and find good housemates.