People think that because I live in London I must be rich, drinking champagne out of a flask on the tube and hanging out with Eddy and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous all the time. But actually my first 10 months here I lived with seven other people in a complete shithole. It was a total disaster. Almost certainly illegal, too.
My room was fine, except that the walls didn’t touch the ceiling all the way. Can you imagine? I doctored the place up as much as I could with memorabilia from New York so that at least if my room was a mess it would be my own fault. But the communal areas reached a whole new level of inexplicable mayhem. The kitchen was always so gross that sometimes I’d eat crackers for dinner because I couldn’t be bothered cleaning up after people just so I could see the stove enough to cook on it.
The power would often suddenly go out in the kitchen if there were too many appliances on at the same time, meaning if you were cooking a nice dinner to impress a boy then the oven might shut off before the food was even done, a total boner kill.
Probably the worst, though, was that the bathroom had a wooden floor. I mean, who the fuck puts a wooden floor in a bathroom? The cheapskate who owns this building, that’s who. If it was a fabulous wooden floor, that would’ve been different. But no, this was a floor that got soggy when wet, so bad we had to keep a mop in the bathroom to sop up the extra puddles of water that never dried up completely after a shower.
I found the place online while still living in the U.S. because I didn’t want to spend my first few days or weeks in London living in a hostel. In hindsight, that would’ve been better. At the time, though, I felt so lucky because I found a cheap room in prime Dalston, a booming area, so I thought I was good to go. It seemed too easy, too good to be true.
And it was.
The thing that kept me there so long was the people. My housemates were a couple of hot French dudes, an actor who ate a lot of bacon and didn’t like to wear clothes very much, a bartender, a hot English guy, and one fabulous Beyoncé-loving black girl. Yaaaas. So that was fun. We were all young people with similar interests who loved music and art and culture, who came to London from somewhere else with a dream. That part of the experience was priceless.
At a certain point, though, I was fed up. Where you live is where you sleep, eat, have sex, drink, lounge around, have friends over, and there’s nothing worse than coming home to a place you absolutely hate. I had to get out. The cost of living on your own in London is so high that most people have at least one or two flat mates, often three or four. But nobody tells you that trying to find a new flat mate is sort of like going on a first date. You draw conclusions on people based on limited, 20-second interactions.
A few weeks ago I went to something called Speed Flatmating, which is just what it sounds like: speed dating, but for roommates. People who want rooms or want to pair up with people to start their own place have pink badges, and people who have rooms in their places and are on the hunt for roommates have white ones.
Each Speed Flatmating event goes off at a bar in the neighborhood you’re hoping to call home. I knew I wanted to stay in East London so I went to a meeting at a bar in Shoreditch. It was a lot of fun but also kind of awkward, too, because it was like nobody wanted to talk to anyone else. It was so awkward I had to down a whole bottle of rum to deal with the stress.
I got the courage to approach a group of guys who were looking for a new roommate because I’d already swallowed all my alcohol and, anyway, I spent too much time pretending to look busy on my phone and it was starting to look lame. I walked up to them and they were all immediately disinterested. They took one look at me and were not featuring any of it. I thought it was pretty funny actually because I was just trying to make conversation and it was clear they were throwing all possible shade.
Something tells me these straight boys didn’t feel like being turned on by the pretty loud (and also amazing) gay sex I would be having their home. They judged me based on what they saw even before giving me the time of day. The thing is, I did the same thing to other people, too. One girl looked too boring so I didn’t talk to her. Another girl wore a fabulous black and yellow coat and I made a beeline to her. Then, while I was talking to a cool couple from Australia this other girl who was essentially wearing what I was wearing—all black, leather, asymmetrical cuts, rings on every finger—ran my way.
I didn’t find any rooms or housemates that night, but it was definitely a fun sociological experiment about how people find living companions based on completely non-objective factors. So what makes a good housemate? Is it someone clean? Is it someone who pays the bills on time every month? Or is it someone who is just like you?
—Follow Madison Moore on Twitter: @popgazm