It seemed like a good idea at the time. He needed somewhere to stay for three months and I could use help paying the mortgage. So, I agreed to allow someone move in with me for three months. A roommate.
Just the thought of having a stranger move into my house, share my space, always seemed like a big adjustment I wasn't willing to make.
But, other people have done it. My neighbor did it. In fact, she was the one who gave me the courage to allow a male nonromantic boarder to live in my house.
In her case, it was a career military guy who was stationed for a year at MacDill Air Force Base. She ran an ad on roommates.com and he answered it.
In my case, it was a friend of a friend from Pennsylvania who had taken a job in Bradenton and was looking for temporary housing until he could find his own place.
How bad could it be? I can do anything for three months, right?
According to an ABC News report using 2010 census data, 1 million women over the age of 45 have a roommate.
I was going to make it 1 million and one.
And so he moved in. Didn't bring much. Kept to himself. Left for work before I did. Went to bed before I did. Sounds pretty good, huh?
And, it was. Until you factor in personalities. I tried to keep it a business decision but I couldn't help but feel responsible for his happiness. I thought I needed to introduce him to people, to acclimate him to his new surroundings.
Unfortunately, he was 10 years younger than I am but light years more "mature." He didn't think it was cool to have friends coming and going.
"I feel like I live in a college dorm," he told me. He didn't understand what I was "looking for" when I went out to eat or hear music with friends.
To him, an ideal evening meant watching America's Funniest Home Videos and then going to bed at 8:30 p.m. with an e-reader. Once again, sounds ideal, doesn't it?
It would have been if I didn't feel constantly judged. He would look at me over the top of his glasses in a disapproving way. And, in the end, that was something that made the living arrangement unbearable.
He misconstrued everything I said. When I kidded around that he should weed the patio pavers while he was lying by the pool, he thought that meant I begrudged him lying around when there was work to do. (Something he later apologized for, blaming it on the aftereffects of a mostly lousy 20-year marriage.)
That was the beginning of the end. The true end came a couple of weeks later when he didn't come home at all one Friday night. It was so unlike him that I was worried. (I know, I know. It's a business decision and I shouldn't have even thought about it but I did.)
He didn't call — or answer my calls or texts — until the next day. When he did, I told him he should probably find his own place. No need for us to continue to cause each other angst.
That was Easter weekend. I was in Chicago with my younger son. When I got home, my roomie was gone and the key left on the table. No note, nothing.
Seems he found his own place, all right, and a familiar one it was. Back in Pennsylvania. He had returned to his old apartment and his old job.
Guess he just wasn't ready to leave home after all or, at least, I'd rather believe that than to think I drove him out of the state of Florida.
So, just a little caveat: If you're thinking about getting a roommate, just remember they pay you money but you pay in a lot of ways that can't be calculated monetarily. The question is whether it's worth it.
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8746.