"So How Do You Get Along With Your Gay Roommate Without Killing Each Other?"
by C. J. Kurkowski
In the past five years I have lived with two straight (with bisexual tendencies) men and six gay men. I have to admit it has been an adventurous but sometimes arduous ordeal living with each one of them. Granted, I am not the easiest person to live with. I like the apartment organized, somewhat clean, no dishes or glasses in the sink, a clean bathroom, and if you want to keep your bedroom door open then clean your bedroom. I have tried not to meddle in any of my roommate’s affairs if I don’t need to. Unfortunately, you tell me something, and then I have to give you my opinion, or worst case, meddle. Each roommate forgot this little aspect of life. If you want to divulge a part of your life, then expect a comment back. Hey, I am from New York. When have you met a New Yorker that doesn’t give their opinion? I mention this because the latest roommate called me a meddler in our last argument.
Living with gay men can be an experience in itself. The scenario I best can describe it as women living together. Women, eventually, synchronize their periods together. Gay men have to do the same.
I’m not saying living with gay men is tough. Sometimes it can be a beautiful and special adventure. Other times, it can be downright nasty. My first gay roommate, Garth, was the epitome of having a difficult roommate. I guess the first problem was that Garth could not hold down a job longer than three weeks. He would be constantly late for work because of the heavy drinking and drug use from the night before. He would abscond with clothes from each retail store he worked at in order to fill his wardrobe closet.
Our home life was even worse. After he came home from the bars I would have to deal with the constant yelling and screaming of how drunk he was. Then came the sex. Every night he brought home a different “husband.” I guess you can say that Garth was an easy lay. Anyone that would buy him drinks and placate to his fancies would be offered Garth’s generous virginity. He would use the line “you know I am still a virgin” a lot. He was a virgin more times than I can think. Some of the repeat “husbands” would know better, to them a hole was a hole, and Garth was an easy hole in one.
I guess what broke the roommate relationship was the one week of drunken debauchery Garth had. It was the holidays, and he went to see his father, the minister, over the holidays. Garth and his father did not get along because he didn’t like Garth’s gay lifestyle. Garth wanted the closeness to his father but knew that it was a lost cause. So, Garth began to drink heavily during this period. The first night, of that bad week, Garth thought our oven was the toilet. When I woke up the next morning, Garth was laying naked on the floor sleeping in his own urine next to the oven.
The second night I wanted to watch a tape on my VCR. Unfortunately, when I tried to put the tape in I noticed that the top of the VCR was crushed. There was a set of ass prints on the top of the VCR. When I confronted Garth, he proceeded to tell me that his “husband” from the night before thought it would be fun to have sex on top of the VCR.
On the third night, as I was fluffing up and turning over the cushions on the couch I noticed a big feces stain on one of the cushions. It ran the length of the cushion. So, at three o’clock in the morning I was scrubbing feces out of my couch cushion. Garth came home a little bit after three-thirty. He had another “husband” with him who started a fight with him as soon as they walked through the door. Garth proceeded to hit his “husband” of the night across the face. That escalated into the “husband” smacking Garth around. I finally had to step in and throw this guy out. Garth on the other hand started crying and laughing about the experience. He went to his bedroom and cried himself to sleep. I forgot to mention to him about the feces stained couch cushion.
On the fourth night I made the decision to throw Garth out. I needed the right time. About a week later, Garth started dating a guy that was to be his new “permanent husband.” Usually, the “permanent husbands” lasted about three weeks. Garth and the “permanent husband” would go through this trial period of Garth staying over his house. Then Garth would come back to our apartment only to get new clothes or some toiletries and then run out the door with one of my coffee mugs. I lost a good set of six coffee mugs that year.
Since I now wasn’t seeing Garth more than twice a week at this point, I had to act fast. I found out where his grandmother lived in town and decided to plot out a plan. Luckily, Garth just happened to be sick the week I made my plan called Operation: Silent Move. First, I made sure that Garth was stuck at his boyfriend’s house. I checked with some mutual friends of ours. He was too ill to leave the boyfriend’s house. I grabbed my car out of the garage, loaded it up with Garth’s personal belongings and trucked it over to his grandmother’s place. When I got to his grandmother’s place I explained to her that he needed his stuff moved over to their place for storage. They took his stuff with open arms.
