I posted an ad on Craigslist at 11:48 a.m. Wednesday morning to find someone to take over my $750/month share. I didn't include a photo, just some barebones facts:
"Big bedroom in a 3-bedroom apartment available for September 1st move in. The apartment is located one block from the 4th Avenue/9th Street stop on the F/G/R line. It's walking distance to Park Slope and near supermarkets, laundry. You would have the largest room (two windows, closet, air conditioner, cable available, big loft for either storage or sleeping) and would share the apartment with two women in their early 30s. The apartment is quiet and has a balcony. Guys/girls welcome, pets not."
By 12:27 p.m. I already had five responses in my inbox, and I soon realized I'd need to whack these messages into some out-of-sight folder as soon as they came in so I wouldn't waste the remainder of my workday wondering about all these clean, employed, prompt dish-washers who wanted to take my place.
By Saturday morning, the folder swelled to 36 responses. I prepared myself to take a look for the first time from the other side of the Craigslist curtain.
After all, just 10 months ago, I had sat on the floor of my furniture-less Astoria bedroom following a terrible bout of bed bugs, churning out e-mail after e-mail looking for new roommates to take me in. About to look through the responses to my ad now, I thought about the sickening feeling of pitching myself to potential roommates, about how degrading the whole concept of shares can be, and how much more depressing it becomes the older one gets.
At 27, I'm not quite out of share territory, but am getting closer. I'm taking over a friend's lease, which will allow me to bypass the whole Craigslist routine and will leave me with a roommate I know and like, as well as a much more spacious, private living situation.
Still, who knows what life may bring; there may come a time when I'm even older and have to pump out some "I'm really interested in the room" e-mails, yet again.
So with that in mind, I read through the 36 e-mails to see what the landscape looked like, if, say in a year, I'm back out on the search. Here's what I found:
- Total responses after 72 hours: 36 (still trickling in, though I cut off the count Saturday morning)
- Females: 30
- Males: 6
- Median age: 29.5
- Average age: 26.5
- Youngest: 23
- Oldest: 36
- Students: 11
- Responders who work in or study the arts: 15
- Number of people who linked to their Facebook page or website: 6
- Non-New Yorkers: 7
- Most common adjectives to describe themselves: "Clean" "Laid-back"
- Most common hobby mentioned: exercise (biking, yoga, running)
- Oddest hobbies mentioned: hula-hooping and being clean and organized
- My favorite line: "I cook sometimes but mostly make sandwiches"
What surprised me the most is the expertise with which most people wrote these e-mails. Like over-prepped kids taking the SATs, mostly everyone in this batch knew exactly how to respond.
They conveyed friendliness through a carefully placed exclamation point or two. They shared their interest in activities that I or my roommates, or anyone with a pulse might connect with: "I like bike rides, reading, and going out for a beer now and then."
They shared a quick anecdote or generalization about a former living situation that would demonstrate their ability to live harmoniously with others: "I've lived in two shares before and both worked out really well."
And then they showed flexibility and a coolness so they would appear in control and not desperate: "Let me know if I can stop by to see the place this weekend, if possible. If not, no rush. Just let me know what works best for you."
What's creepy is that I remember becoming better and better at this as I struggled through my searches. It didn't take me long to drop my rookie habits (being too formal, assuming I was the only one looking and saying presumptuous things like, "I really like the space; should I bring a checkbook for the deposit?"). And it seems like I'm not the only semi-pro out there.
Luckily, since I'm not the one who will be living with this not-yet-found roommate, I don't make the pick. I just have to send responders who are employed (outside of the house) and don't have pets (which are basically all of them) an invitation to an open house, where my two roommates will be present to screen them in person, and I'm off the hook.
I am grateful that I had this opportunity to read through all these e-mails. This sampling cooled my concern that people over 25 don't look for shares, though it did make me wonder about the dearth of people over 35, and wonder what it said about the potential for achieving real-estate/life balance in my own future.
Had the over-35s all found a way to achieve their career dreams and make enough to live alone? (Best answer!) Did they all move in with significant others? (More horrifying--did they move in with significant others as an out?!) Did they give up on their film/music/writer dreams and take a punch-to-the-gut boring job just to live like a human?
It looks like I've got about five to seven years to find out.