Roommate's sex life up close and personal
You can't tell them to rent a room. They already did, and unfortunately, it's within earshot of yours.
Sex through the painfully thin walls of a duplex began early in my ghetto-fabulous student life. The dorm room: an experiment in which newly birth-controlled post-suburbanites are cramped in small spaces, fed enough Sex Ed Centre contraception to shield a small nation from U.S. missiles, and expected to sleep at night.
To encourage roommate bonding, dorm beds are positioned side by side. How cozy, how comforting, how nonsensical for a demographic with so much more libido than tact.
My third morning, I rolled over to greet my new roommate and ask her to join me for runny meal-plan eggs.
Double take! There I lay, 17, barely away from home, inches from a slobbering boy who bore (I couldn't make this up if I tried) a "Made in Canada" tattoo across his buff back.
I screamed. He grunted. I jumped, he grunted. I said, "Who the hell are you?" He -- you guessed it -- grunted. I once had visions of being Anais Nin to a budding Henry Miller. Instead, I got the captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team in a post-drunk sweat.
I also thought waking up with strangers would at least mean I'd gotten some play. My roommate got laid. I got the morning breath.
Nothing could stop the sounds emanating nightly from my roommate's bed. "Come on, don't you want to? You are so beautiful."
"Ssssh. My roommate is sleeping."
I was exposed to some of the finest sexual techniques -- a la Maxim magazine -- that the nation's future leaders and waitstaff had to offer.
Subtle hints, e.g., "I can hear you screwing -- it makes me want to puke," didn't deflect my roommate from her quest to re-enact Animal House.
The scariest part is when you start to take an interest. Hmm... that isn't pot-head Bill misquoting sonnets? No! She's not screwing hairy-back Jon again?! All he talks about in the morning is the bloody hacky-sack association.
Voyeurism is one option for someone whose roommate thinks "keeping it on the down-low" means waiting until you're asleep before tying dates to your student desk. A large ottoman strategically positioned between our beds also did the trick.
Years later, I still suffer from sex by association. I should have known from the body oil in the medicine cabinet that I would spend nights praying for my roommate's early impotence. The only sex worse than jock sex is the Tantric New Age variety.
Instead of Aaron Spelling cliches, it's "God, this is great E" sex. My current roommate treats me to a range of sounds that one has to be chemically altered to make. Seriously, sometimes I can't tell if it's sex or he has her hooked up to electrodes.
I'm all for liberation, but when you have to be at work at 9 am, feeling like a sound grip on the set of Boogie Nights breeds prudishness.
Once again, the subtle "Shut the f*** up" isn't working. Shame is obviously not part of their mantra.
So the life lesson is clear. When choosing a roommate, give candidates a good once-over. Are they moderately attractive? Is their CD collection full of slow jams? Do they have a look of desperation or a propensity for binge drinking? If so, consider a more pious, computer-programmer-type roommate. You can sleep through cybersex, and the only downside is the occasional sticky keyboard.
Finally, remember, any glimpse of body oil and you may never sleep again. TARA ATLURI
A little princess and a football-playing beast
It was the poster that was the red flag.
Although I had yet to meet my new roommate, he'd arrived at our dorm room before me and had taken the liberty of hanging his first piece of art on the wall. It was a poster of a topless woman bearing the caption "Man Cannot Live on Beer Alone."
"Sweet Jesus," I whispered, "am I in trouble."
There I was, a 19-year-old closet case freshly plucked from Sarnia and plopped into the chaos of first-year residence life.
"Didn't they pay any attention to my personality profile?" I seethed, and proceeded to tack up my Madonna collage on my side of the room.
Then I met Tim. He was everything I'd feared. My roommate, the person with whom I'd be sharing a shoebox-size space for the next eight months, was a weight-lifting, rugby-playing, girl-fucking, beer-guzzling Neanderthal -- in short, the complete embodiment of everything I felt I should be but wasn't.
That first night, as we unpacked our stuff, Tim pulled out his yearbook to point to all the babes he'd bagged. "She had awesome tits," he said, referring to a photo of a Barbie clone. As a way of deflecting any suspicions, I took out my yearbook and randomly pointed to my school's most popular female.
"I dated her for a while," I lied. "She had great... um... hair."
When the talk turned to sports, I told Tim I played tight end for my school football team. I had no idea how to play, but the position sounded kinda hot. I spent the rest of the year avoiding his invitations to join the rest of the guys out back for impromptu games, and faked diarrhea during the Super Bowl.
My white lies aside, however, Tim and I became friends -- sort of. Somewhere along the way, two very different stowaways formed a protective bond with one another.
Late at night, Tim would read me the letters penned by his girlfriend, something he would never have done in front of the other guys on the floor. He also fed my Sea Monkeys when I was away. In return, I reminded him to study for his tests, stocked our room with junk food and covered for his late-night absences when his mother called.
Tim never returned to school the next year. But he did come back to visit, his girlfriend in tow.
"I think Tim misses school," she whispered to me one night. "But you know what? He says he misses you most of all." BRIAN FRANCIS
A naked girl, a stoner and some feminists
Only in Toronto is it natural to have lived with no fewer than 21 different people in the space of six years, most of them perfect strangers and far too many of them anarcho-feminists.
Hi, my name is Leah, and I'm a roommate. Permanently scarred.
My first student foray out of Mommy's house was into, of all godforsaken things, a feminist vegetarian co-op.
You just try being an anal, suburban Virgo in a houseful of hippie Ani Di Franco vegans who hang up posters about giving your menstrual blood back to the earth, outlaw white flour and think cleaning is bourgeois.