Then I went over to where Garth was staying and confronted him. He was laying in bed running a fever and was heavily medicated. I explained that I couldn’t handle living with him anymore and that he was still behind 3 weeks on the rent. I told him I moved his stuff over to his grandmother’s house and that I changed the locks on the door.
Luckily for me he was too weak to argue with me. Garth began to say something, started drooling, and passed out. I shook hands with his ‘permanent husband” who now had this dumbfounded look on his face and left. That was the last time I have seen or heard from Garth. From my sources, Garth left town about 3 weeks later with a new “permanent husband” who took him away to paradise, Waukesha, Wisconsin.
I knew that this was an extreme gay roommate situation and that I probably would never have to deal with it again. I admit I have been lucky, compared to some of the other gay roommate stories I have heard. Roommates stealing checkbooks and credit cards, running a drug dealing operation or prostitution ring out of the apartment. I did have one roommate that was an escort for some of the older prominent male clientele in Rhode Island but I never had to deal with any issues from him. He paid the rent on time and often came home with some goodies. Some good wine and leftovers from the finest restaurants in Rhode Island graced our house.
My roommate after Garth was pretty decent. His name was Robert He was eighteen when I met him. The only bad vices he had that I had to deal with were his clothes not being washed and the massive amounts of computer parts all over the apartment. He was a computer wiz and he enjoyed having a graveyard of dead computer parts laying about the apartment. I went through a lot with Robert. To this day he still calls me Mommy.
Dealing with Robert was a positive experience for me. It is probably the closest relationship I ever had with a roommate. It was a family type of set up for me and I enjoyed every minute of it. Robert had a few emotional problems I needed to contend with. He was angry at the world and he made sure people knew it. The anger and bitterness seeped into his relationships with boyfriends and with the people he dealt with as friends.
Sometimes I wonder why I took on a task such as Robert. I guess I saw something in him that reminded me of myself when I was that age. There was never a dull moment living with Robert. I considered him to be a genius. On many levels I wasn’t wrong. He had the capacity to understand and logically deal with life in an analytical way. Sometimes better than I did. As I watched him grow up, I began to notice the men he dated. A majority of them were good to him, maybe except for one or two that had issues and wanted to be as clingy as they could be with Robert. Robert never accepted clinginess. He shied away from that and pushed that boyfriend away when they got too clingy.
Robert was different. He knew what he wanted. It was love. He romanticized over what he thought was the perfect relationship. It always began and ended with love. There were men that wanted to give him love but he didn’t want to take it. More than anything he didn’t want to get hurt.
I learned a lot from this roommate relationship. I started to see again what it was like to be hurt, to struggle as a gay eighteen year old, and to try to fall in love. Overall, everyone wants to find love.
Today, Robert is settled down with a man he has been dating for 2 years. My opinion of the man, he is a doofus, but he treats Robert well and he is honest with him. I know this isn’t fair to Robert or his boyfriend, but this is my New Yorker attitude coming out and my motherly instincts. I always want the best for my friends.
My latest roommate Derek has been different experience all together. We started off as friends first then roommates. He warned me before I moved in, “you know how I live now, and this is what you are going to get into when you move in.” Derek was right; if I were going to move in I would have to deal with all his eccentricities, his bad habits, and his ideals on how the world should be. His famous line, “I don’t want to deal with it.”
I visited Derek several times before I moved in. I even made dinner over at his apartment for some mutual friends of ours. I will admit, I was shocked at how he lived. Dirt was everywhere. His other two roommates gave up on Derek the third month after they moved in with each other. Derek showed them all his callousness of not cleaning up after himself, leaving a pile of dirty dishes in his room for weeks at a time, overflowing garbage, laundry that wasn’t done in weeks, cigarette butts & ashes, empty liquor bottles, and used condoms all over his bedroom. I guess you can say Derek is lazy.
