I’m in my late twenties and I’m broke, so I live in a rundown rowhouse with five other dudes. Jealous? There’s no formal lease and this is transient Washington, so there’s been a lot of turnover. And I have an absentee landlord who expects me to keep the house full, which means I’m on Craigslist every few months, posting an ad for a new tenant. For whatever bad reasons, the landlord prefers to keep it a house full of men, but other than that, he doesn’t care who I pick, so long as they pay their rent (by shadily depositing cash into his bank account). This is one of the only places in America where a small shitty room in a dilapidated house for $850 is considered cheap. And there are thousands of desperate room-seekers in Washington every month, so I always get flooded with replies. To differentiate them, I ask people to write a bit about themselves. The dudes who respond mostly fall into seven basic categories:
The Insipid Easygoer
When I post a housing ad, I’m not looking for a new best friend. But I am looking for someone who will add to the house dynamic, someone who at least has something to say. So when I ask people to tell me a bit about themselves, I’m hoping they’ll, you know, tell me a bit about themselves so they’ll stand out among the hundred other emails. But so many dudes take the opposite approach and simply try to be as inoffensive as possible. It’s amazing how similar they are. I’ll get emails with some version of:
Hey, I’m [ ], I’m a pretty easygoing guy. I work in [ ] so I’m usually pretty busy during the week but on the weekends I like to have a few drinks and have fun. My favorite show is [Acclaimed drama]. Is there a time I could see the room?
You like to have a good time on weekends? Cool, cool. It’s like I know you. I can’t find anything particularly objectionable about what you wrote, so you must be a good guy. These milquetoast men say easygoing every time too. It’s like a code word. DC is apparently chocked full of chill, laid back, easygoing dudes who like weekends. Well I’m not one of them. If anything I’m hardgoing. If I’m going to consider living with you, I need more to work with than just a name, a job, a popular television program, and the alleged fact that you aren’t an irritable asshole like me.
The Unabashed Bro
Unlike the Insipid Easygoer, The Unabashed Bro gets right down to business and lays it all out there in his first email. He was the social chair of his fraternity, he likes to party (and not just on weekends), he lifts, he works in finance or consulting and loves it, and he’s really looking forward to living in a shitty house full of dudes again. In other words, he’s seeking a smooth transition from the fraternity house to the working world, a place where he can continue to be the man, the myth, and the legend. And while he’s almost certainly a worse person than the Insipid Easygoer, his candor is greatly appreciated. You have to be who you are. You have to give people the opportunity to make informed decisions about you. So thank you, Unabashed Bro, for being forthright and making it clear from the outset that I’d never want to live with you.
Hi, I saw your ad. Let me know when I can see the room. Thanks.
There’s another four seconds I’ll never get back.
The Late Arriver
He’s coming to Washington from another country for a job at the IMF or the World Bank, or maybe a stint at Georgetown. Or he’s going to be an intern, but he can’t move until the semester is over. Either way, he’s not going to be able to see the house in person before the move-in date. And no, I would not be down to Skype.
The Unprompted Racist
There’s at least one with every post. Sometimes he says he likes the house because it’s so far from Northeast or south of the river. He often volunteers that he’s white, not that I was wondering. Once I had a guy write that he was looking for a place that didn’t have any Jews. Another time a guy from Boston asked if any blacks lived in the house. Dudes are awful.
The Earnest Non-Dude
The mostly earnest young women who apply to my gross dude house write by far the best emails. They’re usually the only ones who follow the prompt, the only ones who tell me about themselves in any detail. A lot of them sound like engaging people I’d like to live with. It’s such a tease! I want to pick them, but my landlord insists on keeping it an all-male house (apparently integration didn’t go so well in the past, when a lot of Unabashed Bros inhabited the house). So I have to forgo the best options and keep wading through a sea of inarticulate or uncommunicative men who I dread sharing a toilet with.
[Reply with a short email telling them the room has been filled and wishing them luck on their search, then delete]
Finally, the man I’m looking for. He offers two typo-free paragraphs about himself that are at once honest and appealing. He’s not a shitbag consultant, a banker, or a true believer politico. He isn’t outwardly prejudiced against any genders or races. He’s witty, making a few little jokes, good ones. Maybe he even takes a dig at Unabashed Bros. It’s clear the guy has some personality. And he’s in town and sincerely interested in the room. Yes! So I respond a little too enthusiastically and invite him over for a tour. But I should have been more easygoing, because inevitably he finds another room and wishes me luck on my search. So, fuck me, I have to dip back into the Insipid Easygoer pile and settle for someone whose most salient quality is liking Game of Thrones. At least I know the weekends will be fun!