Part One: Cleanliness Culture Shock
I moved to Portland, Maine a few weeks ago so that I can intern with a photo agency based here. I also moved out of my own studio apartment (which I adored) and into a 5-bedroom apartment inhabited by four boys, one of the boy’s girlfriend and a dog, which I found on Craigslist. I admit, it was a risk, but the price was right and the location was decent and the boys were all friends from college.
The worst that could happen? They’re psycho killers. In which case, I would at least not die in graduate school in Columbia, Missouri. But, I did some Internet stalking, and talked to them on the phone, and determined that they were probably not going to butcher me in my sleep.
So, I jumped off the proverbial cliff and drove a Dodge Neon-full of my stuff from Missouri to Maine (with a pit-stop in Kentucky to visit my parents). It was exhilarating.
Until I got there and realized they gave the girl the room with no closets. I have a crawlspace with doors that supposedly functions as a closet. Clearly, the boys were not thinking about a girl and the need to hang up dresses. Oh, and it’s an attic room, so the slanted ceilings mean I stoop so I don’t hit my head. This is not a room for tall people, much less a girl who’s been 6”1’ since she was 15.
I woke up on my leaky air mattress the first morning thinking that I had made a giant mistake.
The bathroom I shared with one other boy was not encouraging. It was grimy and dark and there was dog hair everywhere. The shower stall was the narrowest shower I had ever been in. I was thinking: it will kill me if I try to shave my legs.
Actually, grimy and dog hair everywhere was a good description for most of the apartment. I was hesitant to put groceries in the kitchen, and the state of the refrigerator before I cleaned it makes me shudder. So, I started cleaning everything. I couldn’t live with the apartment like that.
Now, I am a slob. I am messy. My bedroom has been a warzone of clothing, books, papers and whatever else I own for as long as I remember. But: I am CLEAN. In my own apartment, my kitchen was almost always spotless, and my bathroom never looked like it would give you diseases (I hope). There is also, in my head, a difference between living in your own dirt and living in the dirt of the tenants before you and all five of your flatmates.
If you allow me to over-generalize: boys do not perceive this difference. Where I moved in and cleaned everything (because I could tell that the landlords had not), the boys just moved in.
I have good support in the one other girl who lives in the house. We bonded over our disgust in the boy’s housekeeping skills, and then went on a massive Target run to buy cleaning supplies and some house wares. We didn’t want to live in a college bachelor-pad pit. I was worried that the boys would care that we were screwing with all their stuff, but it turns out that they cared very little.
They even helped move furniture when we re-arranged the living room (if only to make sure there was optimum TV viewing in every seat). They’re helpful like that.
–By Erin K. O’Neill
This is the first in a series in which the author documents her adventures and travails living with four boys.