When searching for an apartment near campus, a person is often forced to choose between two extremes — do they go with the cheaply-built, yet ornately-furnished apartment that’s split between eight Bacardi-binging underclassmen? Or the roach-infested nightmare with the news crew parked out front?
There are maybe five apartments in the campus locale that don’t fall into either of those categories, so when one is vacant, you must move quickly — both in replying to the Craigslist ad and deciding which aspects of yourself you suppress, or heighten, to ensure you’re a good fit for any potential roommate.
I had my eyes set on a two-bedroom apartment, rooming with a female senior who’s in the University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, like me. The apartment was clean, the bedroom was a decent size and the rent was right in my price range. In short, it was a gem, so I pulled out all the stops.
I spoke in my email about how I’m pretty much the same “quiet” and “well-behaved” kid my Catholic elementary school teachers said I was while neatly glossing over my irregular sleep, bathroom and dishwashing schedules.
When I toured the apartment, I made sure I appeared interested in her cat without engaging the pet directly. The only opinion pet owners hold above their own is that of their pet — if her cat didn’t like me, I wouldn’t have an apartment.
A couple days later, I received a 1 a.m. email apologizing for wasting my time. Apparently, my potential roommate’s boyfriend wasn’t comfortable with his girlfriend rooming with a guy.
My knee-jerk reaction was “Wow, this is some sexist bulls--t” — not because I was out of an apartment for being a guy but because I received an apology over a boyfriend’s trust issues. I’d understand if my potential roommate told me she’d rather live with another girl.
Growing up in a small, Catholic town, I was familiar with this attitude toward co-ed living situations: Women are pure, angelic figures while men are sex-crazed lunatics, and the only way they’re able to coexist is through marriage and church every Sunday.
Attitudes rooted in possessive attitudes toward women persist due to dated gender stereotypes and the desire to be perceived as proper. Was my potential roommate’s boyfriend sexist for not wanting his girlfriend to room with a guy? Maybe, maybe not.
That’s not to say I’m justifying any of what happened. No matter which way you slice it, a guy’s discomfort with his girlfriend rooming with another guy is problematic at best, but the reasoning behind it often splinters upon closer examination.
I can speculate and filter this experience through my own upbringing; even if he thought I posed some threat to his relationship, here’s the thing: I’m gay.
I thought I’d encountered everything, but never once did I think I could use my sexuality to get something I wanted. Yet here I am, sitting in my clean, reasonably-priced, two-bedroom apartment with my female roommate and her cat, wondering if this is what progress feels like.