There were six crazy women and their various romantic accoutrements in that cesspool of politics and bathroom juice, and to this day I am left with deep-seated fears of 1) house meetings, 2) "processing," and 3) lentils.
One advantage, though, of living with a lot of people, even if they are vegetarians, is that you get a lot of sex-by-proxy.
But if you really, really want your roommate to stop having loud sex, start running around the house shrieking "Emergency! Emergency!" When she emerges, explain that you couldn't get the cap off the syrup.
Since that inaugural grrrl house of horrors, I've also been lucky enough to partake of the quintessential Toronto roommate experience, the stoned, frustrated actor/musician.
The first time he plugged in his amp and started singing (badly), my upstairs neighbours and I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. And he kept not kidding -- for six months.
Months later, we can still invoke our favourite refrain of what will one day no doubt be his stunning musical debut: "Shooting up and getting hi-i-i-gh again...."
And then there was the Naked Roommate, who was just naked. A lot. It wasn't until I'd been exposed to her nipples over breakfast one too many times that I found out she was also professionally naked, a stripper. So she was just practising.
But being a stripper also meant she was very well... groomed... in certain areas of her divine anatomy, leaving little to the imagination. There are things you want to know about your roommates -- but the inch count of their clitoris is not one of them.
Then I had an architect who organized the cutlery drawer, which I thought was an excellent use of her skills, and now I have an artist who hangs sculptures of creepy-looking babies, which I think is an excellent use of creepy-looking babies.
I can only dream what's next.
Roomie bliss: phone sex bills and air guitar
A steady job. A steady relationship. Law school. Physical fitness.
These were the things that convinced me to choose him from a pile of other strangers answering my "housemate wanted" ad. These were the makings of a well-adjusted and possibly even likeable sort of guy, so I took my ad off the bulletin board and he moved into my house.
Before we had a chance to chat about a housewarming party, his girlfriend broke up with him, he lost his job and quit law school. Even his physical fitness turned into licking congealed spoonfuls of bacon grease while watching Magnum P.I. reruns every day.
At night, he'd crawl back into his room, turn up the volume on some death metal soundtrack, bang his head against the wall and sing along.
Occasionally, he'd step into the kitchen to play air guitar for me. Always an awkward moment, I thought. I never knew whether to join in on air drums or not.
But air guitar I can handle. Loan sharks calling and knocking on my bedroom window at odd hours trying to catch him at home were something else.
It's difficult telling someone they should move out.
More difficult is moving out without telling anyone, as he did. I came home to find his room empty. Almost empty. Some garbage and old underwear were left to remind me of him.
Our phone bill arrived a few days later. It was four sheets long and tallied more than $1,500 worth of calls made to phone sex lines over three days. Since I couldn't pay the bill, my phone was cut off. From the pay phone down the street, I called the only number he'd ever given me -- his mom's.
I explained that I had no idea where her son was but I needed him to cover his share of the phone bill. When I told her how much I needed, she screamed something about my being an extortionist. Putting the matter delicately, I told her there was a considerable amount of phone sex involved in her son's part of the bill.
She paused, and quietly asked where she should mail my cheque.
A tale of two friends and a stupid buffoon
So you're going off to university this fall. You've got yourself an awesome apartment, you're living with your best friends in the world, and there's nothing on the horizon but keg parties, all-nighters at the computer to get that paper in by 8:30 am and a shitload of takeout.
Not to burst any bubbles or anything, but it isn't all sunshine and butterflies the whole time.
When I left for Western, my best friend of many years and I found ourselves the most amazing apartment and set off on our first big adventure. We were thick as thieves. We ate breakfast together, I went to her classes with her, we met for dinner at our favourite restaurant at the end of every day and ended up in our favourite bar every night. She was Catherine to my stormy Heathcliff.
But my father always had an ominous Trini saying: "Happy birds shit in their nests."
And shit we did.
After a year of living together, as inevitable as final exams, Laura found a boyfriend.
A diabolical jealousy wedged itself between us. Resentment coloured my vision. How could she do this?
Because our friendship had no limits, its eventual destruction, too, was boundless. We stopped caring for our living space. The stench of dirty dishes bathing in insipid water filled the apartment. If I came home, I figured I could chain-smoke the pair out of what was becoming their love nest.
The halcyon days were over.
At the very culmination of this bad scene, I escaped home for the weekend. When I returned, she'd cleared out -- taking my cat with her -- to move in with her boyfriend. I lived out the rest of the year in peace, and then left to study in France.
When I came back to finish my degree, I spied a woman waiting for the bus. It was she. Gingerly, we caught up, and soon we were inseparable again.
I've never really been much of a gambling man, but the next summer, when we started back to London, she asked if I had a roommate for the coming year -- and we finished Western in a blaze of codependent glory. NIGEL LEZAMA
So, you've moved out for the first time to go to school. "I'm free!" you think. "Free to be me! Free to eat noodle soup! Free to pay exorbitant Toronto rents!" NWell, your mom doesn't live here, but chances are your new roommate does. And so begins the common urban tradition of entering into the bizarrely intimate relationships of random cohabitation. Sometimes with a series of strangers, sometimes with friends, and always with the result that you find out things about people that you never, ever wanted to know....
TARA ATLURI: Roomie luving
BRIAN FRANCIS: The live-in dramas of a nervous Nellie and a beer-guzzling monster
LEAH RUMACK: Naked people. Everywhere.
CHRISTY DOYLE: The joys of phone sex and bacon grease
NIGEL LEZAMA: Your roommate's lover sucks