Since I moved in we have had many discussions on how the apartment should look. I threatened to move out several times if he couldn’t help contribute a little help to our living environment. I will admit, Derek and I have had our share of fights. Sometimes it has turned a bit physical. Being a friend, a roommate, and a companion has taken its toll on both of us emotionally. I am happy to say that we do have an open line of communication. We are able to speak freely with one another. At times, especially when both of us have been drinking, we say things we shouldn’t, but in the end we make up and move forward.
Some of our friends are mutual acquaintances to the both of us. They have invited him out to glamorous parties and not me. My feelings get hurt, but I back off emotionally and physically to those friends and have decided to move on. Though Derek and I are not lovers, the mutual friends that we talk to consider us to be married. This year we got a Christmas gift addressed to the both of us. Derek and I still try to assure people that we are not lovers. We have separate rooms and sleep with other people. I get annoyed at some of the questions that get brought up by friends and acquaintances. So do you sleep with your roommate? Do you guys watch each other have sex with other people? So what is the sex like between the two of you? Are you allowed to date other people? Who’s the top and who’s the bottom?
Once in a while I amuse myself by answering the questions. Now it gets to be a drag on the senses. I will admit, Derek and I are similar in a lot of ways. Our taste in music is comprehensive with one another’s style, we both enjoy collecting and watching avant-garde & films of substance, and we are both creative and intellectually stimulating to one another. So what’s the problem? Why don’t we date as other people have mentioned? Well to put it bluntly, and no offense to my roommate, Derek is shallow and prefers the company of eighteen to twenty one year old men when he dates, and I choose to be single. Of course, I have had the occasional relationship that lasts for about a week. Then I get bored and move on. In my life, my job comes first, relationship or my happiness comes second.
So how do we wind up not killing each other? It’s the open line communication we have. I guess you can say we have an open relationship. At times I meddle in his affairs. He offers me the details of his life, and of course I respond. He then contradicts himself, and I respond. Once in a while, I shut down my emotions. I don’t talk to him for days. This pisses him off to no end. We argue and he tells me I don’t have a middle ground. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Derek doesn’t have a middle ground when it comes to cleaning or straightening up the apartment. He expects me to do it. Once again a balance is needed.
Last week, I had another discussion with him and told him that if he wanted me to treat him like a sixteen year old then I will. I told him that he was twenty-one going on twenty-two, it was time to grow up and be a man. “Have some pride in yourself,” I stated. Of course, the statement of “you knew what you were getting when you moved in” came up. I disregarded that and went for the jugular. I said to him “the days of wine and passion are over.” “Time to grow up.” “You want to be a man or do you want to be a loser, your choice.” “Take responsibility for your self. Stop being irresponsible.”
I guess something I said hit home. He is now starting to clean the house, he is actually asking me whether or not I want to do things with him, and he is making an effort in the house to make it comfortable for both of us. I know our mutual friends have had a few words with him. They know that he was taking advantage of my good nature and my willingness to bend over backwards for someone. They made him feel guilty. I know he doesn’t like it but for right now it’s working. If I can just get him to learn how to cook, he would be domesticated just a little bit more.
Living with people is tough. Some make it and some don’t. I believe in total honesty and trust in any relationship I deal with. I believe that a living situation is a partnership, bound by legal contract. There is a certain respect that has to be maintained.
Unfortunately, when you throw in a friendship, emotions, mutual friendships & acquaintances, admiration for one another, and gay bonding into the pot, you get a sort of quasi-hybrid type of living arrangement that really can’t be defined. All you can ask for is that you don’t kill each other in the process while trying to create a happy home for both parties. If both people are willing to make it work, the speed bumps in the road will be small and won’t damage your lives that much.
C. J. Kurkowski is a freelance writer living in the Chicago area. He has published poetry, and non-fiction pieces for 256 Shades of Grey, The Statesman, OUT in Chicago, and NOTA.