What Not To Do When Housemate Hunting

As it happens, I was housemate hunting recently. The following is text from an email-exchange that ensued after a very singular dude replied to the posting. See, while humor is awesome, using this kind of humor when you’re a cis-dude and we don’t know each other at all = not the best choice.


Hey girls!
In response to your CL listing, here I am.  Your listing and requirements are almost exactly what im looking for!
– Im LGBT-friendly (Im currently traveling Europe with a gay friend and a couple straight ones).
– I like to share household utilities (down to groceries, netflix, bar tabs)
– I throw occasional extravagant parties (maybe twice a year).  Dinner parties are great too.

Im a 28 y/o male engineer going in for a masters in entrepreneurship at Brown this fall.

So a little about me.  To sum it up, im a social, spontaneous, sporty, clean(ish) and nerdy guy.  I was born in Oregon, lived all over the US, but living in Boston for the last 5 years working at a tech startup managing the manufacturing and various engineering aspects of our products.  When im not working I enjoy cycling, hiking, snowboarding, ultimate frisbee, inventing/building random things, traveling, meeting new people, and going out with friends.

Now that you know a little about me, id love to hear a little more about you guys.  The only concern that I have at the moment is… living with THREE girls?  But you guys sound pretty awesome.

Best, XXX


Hi XXXX!

What does an “occasional extravagant party” mean to you? That sounds fancy! 😀 Is it more on the “fancy fabulous party” or “beer pong rager” end of things?

And yes—three girls. Have you been primarily living by yourself or with guys…? We’re pretty awesome if I do say so myself. The question is—are we all compatible? That’s what we have to find out! Do you think you could Skype with us for a chat tomorrow or in the coming days?
On our end, we’re all sociable folks with Venn-diagramming lives. We have our own things going on (and it seems like all fervently love our jobs and doing good for society), but do like to spend time together. For example, we hosted a couchsurfer these past two nights, all of us had dinner together yesterday and then watched a movie about an evil Santa Claus in Finland. Then, today, one of the housemates (Jenna) and I got home from work, chatted over some pineapple-y wine, and watched an “offbeat romantic ghost story” about a married fisherman who has to reconcile his love for a man with his life and society’s social mores. Sometime in August we’ll be hosting a monthly (or so?) feminist book club, and there are plans to go down to Newport sometime because I’ve never been and that’s quite a tragedy.

If that sounds at all interesting, let’s set up a time to chat!


Hey Aida,

The occasional extravagant party means I like to throw epic memorable parties which i invest fairly heavily in.  These are no ordinary beer pong ragers, I dont even allow it.  These are epic themed parties where massive props are made, fog machines, disco balls, candles, blacklights, meticulously created playlists, dance floors, etc. and funded by the young professionals who like to show appreciation to their good friends a couple times a year.  Youve never been to a party like this before.  (Note from Aida: I am simultaneously intrigued and put off.)

Ive been living with 3 boys and 1 girl in boston for the last 5 years.  A few people have cycled, but the ratio always remains the same.  I like to live with at least one girl to keep the place in check.

Im daunted by your “feminist book club” and three “social justice minded” women.  Im pretty sure you guys will want to kill me by the first night if you take my asinine crass humor seriously.  Im pretty over-the-top.  While I appreciate your time, I think im going to have to respectfully decline.

Good luck finding someone!


The problem is, while this guy sounded kind of interesting in a way, he can’t expect me to trust his intent once I’ve already been slammed with sexist bullshit over and over. And even if I WERE to think “well he’s just being ironic/funny,” this kind of shit is not funny to me anymore 99% of the time, especially coming from men, and cis, straight men at that.

If we do not have a relationship, do not have a rapport, and do not have ANY remote smidgen of comfort with each other and knowledge about where we’re coming from, this kind of humor doesn’t make sense and doesn’t make me feel good about our interactions. A lot of what he said just sounds like regurgitations from shitty conversations I’ve had with people who have been clueless, sexist, and/or disrespectful. Does anyone think that’s cool or comforting? That it’s funny or cool to make people feel like they might have another person in their life who devalues them, even if only just for a moment, for the sake of humor, and reenacts the daily sexist bullshit they face?

People can’t expect folks from an oppressed/marginalized group to trust the intent of people from a majority/oppressive class when the latter are going down the same path of shittiness. “Oh oh oh, but I was being FUNNY/IRONIC” is not an excuse. Still shitty. When experience has told me and my communities that this kind of behavior is indicative of sexist and misogynist beliefs, WHY in the world would I just “hope” that this person would be different? Why would I even TRY to excuse them and give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if it’s about living together? Come on. Doesn’t make sense.

Does finding this problematic make me humorless? No. It makes me someone who prefers a more sophisticated and less oppressive brand of humor. I used to be one of those “you can joke about anything! bring on the dark humor and horribly offensive shit!” kind of person, especially before I hit college… but once one’s been exposed to how this kind of thing actually plays out and is the lived reality of people, it’s hard to find that shit funny anymore. That shit is REAL and EVERY DAY and EXHAUSTING. The harm these jokes and cracks make is far higher than their funniness, and from a purely utilitarian perspective (as well as one that focuses on kindness and respect more so than momentary wittiness), IT’S BETTER TO REFRAIN FROM SUCH “JOKES.”

And before someone says “well that’s censorship,” welcome to the world. We all have to “censor” ourselves sometimes. We should HAVE the freedom to be shitty people to some extent and say whatever we want, but consciously CHOOSE to not be shitty to others. We need to strive to be better, and create a world that’s a safer place to be. Just because we “can” do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it.

Humor that relies on oppression and marginalization, no matter how small, is LAZY HUMOR. It’s EASY to use the pre-existing power dynamics to “make a funny,” and it pretty much requires no thought or wit or spin–just a pretty straightforward mimicry of what’s going on in the day-to-day. Let’s strive for more instead of just rolling around in the muck.

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