Sunday, 23 February 2014


The magic moment is here. The third; perhaps the fourth date. Or the first…or whatever. You’re bringing someone home ‘to physically express your affection for them’.

You open the bedroom door.
Then you’re startled to hear: ‘Hello! Don’t forget – it’s your turn to take the bins out. Ooh – who’s your friend?’

Yep, it’s your actual room-mate. They’re still here, curled up in their single bed because they didn’t go out like they promised. Oh dear. Well, scrabble, it is then.

The word 'room-mate' has infiltrated UK English, because we watch so many US sitcoms. What stunned me was the fact that this actually means that the parties concerned share a room. Not a flat, or a house, but a bedroom. This is especially true of students.

Imagine the reality of two adults, not in a relationship, sharing a confined space with two dinky single beds. Think of the consequences. Of the effect on privacy, solitude, ownership of space; where to store things: secret things, personal things. Of nightmares, sleep and work schedules, coming in later and rising early. I can't imagine doing this. Ever.

A friend has shared a room (an actual room) for some months now. He first shared a bedroom when studying in LA, where that's the norm. He liked the experience, and after graduating, kept it up. His reasons are complex: firstly - cost, in that he saves money (although his two flatmates rent their own separate rooms.) The fact that rentiers routinely rent all rooms as bedrooms and covert lounges was a factor – if he didn’t share they wouldn’t have a communal sitting room. He also explained he appreciated the simple fact of some company. He is a really lovely man: open-hearted, happy, well-adjusted, straightforward, but confesses to tiring of the situation.

Another friend was sharing a large house in London, where two (straight) women shared not just a bedroom, but a bed. They were completely broke and saving up to travel, so the sacrifice was worth it, if only temporarily. I've heard of couples renting one room in a house-share, but they're usually desperately poor, and the effects on house dynamics (not least the crowded bathroom) are intriguing.

UK student housing providers would rather commission layers of cells, like a studious beehive, rather than have two pairs of renters share one room and then a group study/lounge/dining area combo. I have to say, I agree.

But the increasing infantilisation of tenants who claim social security, where anyone under the age of 35 is entitled to just the single room rate for local housing allowance, coupled with the threatened withdrawal of any payments whatsoever for those under 25 might, well lead to claimants being housed in dormitories, or work-programme barracks. Even soldiers past their training live in flats, these days, or so I understand.

But compelling unrelated adults into shared rooms is punitive to the point of being abusive. So don't let yourselves become softened up, worn down into accepting shared rooms. These rare volunteers might be just the start.


Anonymous said...

Ahhh ! Once more you fall into revealing your middle class take on what the poor and vulnerable of our society want and need .
A third date rule , obviously a well brought up middle class girl with a social conscience probably a guardian reader ( although I know this to be true) mildly left leaning outlook who would not dream of sharing with another adult so although she finds the scenario appalling would never have to be in that situation unless out of choice .

I ruled out Daily Mail reader although as a reader you would still be a well brought middle class girl still adhere to a third date rule still have the means to live an independent lifestyle however without a care for anyone worse off than yourself or indeed brown!

Defiantly not a Sun or Mirror reader as you would be of working class stock you may or may not work around a third date rule ,you would not like and may even aspire to living in a flat without another adult occupant but would discreetly deal with the situation working hard until you find honest hard working Mr right to settle down with without analysing your situation just getting on with it .

Sport reader Naaaaah , what's a third date rule? It's much more interesting living with other adults especially when I bring someone home and left wing and right wing are what's on the 737 when we saves up our benefits and all flies off to Ibiza init.

Am I right?

Jill said...

It's hard to pick up words correctly from sitcoms, since in sitcoms people do things they seldom if ever do in real life, and that's true for 'roommate'. In American English, 'roommate' *can* mean a person you share a bedroom with, usually in a college dorm (meaning the residential housing at a university). However, it's far more likely to mean a person you share an apartment or house with while having separate bedrooms. Either way, the relationship is normally not romantic; if someone referred to a lover as a 'roommate' it would be to hide the relationship for some reason.

Sitcoms depict some weird things indeed, like Jerry Seinfeld's neighbours who just burst in to his apartment. In real life he would lock the door, make a complaint, and possibly get a restraining order to stop this.

RenterGirl said...

Jill, like I said - my friend was a student, where sharing rooms is I beleive quite common.

And Anon (FYI I know who you are) I can tell by the words you use, the way you write and your reasoning that you're actual bona fide idiot.

Anonymous said...

You know who I am! ! !

That makes one of us .

Oh and obsession leads to brilliance , must dash patty and chips for tea