Once again I’m on the hunt for a place to live. This time I’m looking for a home back in Exeter for when I depart in April to complete the second half of my PhD. Each day I open a new e-mail from Gumtree (like a British Craigslist) hoping to find the perfect home.
And each day I remember what happened the last time I approved a home over the internet (In case you forgot, here’s a synopsis: houseboat in Nile, run into by the Imbaba ferry, backed-up bathroom drain, growing things in the stagnant water, can’t use the water heater because it sometimes malfunctions and starts smoking, cracks in the walls so large I could put my fingers through, moored so loosely we might actually sail somewhere…and then immediately sink because we’re listing so far over to one side.)
I hope with the fervent hope of the unhoused that this time things will work out. I am better armed this time: I’ve lived in Exeter for quite a while already so I know which areas of town I like, where the grocery store is in relation to the properties on offer and so forth.
But still, you cannot count on property listings to fully reveal the entire character of a place, so I’ve basically been inquiring about anything that looks even remotely suitable.
I’ve learned that many advertisers have a very different idea than mine of what “town centre” or “heart of Exeter” means. I’ve learned that if a person advertising a shared flat doesn’t put down the gender of the person you’ll be sharing with or what they’re looking for in a flatmate (”to share with single female”; “seeking quiet professional female”,) they’re definitely a man. (Maybe men simply don’t think this piece of information is important – though I have seen some ads specifically seeking a male roommate.) I’ve learned that the maps Gumtree provides aren’t all that useful and often pinpoint the house in the wrong place.
A word on male roommates: I’ve shared flats with men before and it’s been fine in the past, but it’s not exactly something I’d seek out. Especially if I have to share a bathroom with them. Yesterday I got a response from a woman who owns a flat where her son lives “with three other males, but please don’t let that put you off. They keep themselves to
themselves and are very clean, tidy and respectable. They would like
a female to re-dress the balance slightly, not to clean, cook or
nursemaid them as they are all good at looking after themselves!”
Doesn’t sound so bad until the next paragraph: “The house however needs a woman’s touch and you would have a free reign
there to spread out – the living room has three comfy sofas and hardly
gets used and you are free to put up pictures, etc. “
This only left me with several probing questions about the house. Why won’t anyone use the living room? Was there a horrible accident in there? Why do they want a female to redress the balance? I’ve never lived in a house of all women and thought, “Gee, it’d be great if there were some men living here too.”
On the other hand, there are definite advantages to male roommates. They’ll almost always help with heavy boxes. Most burglars will shy away from a place where they think a man is living (a recent article in Psychology Today included advice from a former burglar who encouraged women living alone to keep a pair of men’s work boots in a visible place outside to deter a potential robber.) There’s absolutely no danger of everybody in the house getting their period at the same time.
Actually what bothers me about the setup isn’t the idea of living with boys, it’s almost entirely the landlady’s description. Who even uses the term ‘a woman’s touch’ anymore? To me, that means cleaning, cooking and decorating, entirely the things she specified the guys can do themselves (well, except the decorating. She’s pretty clear about that.) What am I, June Cleaver?
Someday my house will come. Never mind a prince, all I want is a roof.