When I was in my thirties, a series of unfortunate events led me to the conclusion that financially, it was near to impossible for me to continue to live alone in a rented apartment. It was time to find a room mate.
While attending university, I lived in a room mate environment; I rented a room at a less than full fraternity house on campus. As a single female, I found this to be a very interesting arrangement, a house full of single men and I the only woman. It did not take long for me to realize that yes, men tend to live like bears in caves, and the shortsighted female can on occasion ignore this fact. But in my thirties, a frat house was not an option. I surveyed my personal landscape for likely room mates.
Eventually, I chose to move into a larger apartment with a single man who worked second shift. This seemed ideal as my job hours were typical 9 to 5.
We began this room mate relationship with the clear understanding that we would not be seeing much of each other because of our different schedules; this was very acceptable as I was happily dating a number of men while maintaining a serious sexual relationship with another.
It never crossed my mind to explore any more of a relationship with my room mate other than, well, room mate. As convenient as this situation was for me, it definitely had it's retractors. My father, who I did not allow to influence my decisions, looked upon this arrangement as "questionable", while other people, mostly family members, snickered behind their collective hands. Friends, who I thought might understand the situation as well as understand me, were the worst of all. They did not mince words with their forecast as they asked again and again if I and the room mate were "sleeping together". Since the apartment had two bedrooms, one of which was occupied by my furniture, it would seem that this question was moot. When I told everyone an emphatic "No" to the questions, they hypothesized that it would "only be a matter of time" before the room mate and I started a sexual relationship.
For me, this was highly offensive. I had a sex partner, a darned good one. One that did not share my bed, require his clothes to be washed or dinners cooked. Why would I consider messing up a nice, tidy arrangement like that with a live in lover? And if I was moving in with a sex partner or boyfriend, why, I'd just have said that. The consensus of friends and family was doubly bothersome as it seemed that while voicing their own thoughts, they were commenting on my morality, which I might add, was no ones business but my own.
The arrangement ran its course; in less than two years, the room mate went his way and I went mine. But in the span of time we shared space, things went as I predicted: we did not become lovers, we did not part as enemies, the time we spent in each others company served to keep us, and our future lovers and spouses as friends which we remain to this day.
When I look back to that time, I realize that the things that were said to me, the fears expressed by my family, were not necessarily a judgment on my morality, but perhaps only a reflection of the choices of those same individuals. What worked for me, may not have worked for them. They might have seen a close member of the opposite sex as a handy bed warmer on a cold or lonely night. They may have walked down that road themselves before and were revealing their own past choices or regrets.
I also come to wonder at an age that does not allow platonic relationships without passing judgment, and I wonder if those who do point condemning fingers aren't guilty of more than negativity - perhaps they are the owner of a "dirty mind".
A "dirty mind" is a funny thing. We can all laugh at an off color joke, yet many people are quick to judge anyone who they think is living in a sexually gratuitous manner. When did the behavior of unrelated adults begin to absorb so much of our attention? And how many people find that a clear option for them may be unavailable because of familial pressures and opinions?
The 1950s were considered to be a repressive time in the history of North America. Times were good for the returning WWII veterans and they were welcomed home with full understanding that all they did was good and well intentioned. Veterans enjoyed many benefits provided through their service to their country, such as education bills, housing grants and job placement. The 1950s saw the largest housing boom in the history of this country; could that have been the source of the belief that traditional family was the only life and that each American should be able to buy a home of their own?
Even in today's climate of in your face reality, it is difficult for some segments of society to accept that lifestyle is different for each person.
In many ways our culture demands that we all live within the narrow boundaries of what is correct and right in the eyes of the majority. It is not uncommon for the basic liberties of our constitution to be denied to anyone living outside of the accepted norm.