Think you know someone? Wait until you live with them and watch them shed their “appropriate behaviour for human interaction” skin as soon as the removal van has left. Nothing is out of bounds when you are shoved into a confined space with someone for an extended period of time.
It is as if they reveal themselves, elegantly emerging from their cocoon, in a moment I could only describe as the mask-removing scene of the original Predator movie (complete with sinister laugh).
This just brings up a point of how well you know these people prior to moving in with them. It is a big test on cohabiting and sees a lot of friendships and relationships disintegrate. By the end of it, you can have a completely different perspective on that person.
You might suddenly discover they are an avid collector of stuffed dead animals, maybe they like nude art, or think it’s fine to leave wet towels and dirty clothes strewn across the house as if they’re auditioning to be on an episode of Hoarders. Or, the most common diabolical trait of all – those dreaded people who like to see how long it takes for dirty dishes and unfinished meals to turn into sentient beings. I don’t care for having sandwiches hissing at me before scuttling off.
I am no stranger to this experience. I have rented with friends, strangers, and two failed attempts at living with partners (I can sense your eyes of judgment). You may think I am just cynical. I like to think I am a realist … either that or I have picked the messiest people the world has to offer.
Some of these experiences have been good and have resulted in new or stronger friendships. It has also tested my patience when it comes to all sorts of shenanigans and has made me realise it is partially luck of the draw and partially how you cope with them.
It has taken me almost nine years of renting to learn how to live with others in semi-harmony. Open communication, ground rules and the ability to escape once in a while can help alleviate the stress or help you avoid a cataclysmic argument, the likes of which could bring about the apocalypse.
Not to mention there are both advantages and disadvantages to living with others. Sure, you can no longer prance about the house in a state of undress while Enya plays in the background, but you can share the workload as well as sharing stories with other people.
And you know what? I would not exchange any of these dreadful experiences for anything in the world.
How else would I have disgusting and hilarious stories to tell others? Like that time I witnessed a nude German man scurry back to my housemate’s room upon seeing me at three in the morning, or that time I woke up to find a stranger breaking in through my window because he thought I was his girlfriend. Or the worst – that time a cat hurled itself at my face in the middle of the night, resulting in me screaming like a 12-year-old girl at a One Direction concert.
It’s about the journey, people! That horrible, horrible journey.
This column was originally published in mX (August, 2014).