Love and Lobsters: The Apartment Anthropologist

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When I walk into a guy’s apartment for the first time I feel a bit like an anthropologist; uncovering mysteries about a life I’m just getting to know. I’ll see photos of a trip to the pyramids, and I’ll want to know why he went there. A discarded guitar makes me curious about his musical proficiency. And his books! I could spend hours looking at a boy’s bookshelf, comparing his favorites to mine.

But then there are the other men. The ones whose apartments are not an invitation to find out more, but rather a warning sign that something about them may be a little… off.

Just a few months after I graduated college I was set up on a date with a coworker’s friend. The date was nice, the guy was funny and I wanted to know more. When he brought me back to his place I was excited, curious and ready to explore.

The first thing I saw was a photo of a dolphin. Not some National Geographic artistic kind of photo, but rather something he likely took while vacationing at Sea World. The first dolphin photo was sweet and charming. I started to wonder when he went to Sea World, if he took his little nephews, what it was like. Then I saw the next photo. And the one after that. From the framed photo on his coffee table to the one of him with Flipper hanging above his bed, his entire apartment was decorated in dolphin photos. There was even a series of them hanging in his bathroom. I counted at least 30 photos, but I’m sure I missed some. When I asked him more about his decorating choices, he simply replied, “How can you not want to be a dolphin?”

How indeed.

A few years later, I was on a date with a guy I’d been seeing off and on for about a month. He invited me back to his place for a drink, but asked me to wait outside for a moment while he quickly straightened up. 20 minutes of standing on the street in the Tenderloin (and two calls to friends asking about how odd this was), he finally let me in.

There is honestly no way to describe his apartment in a way that will do it justice. Filthy dishes were piled on his desk, clothes covered the floor, papers and mail were strewn from every corner. Mold covered the wall. There was a dirty cat box with (seemingly) no cat. And the bathroom. Sometimes I still have nightmares about that bathroom. In short, the man’s apartment looked like the inside of Charlie Sheen’s mind. I had no idea how to act. Or where to sit. Or even how to make eye contact with him (what in the world did this place look like BEFORE you spent twenty minutes fixing it up!? WHERE IS THE CAT?). Or even how to explain why I didn’t want to see him again.

As I reminisce about past terrors (and I didn’t even mention the boyfriend who thought he only had to wash his sheets twice a year), I wonder if there is a support group of some kind. Or if there is a girl that is willing to look past these “cosmetic issues” for the right man. Or if perhaps I’m just being too picky. So please, share! Consider this your bad apartment safe space.

Joy Engel lives and works in Portland, Maine where she tweets far too much and solves the occasional murder-mystery while riding around on a bicycle. Everything she writes is her personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of her employer or its clients.