How Old Is ‘Too Old’ For Roommates?

My friends and I are a little bit younger than the guys in the article, but not by much. Most of my friends are in their 30s and still living with roommates. Mostly because we don’t have a choice, but also because we like to. I, myself, have two. As a natural extrovert who spent a lot of time alone as a kid, there’s pretty much no limit to the amount of socializing I’m willing to engage in. After a day spent writing in solitude, it’s nice to have someone to talk to, make dinner with, etc. (You do not want to know how much food I used to throw out when I was cooking for one.) We all know it’s ridiculously hard to find a person who you think is hot and want to fuck, but whom you also like hanging out with, and who has a good brain and a good heart, etc., and feels all the same things about you. But it’s also ridiculously hard to find a good roommate-friend; just because someone’s a good friend doesn’t necessarily make them good to live with, and vice versa. Is one of these things more inherently valuable than the other?

The conventional wisdom is that when a person gets older, they should stop focusing so much on their friends and start focusing on their romantic partner, but I think that’s bullshit. My boyfriend provides something special for me that none of my friends can, but I love all my people equally, albeit in different ways. I hate the idea that my love for my dude is automatically privileged over my love for my friends. We see this all the time in phrases like “it’s a good thing single women have their friends to turn to,” as if friends are some sort of backup plan. My friends are not a backup plan. My friends are my family. (My family is also my family, but like a lot of young city-dwellers these days, I don’t live near them anymore.) I might have been rolling my face off when I told my roommate/BFF that she’s the sister I never had, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I love my boyfriend, but I hate the idea that loving him could take me away from my roommates if/when we decide to move in together.

But does it have to? My friends and I have often fantasized about starting a commune where we all help raise each other’s kids. It’s mostly a joke, but could it work? Two of the people my boyfriend lives with are married to each other, and they still manage to participate in the small collective that is their home. Just because this scenario isn’t condoned by modern Western culture doesn’t mean it’s not a good one; there are a ton of historical precedents for it. Living alone is, after all, a relatively recent luxury.

Capitalist society has a funny selectivity about how much communal living it will tolerate. The prosperous nuclear family is okay, because hetero marriage is ordained by God, and also because this is a unit that buys a lot of stuff. (And despite what a Randian might tell you, children cannot raise themselves.) But anything on a larger scale than that is systematically frowned upon. Could this be because by combining resources and helping each other out, people end up buying less crap? Or could it be because it looks an uncomfortable amount like a small microcosm of communism?

I’m loathe to make any sweeping statements about human nature, because it’s impossible to know what it really is, and also because different people are different. But for many people, communal living offers benefits that living alone cannot. And in the future, as resources grow scarcer, I can only imagine we’ll move towards a more communal culture to ensure our species’ survival. But for now, I’m not going to judge a natural introvert for living like a hermit, and in return, I don’t want to be judged for living in a way that truly makes me happy. Friend love and romantic love are not mutually exclusive, otherwise I’d be fucking my friends, and I doubt my opinion on this will change as I approach the dreaded age of 40.

Photo: WENN

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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.