A new survey from Splitwise.com says it might be time for this dude to start chipping in.
I once had a roommate named M. and we lived in a very narrow brownstone apartment off Smith Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Soon M. started dating T. “Starting over,” she said, despite his criminal history and faint scrapings of a tattoo he attributed to jail. (M. was a lawyer who was previously a lesbian, making the whole T. episode even more perplexing.)
They made loud love twice a week, thrice a week, five times a week until one day T. asked to use my laptop. It was then I discovered that while I was sleeping, we had acquired a move-in boyfriend. The evidence: his name emblazoned on the top of a mock-up business card, our address pointedly pixilated underneath – done in my Photoshop.
Not a single one of us escaped our living arrangement unscathed. I moved out. Last I heard, M. went back to women and T. went back to jail.
After that I had a roommate named R. on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. We were very close friends – too close, I realized. Remembering the issues I had with T., when I first started dating the guy whom I eventually married, I heeded her collection of sensitivities. She’d just broken up with her last boyfriend, which tended to put her in an exceedingly fragile state of mind.
“No sleepovers during the week,” she asked.
Fine. Why rub her nose in my pre-marital bliss? So I crossed Atlantic to stay with him in Fort Greene.
But having given R. an inch, she took a mile.
“No sleepovers this Friday night or next because I’m having a really hard time at work and you know what a light sleeper I am and I’m really scared of not getting enough sleep and I just know that if there is someone else in the apartment when I’m trying to sleep I won’t be able to get to sleep and…”
Oh, dear. My move-in was thwarted by an emotional carpet-weaver.
While I could appreciate M.’s lust and R.’s vulnerability, according to John Bittner of Splitwise.com what was missing from our leases was a certain fairness clause.
In an article for Forbes, he explains, “Bottom line: if a roommate’s significant other stays about half the time or less and has their own place, they shouldn’t be expected to systematically contribute to bills or rent. If they have their own place but are staying five times a week or more, they should probably count themselves as a ‘half-person’ towards bills, but not rent.”
He doesn’t take emotional carpet weaving into account, being a dude and all, though he does add that significant others should at the very least arrive bearing gifts. Wine, chocolate, condoms. Whatever.
Bittner has all sorts of fancy charts to illustrate the equation.
Bittner, who’s also a PhD student at Harvard in Boston (expensive city with a low vacancy rate), invented a split-the-rent-calculator, which can be used to tabulate contributions from boyfriends, girlfriends, couch-crashers and long-term guests.
The thing is, if you live in a high-density metropolitan area splitting the rent with a roommate is sometimes unavoidable. The emotional stuff of roommates, the “I like this boyfriend and not that one” or “I’m just so vulnerable right now,” is really none of your concern, or business. Until it’s time to get down to business. Not that kind, you minx. The utilities kind.
Either money talks or the move-in walks – to a hotel around the corner where he can get some room service. Anything else is emotional carpet-weaving.