When I first moved from Philadelphia to New York City almost six years ago, I responded to many an ad seeking a roommate. When contacting potential roommates, I thought I was sending off emails that were slightly less casual than the cover letter for a resumé. Little did I know that I was actually sending off a tacit invitation for any and all sexual advances.
Sometimes potential roommates would pull a bait-and-switch scenario when we’d exchange Facebook profiles. Upon seeing my pictures, a hip-hop DJ in Carroll Gardens asked, “Why doesn’t a finelooking lady like you have a boyfriend?
Maybe I could be the one to change that.”
I could practically smell the Axe Body Spray wafting through the computer screen. Plus, the last thing I needed was a living situation where I’d need to sleep with one eye open and a can of mace in hand. It was a definite “Thanks, but no thanks” scenario.
Then there was the man who made a pass at me sight unseen. I had inquired about a room in Brooklyn, and the guy wrote me a polite apology because he decided to give up the apartment and just find a place where he could live by himself. About a week later, I received another email from him claiming that I sounded like the kind of person he could settle down with. “I like jazz,” he wrote, “and leisurely Sundays with a special lady.” He clearly mistook his response email for the “About Me” section of his Match.com profile. At first, I wondered what it was about my email that made him think I’d want him to light candles around a bathtub while Al Green played on the stereo. Was it the fact that I had a cat? That I didn’t smoke? That I paid my bills on time? My email was just your rudimentary housing query, not a desperate plea for a greencard marriage.
The tone shifted when I received an email from a woman who was offering me a room in an apartment that I would share with her husband because her job required that she live across the country. I’d only have to pay $300 a month in rent. The catch was that I’d have to take over her role in their master-andservant relationship, which included humiliating the husband on a daily basis and demanding that he do all of the household chores.
“This arrangement isn’t about money,” the woman explained. I played this line over and over again in my head in the kind of shrill, authoritarian tone reserved for the severe headmaster in a B-movie about a reform school for girls. If this situation wasn’t located about 25 miles outside of the city proper, a couple hundred dollars a month and a personal housekeeper upon whom I could unleash all of my frustrations wouldn’t have sounded like that bad of a deal. However, dating in New York is hard enough without having to explain to any guy I bring home why there’s a married man with a ballgag shoved deep into his mouth camped out in the living room.
Looking back, it was naive of me to think that this woman’s request for me to dominate her husband in her absence would be the most disturbing way I’d be sexually solicited during the apartment hunt. That honor went to the gentleman who sent me a form email that was more of a hostile manifesto than a friendly roommate inquiry. His list of demands came in the form of a mass email that he undoubtedly sent out to every woman who had posted an ad seeking an available room. “I’m tired of having long online correspondences with women I never end up meeting…” the email began. One line in and already he sounded angry. Promising. Next, he laid out a massive indictment of the opposite gender. “Women waste their entire lives waiting for the perfect man to come along. Meanwhile, they overlook guys like me, guys who own their own home and have a good job.” As if that alone didn’t make him a catch, I bet he always remembers to say “please” when he orders his hostages to put the lotion in the basket.
Some people might also raise an eyebrow at the two pictures he enclosed with the email. The first was of a cartoon princess traipsing through an enchanted forest with a castle in the background. “This can be your life if you choose me,” the caption explained. The second picture was of four skeletons seated around a card table, kind of like what the Golden Girls would look like if they all met their ends while playing a round of gin rummy. “This is what happens when women waste their lives waiting for the nonexistent perfect man,” the second caption read. Clearly, they should settle for an entitled, mouth-breathing sociopath who is likely to trap his roommate/life partner into some kind of perverse Boxing Helena scenario. Unlike the situation with the submissive husband, in this guy’s fantasy, the chick is definitely wearing the ballgag.
What might have been even more disturbing than the picture of the skeletons was the fact that he included a recipe in his missive. In addition to the various chores that he expected his partner to share, he also demanded that his roommate/ girlfriend cook for him every once in a while. In order to take out the guesswork, he included one of his favorite barbecue chicken recipes. How thoughtful.
To be fair, this guy has clearly lost years of his life corresponding with online women who were likely a group of middle-school boys giggling around a laptop in between dice rolls in a Dungeons & Dragons game. In a way, it makes sense that he wants to skip right past the awkward dating stage and rocket right into the obligatory live-in concubine phase of any healthy relationship. Plus, there was a small part of me that wanted to drop him a line in a few years and ask if he ever learned that sending strange women pictures of skeletons wasn’t quite the panty-dropping finishing move he thought it would be. Another part of me wondered who would play me in the episode of Law & Order: SVU that would inevitably be ripped from the headlines that would run after I tried to move out. It would have to be a brunette with offbeat good looks. Maybe Juliette Lewis wouldn’t mind a quick foray back to television.
Once I made the move to New York and got settled into a decent living situation, I experienced the same dating dry spells every other woman in the city encounters at one time or another. I figure that if I ever hit that wall where I really need to get laid, all I’d have to do is start looking for apartments.
Maggie Serota is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Every day she makes up a new urban myth for you to tell to your gullible friends at dailyurbanlegend.tumblr.com.