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Room for rent 

How things could get weird with coed cohabitation

I recently posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a roommate. The prospect of having to share my charming Victorian house with a complete stranger was not something that particularly excited me, but my cash flow hadn't exactly been... flowing lately, and in this state of ebbing cash, I had to find someone to rent my spare room.

Being a follower of rules, I adhered to Craigslist's strict, clearly outlined list of do's and don'ts when making my post. These guidelines forbid users from being gender-specific in the wording of their ads — if I violated this rule, I could face the possibility of being sued by some nimrod with nothing better to do, who had no understanding that I was not a bigot but rather a single woman with a single bathroom that I preferred not to share with a strange man and a light dusting of random facial and pubic hairs. And let's not even speak of the shower drain.

Still, intimidated by authority and fearing even the slightest reprimand, I omitted "female preferred" from my ad. Never mind the string of other posts that started with phrases like "gay male looking for a place I can be myself." I looked at the possibility of being sued for $10,000 by some tool with an ax to grind straight in the eye and decided to play it safe.

Of course my ad was answered by several men — quelle surprise! Most of these I ignored; I didn't want to have to explain the bathroom thing over and over again as I rejected man after man, so this approach seemed best. However, one guy actually sounded OK, so I responded to his email and told him that I might consider him.

But the moment I hit send, I began to wonder if I was courting disaster. And the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with the thought of this guy moving in.

Now, my discomfort didn't stem from the most obvious reasons you could think of. Like the one where this guy — a total stranger whom I'd met on Craigslist — turns out to be a serial killer who moves in and rapes and murders me in the middle of the night. Or the one where we're attracted to each other and have totally hot, non-serial-killer sex, which makes us painfully uncomfortable the minute it's over and I have to ask him to move out. And then there's that having to put up with the stray hairs I'm not sleeping with argument, which probably doesn't need repeating, but there it is anyway.

None of these reasons, as thought-provoking as they all are, even come close to the real issue that raised the red flag. It was a seemingly innocent phrase this guy had written in his second email: "I'm about to be divorced, and I need to find a place to live ASAP!"

Now, this scared the crap out of me. Uh oh, I thought. If he moved in, my home would be his rebound housing. That could be bad in so many ways.

The dude was obviously still living with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and things could get really ugly were he to move in with me. Did I really want to set myself up for even more drama than the daily dose I was already getting, all on my own? And what would this soon-to-be-ex-wife of his think of his moving in with a single woman? Wouldn't that make her angry and loaded for bear, even if she did want to divorce him? And would I then get caught in the crosshairs? Also, would I have to spend my evenings listening to a grown man weeping in the next room? I'd already been through that. I was married to it, and it hadn't been all that long since I'd gotten a divorce and my husband, the biggest weeper of all time, had moved out. (Another reason for my desperate need for cash — he had taken most of mine.)

Maybe, I decided, the best thing would be to write this guy back and tell him I'd changed my mind. And maybe then I'd have the guts to reword my ad and put an end to these shenanigans once and for all.

Lucky for me, I didn't have to put the hurt on him, because no sooner had I begun my descent into regret and madness than my almost-roomie had a light-of-dawn revelation. He sent a sweet note telling me it would be a mistake for him to even ponder cohabiting with a strange woman, despite the purely businesslike nature of the relationship.

It was weird, like he'd read my mind or something. Or maybe I'd read his. No matter, whichever it was, I'm glad both of us came to our senses before this thing went beyond the confines of the two-dimensional relationship the Internet provides, and no three-dimensional feelings got hurt.

And I'm also happy that I wasn't killed by a stranger in my sleep.

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