The Art And Science Of Living With A Stranger

From college dorms and summer camps to RVs and retirement hotels, what it’s like to share a room. True stories of roommates.

Lara Russo, left, Cally Guasti, center, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014.  While their roommate story of $40,800 found in a couch made the news, other, weirder stories of unusual roommates are far more common. (AP)

Lara Russo, left, Cally Guasti, center, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014. While their roommate story of $40,800 found in a couch made the news, other, weirder stories of unusual roommates are far more common. (AP)

We may be living in the great age of roommates.  A bad economy, expensive housing, twenty-somethings doing what they have to, an army of older singles looking for companionship, cost-sharing.  Roommates are the answer to a lot of very contemporary challenges.  But, of course, they can be challenges in themselves.  Odd couple friends and supporters, or no-way nightmares.  When you get a roommate, you get the whole package of another human being – their ticks, their habits, their magic, their dirty dishes.  This hour On Point: our great age of roommates.

— Tom Ashbrook


Stephanie Wu, culture, food and travel writer and editor at Town & Country. Author of the new book “The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance and Disturbingly Close Quarters.” (@stephwu)

Elizabeth Bernstein, ‘Bonds’ columnist and reporter for The Wall Street Journal. (@EBernsteinWSJ)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: ‘The Roommates: True Tales of Disturbingly Close Quarters” — “Any day now, parents across the country will fill their minivans with hope and some stuff from Target and drive their amazing kids off to college. Some of their young men and women will study business and English, while others will simply major in beer. But every one of them will gain an appreciation for comedian Bridger Winegar’s recent tweet, ‘Roommate wanted. We would split rent 50/50, utilities 50/50, cable 50/50, groceries 50/50. Ideally, you would live somewhere else.'”

Huffington Post: The 8 Worst Types of Roommates You Could Encounter — “At 27, I’ve lived with nearly 20 different roommates, between summer camps, college, and post-grad life in New York City. Some have become my best friends; others are remembered only by their odd habits (like the one who insisted on climbing into a wardrobe whenever she was changing). Most of my roommates have impacted me in some way — for better or worse –and inspired me to spend the better part of last year researching this particularly fraught relationship. ”

New York Times: The Buddy System — “For the fresh-out-of-college transplants eager to make New York home, living in shared quarters is a rite of passage. What with the monthly tariff for a studio as high as $2,777 in Manhattan and almost $2,600 in Brooklyn, according to the real estate appraiser Miller Samuel, the young and the nestless often must resign themselves to a term of communal habitation in a cozy one-bedroom that becomes a two- or three-bedroom with the aid of a drywall partition. ”

Read An Excerpt Of “The Roommates” By Stephanie Wu

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