It is May 13th, 2019 in Brooklyn, New York, and we are all going to die. All four of us in this one bathroom, un-closeted, unairconditioned, 800 square foot apartment.
Can I just start by saying: Carrie Bradshaw could never.
Crown Heights is a sort of up and coming area in Brooklyn. Not quite Williamsburg yet, but enough coffee shops and millennial hipsters wearing fake horn-rimmed glasses, you can feel the full swing of gentrification on its way. I came to Crown Heights after accepting a promising summer internship in sports media and soon had the painful realization that I needed a significantly higher paying job to live anywhere else comfortably in this city. And so, Crown Heights became my destiny.
New York City is comprised of five boroughs resting upon the Hudson River known for its nightlife, shows, pizza, and painfully high rent prices. I, fortunately, had four other roommates to share the bill with. Oh, and the bathroom.
My boyfriend had moved to Brooklyn about a year before my move-in. When I accepted the internship in Brooklyn, it seemed like the easiest and, most importantly, the cheapest option to stay with him for the summer.
He had been living with two friends that I knew from high school and another from his fraternity in college that I also grew close to. Within the first week of living at the apartment, I noticed that men have shockingly low standards of living. In defense of the opposite sex, it could be because just these particular college grads had just come from fraternity houses. My boyfriends’ house didn’t have a front door for 9 months and his roommates’ house went on to be condemned by the city due to unsafe living conditions.
Who would have thought that these 23-year old men would have subpar living conditions in their apartment as well?
Regardless, the apartment was missing basic amenities like: towel racks, bath mats, separate shampoos and conditioners, mops, hand soap, drawer organizers, and drying racks. Essential items for an even remotely-livable housing situation were missing. Roommate number four didn’t even have a bed frame. He slept on a mattress on the floor in a room that he seldom cleaned and then complained relentlessly about his poor sleep. Did I mention that he’s now a Manager of Customer Success for a major international tech company in NYC? He’s making close to $80,000 and refused to buy a bed frame.
My boyfriend and I shared an 8×10 room with a queen-sized bed and no closet. Instead, we shared a dresser and a standing clothes rack. There was little room for anything else; in fact, we had to move the desk to the living room to make more space. While it seems like such a… “cozy” space would get cramped, since he was a bartender, our schedules were essentially opposite. He had the days to himself and had the luxury of sleeping in until 10 or 11am. In turn, I had the nights to de-compress comfortably after a long workday. Often, we found ourselves having to plan date nights to spend time with each other.
Things got into a groove when I started working. Two of the other three roommates also worked 9-5, making getting ready in the morning wonderfully chaotic. We had to navigate when someone was going to shower, shave, brush their teeth, wash their face, etc. I ended up making the call that it was best to shower at night to minimize my time in the bathroom the next morning. I set up a small camp by the kitchen sink where it was less crowded. I got ready there and did my makeup by the fire escape window with a mirror roommate number two gave me.
Having to improvise and make space sometimes meant that I had to wedge myself into parts of the groove to make it all work.
For instance, instead of using pots, pans, and kitchen utensils in the morning, I would compile all my berries, kale, peanut butter, coconut milk, and spirulina to make a smoothie. I made a smoothie every. Single. Morning. Blenders? Not so quiet. My boyfriend would get home at 1am and just a mere six hours later awake to the chainsaw-like thunder of decimated fruit under sharp, piercing blender blades. Since the other roommates were already awake, it was fine. My boyfriend was the only one who started work later in the day, and we were dating so, he had to forgive me. Each morning started with an unforgiving ZHHHHZHHHHZHHHH.
Though it had never before been an issue with my living situation: I do have a lot of hair. It’s thick and runs towards the center of my back, and… a lot of it comes out in the shower. A lot. To the normal person, it would seem concerning, but with the cross genetics of my Italian and Norwegian heritage, it’s of no concern. However, since I don’t want to clog the shower drain, I lay whatever hair comes out on the shower ledge meaning to throw it out when my showers are done. I didn’t always remember to throw it out when the shower was done. And, of course, sometimes no matter how hard I tried to catch the stray hairs and keep them from cascading into the shower drain, some were just too slick to keep notice of. This became problematic because, as I mentioned before, I wasn’t the only one using the bathroom.
Roommate number three took particular distaste in this habit. For weeks I got the silent treatment until I finally caved and asked what’s wrong. He explained to me, and we had our first and last fight. In a space that small – communication is vital.
After all of this, I also discovered some of the great things about living with guys.
For starters, I felt safe. New York, though known for the aforementioned things, is not known for safety. Throughout the summer, I found myself in a few sticky situations, whether that be locked out or caught up with a crazy person on the subway. I always had someone to either get me home safely, show up with keys, or remind me to ditch public transport for the night. Things on the top shelf were now available to me because roommate number three was over six foot and always willing to help. I got to spend some of the best months with my closest friends in one of the most incredible cities in the world.
In the end, I’d learned the trials and tribulations are, for the most part, manageable. It’s easy to show up with things like towel racks and shower mats and say, “Here you go boys, these are things you’ll need to stay sanitary.” It’s easy to work out routines so that there aren’t issues on whose turn it is to buy paper towels, refill the Windex, and do the dishes (although the latter is sometimes the trickiest issue of all). We argued seldom and disagreed little. We had no petty bickering or unsolvable quarrels. I learned how to subtly make adjustments to the apartment without being overbearing. They learned how to decorate, organize, keep clean, stay sanitary, unclog shower drains full of hair (you’re welcome) and, most importantly, what it’s like to live with a woman.