Saturday Diary: At the end of the day, living with guys is no big deal
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My university, Carnegie Mellon, recently approved a gender-neutral housing policy that will permit a guy and a girl to shack up together on campus. It was the best thing to happen to CMU students since Star Wars came out on DVD, but some people fear its implications.
Brittany McCandless is an academic intern at the Post-Gazette and a student of professional and creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I am not one of those people.
I can understand why the policy has stirred controversy. But I speak from personal experience when I say that sleeping with the enemy is no big deal.
Last summer, I shared an apartment with two CMU guys. One of them, Marshall, enjoys Gouda cheese and turkey sandwiches. The other, Shawn, is fond of Coach bags and Cole Haan shoes. Marshall likes girls; Shawn prefers guys.
This meant Marshall and I were living in a state of heterosexual cohabitation. The possibilities were endless, but as daring as we got was seeing each other in pajamas after coming home from Sandcastle, where we had seen hundreds of heterosexuals in far more revealing bathing suits.
When I told my parents I would be living with two guys, we were having dinner at Girasole in Shadyside.
"I'm living in Pittsburgh this summer, and I'm going to share an apartment with two friends," I said casually and vaguely, idiotically thinking that I could delay mentioning specifics until my parents questioned the stick of Old Spice in my bathroom.
"And just who are these friends?" my mother asked, as any reasonable parent would. My father sat with his head down, analyzing his pasta and jabbing at pieces of pepper.
"Marshall and Shawn."
Realizing that their young, impressionable daughter had just uttered two male names, my parents simultaneously put their forks down and stared at me, their eyes showing a mixture of surprise, horror and disappointment, as though I was performing some pagan ritual with a chicken in the middle of the table.
"Don't worry about it," I said. "It's not like that."
The day I moved into the apartment, Marshall and Shawn bounded in my room as my mother and I unpacked bags of my shoes. Marshall told her that his role would be that of protector, sort of like a guard dog -- a German shepherd, perhaps.
Shawn offered that, in terms of dogs, he was more of a poodle. Shawn would later require that Marshall accompany him on every trip to the basement at night.
During the summer, Shawn had a boyfriend and went on many dates, frequently leaving Marshall and me home alone. But while the two of us regularly watched "Sex and the City" and danced to "Workin' My Way Back To You" in the kitchen, our relationship remained entirely platonic.
Even so, the dynamic between us became every bit that of a 1950s couple. One of us went to work, while the other stayed home and made dinner. In the evenings, we watched wholesome television on the Food Network, hugged good night and retired to separate bedrooms.
In the spirit of gender advancement, I played the role of the man.
I worked seven days a week and on a handful of occasions, I came home to find that Marshall had made dinner, which almost unfailingly included pepper jack cheese. Marshall really liked cheese.
After watching hours of chefs on TV, Marshall would feel the cooking itch and toss chicken on the George Foreman grill. From eggs to hot dogs, he could make anything a culinary masterpiece with a little dairy and a lot of creativity. And salsa. Lots of salsa.
Somehow I gained 10 pounds over the summer. Ten pounds of liberating feminism.
Among the signs of my deliverance from female stereotypes: Neither the poodle nor the German shepherd would get near a bug that needed to be squashed, while I had no problem unleashing a primal scream and slaughtering the recalcitrant flies that populated my bedroom.
I have several friends who have lived with members of the opposite sex at some point, and we all agree: It's necessary.
While you sometimes need more downtime away from a same-sex roommate, and the relationship works best if you don't sleep in the same room, it's vital to see the way the other side lives before entering into a monogamous, romantic relationship. After all, nothing is less amorous than hearing, "I love you, and ... OH, MY GOD. DO YOU NEED THAT MUCH MAKEUP?"
Plus, after seeing life on Mars, this Venus chick is in no rush to tie the knot. When I do, I hope it involves cheese and two beds. The New York Times recently reported that more and more U.S. couples are sleeping in separate master bedrooms to ensure "a more harmonious marriage."
At the end of the day, living with a guy is every bit the same as living with a brother.
Maybe this is because I'm boring and had an unremarkable childhood that didn't involve bloody fistfights.
Maybe this is because Marshall and I are of the same breed of weird. Although we don't use Internet-speak like most of our CMU peers, we do pepper our conversations with literary allusions. We also call each other matzo ball and gefilte fish and make up fake news reports that include "Bob Lablah and Nancy Ann Cianci reporting from Lake Titicaca." We share evenings drinking warm apple cider, listening to Norah Jones and watching drunken guys urinate in the parking lot next to our apartment.
Maybe this is why Marshall is one of my best friends.
Maybe this is why we're both still single.
First Published March 24, 2007 12:00 am