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Last month, at the height of my frustration with the graceless torment that is seeking an ideal roommate, a high-school classmate outlined her own struggle. At first she and her de facto suitress engaged in casual conversation online, discussing their desired qualities of a college roommate.
Then things started moving fast. Following a conversational triumph over a Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade at the local Starbucks, she decided it was time — time to pop The Question, and it was delivered via grossly impersonal text message, as most life-altering dialogues are nowadays. Her future roommate responded the same night with a cheery “yeah, sure!” and the tension was swiftly eased.
Subsequently, my friend, in a statement revealing of how calculated she inferred the whole experience to be, formulated a peculiar hypothesis. She asserted that the inherent enthusiasm and speedy answer rate of the text reply meant that her freshly wooed significant other “was so interested” all along.
That’s when it struck me: The socially thorny quest for a suitable roommate is no more than a contrived same-sex courtship. The bare-bones mechanics remain constant — the clumsily self-aware conversation, the ambiguous context clues, the uncertain pretenses of coffee-shop dates. There is a peculiar romanticism to the entire process, and why shouldn’t there be? This is, after all, the complete stranger who will inevitably bare witness to my crudest biological functions for three quarters (and vice versa).
Accentuating this revelation is the ballooning role of social networking in avoiding all forms of human interaction. I eventually dismissed automated roomie-match service URoomSurf, which left me questioning my own sexual orientation after all of my “top matches” were openly gay, incessant “Glee” TiVo’ers.
The notion of basing my roommate selection off the Class of 2014’s Facebook-group questionnaire was equally uncomfortable; any Frank Abagnale Jr. could easily manipulate their answers to be perceived as Van Wilder to John Nash inclusive. Private solicitation was instantly ruled out after I reconsidered the blatant creepiness of starting a Facebook message with, “It looks like we both listen to Gucci Mane. I want to sleep three feet away from you for nine months.”
Observers grapple to imagine this digital awkwardness. Yet visualizing the pursuit of a roommate via Facebook is fairly simple — just imagine a seedy speed-dating marathon, and you’re paired with an exhibitionist mute toting a manilla portfolio of amateur self-portraits and additional photos (depending on their privacy preferences, of course). Sometimes they write cordial messages on cocktail napkins, bullishly sliding them across the table, and sometimes they completely ignore you, instead opting for someone who is more of a night owl, workhorse, deficit hawk, whatever.
Sometimes they even tempt The Question, too, but then that pesky bell rings and chairs shuffle and you’re left sitting there squinting at your computer screen, wondering why you got your guaranteed-to-fit extra-long bedsheets in a bunch over a petty bunkmate in the first place. Is this sounding like the agonizing pursuit of true love yet? After all, it’s only the complete stranger who will inevitably bare witness to your crudest biological functions for three quarters.
Suffice it to say, I outsourced my burgeoning paranoia to Student Affairs and requested a random roommate. We’ve been going steady for a promising 26 days now.