“I want a Golden Girls home.” It’s a common refrain about living in shared housing. But what does that really mean? It means that they see the half-hour show of humor, the easy hanging-out at home, being involved in each other’s lives. It’s a picture of warmth, friendliness, togetherness, companionship. I believe that that relationship is possible. It’s a relationship I call “home-mate.” A home-mate is a person you like and respect whose ways of living at home are compatible enough that everyone is comfortable.
A “home-mate” is more than a “housemate.” It is the natural deepening of relationship, of connection that occurs when two or more people who like and respect each other are living under the same roof and get to know each other through observation, telling stories, and making memories. It doesn’t happen overnight—it happens over time.
It won’t happen if there are basic conflicts about how each person lives in the home. If you are arguing about dishes in the sink or at odds about using incense you aren’t going to be open to engaging with the other. This is why it is so essential that the initial screening process explores compatibility at home. That’s when it’s easy to recognize that it’s not going to work, and everyone can move on. It’s so much harder after people have moved in together to negotiate true sources of conflict. The person who likes to have the television on as background noise should not live with a person who wants quiet. Our interviewing guide will help you navigate that set of concerns.
How do you know if you like someone? What is liking a person? Isn’t is a whole bunch of things? There’s something about that person that makes you feel good—that is attractive to you.
Every encounter with another human being starts with a first impression. This first impression is remarkably fast. In business circles the research says that the interviewer creates a first impression in seven seconds. We can’t help it, we are neurologically wired to create an impression of the other. The interesting thing is that those impressions are based on a combination of past experience and subconscious readings of the person. Does the person look like someone you’ve known? If it was someone you liked, you are more likely to like them. If they look like someone you don’t like, you will ascribe the negative to the person in front of you. You may not even be aware of this effect. Likewise, if the other is open and positive towards you, you are more likely to generate a good first impression. Common advice for making a good impression includes smiling and looking the person in the eye. These are the natural behaviors of a person who is welcoming of the other. In other words, do you feel that they like you? Isn’t that complicated? So, you like a person if you feel that they like you.
First impressions can be wrong. They may come out of prejudice or ignorance. I read a story about an African American exchange student who when she showed up at her host family in Spain was denied entrance. After various phone calls and negotiation, she moved in. Her hostess became her best friend and they were thick as thieves for their time together.
Liking someone has to do with how that person makes us feel. Do we find pleasure in being together? Do we have common interests that we enjoy doing together? Do we like talking to each other? Can we hang out? Does being with the person make us feel good?
Respect means that you accept somebody for who they are, even when they’re different from you or you don’t agree with them. We often describe respect as being earned for an achievement such as an academic degree, athletic prowess, or artistic production. But in reality, respect is what every individual wants. In the context of sharing a home, it means allowing the other to make their own choices and feel safe in their own daily lives. Respect is earned over time.
These two ingredients, liking and respecting, are critical to a good home-mate relationship.
The Uniqueness of the Home-Mate Relationship
There’s no other relationship like it. It is not the same as friends, lovers, or family members. It is a chance to have a completely different kind of connection. You choose each other for the benefits of shared housing, and you make a home together. This home can be two, three, four or more people. Assuming that you don’t ignore each other, you get to know each other through conversation and shared experience at home. Like any relationship that grows, it’s a two-way street of being interested in the other and opening up about yourself. (See Johari model. ) It grows by degree, bit by bit. Over time, you get to know each other better. Living together you have daily interaction and awareness of the other. You are no longer alone in the world. Someone else is aware of you, you belong to your household. Since you won’t have a staff of sit-com screenwriters creating scenarios and jokes for you, it is unlikely you will have exactly the Golden Girls household, but I do believe you can have a home that is warm, comfortable and loving.
Note: A remake of an espisode of Golden Girls with an all black cast was aired September 8, 2020.