In the twilight hours of the morning, a text came through:
The bartender was a guy my friend Alison, a 32-year-old marketing executive in New York, had been seeing on and off for a couple months. And the keg? Well, that was a sad piece of room décor that her not-a-boyfriend just couldn't seem to part with. It’d been taking up prime real estate in his bedroom for months. Why he just couldn't move it, a mystery.
And Alison stayed at the bartender’s house and slept next to the keg because that’s what we do sometimes when we like someone: love them, love their keg.
Of course, women often run into surprising, unwelcome, and just plain weird questions the first time they even think about staying over at a guy’s house. What if his place smells? What if he smells? What if he’s only got a twin bed? What if he sleeps with the lights on or the TV on, or with a tiny fan buzzing in front of his face? There are a million and one variables that are out of your control. For men, it’s a no brainer: Sure, come home with us, have a good time. For women, it’s a potential house of juvenile horrors — or at least a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.
“It’s awkward when you wake up next to a keg, in a garbage can, and you didn’t go to bed at a kegger,” Alison told me over drinks several weeks later, after things with the bartender and his metal friends had cooled significantly.
She typically dated guys that were as successful as her, but something about this particular underachiever had gotten to her, despite his, um, questionable living conditions. And yes, the keg wasn’t the only problem.
“There was a Patrick Ewing jersey nailed to the wall. There was an ashtray full of cigarette butts and bad weed schwag on the coffee table. There were a bunch of stolen road signs around the apartment. By the way, he and the roommates are ALL 32.”
What did she do? NOTHING. Because she actually like-liked him. Against the odds. And the death knell in any hook-up, or dating scenario, or relationship, is telling a guy his keg/ratty childhood comforter/year-old toothbrush has got to go. Instead, Alison opted to look on the bright side, like Heidi, 40, who works at a media company in New York.
Heidi’s had her fair share of miserable dude apartment experiences from her eight years of dating in Brooklyn.
“I went home with Greg maybe once,” she said of a long ago nightmare visit to a fling’s apartment. “I walked into an apartment that looked like a crack house. There was an empty kitchen. There was nothing in his bedroom except a twin mattress on the floor and the only decoration was a Chewbacca poster on the wall. You just look around and say ‘what's the positive here? Well, I like “Star Wars,” too.’”
And Greg’s bathroom? “I blocked it out.”
Bathrooms are often the worst part of dude apartments. No soap. No toilet paper. A preponderance of pee all over the toilet seat or floor. It can be a really hazardous place. A lot of women will avoid the bathroom if they can. For Greg’s part, he’d been living in the same place for five years, so whatever problems Heidi had, Greg was most definitely oblivious.
The first time Alison stayed at the bartender’s place, “the bathroom at night was horrible,” she said. “In the morning he must have cleaned it, because it was definitely markedly better.”
But even if the guy we’re going home with isn’t a terrible mess, and he lives like a relative adult, that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be problems.
Ally, 33, a writer who lives in Los Angeles, was excited to finally (maybe) settle down after years of singlehood.
“The first time I slept over at my ex's place, I learned that he already had a cuddle partner and that I wasn't exactly invited to the party,” she said, lamenting her ex and describing the scene. “Cut to me, lying completely adrift on one side of the bed, while he and his pug snored in unison, locked in a tender embrace cheek to cheek on the other side. Awk-ward.” The upshot? Her ex still has the pug. Ally is once again single.
Ultimately, sleeping at a new person’s house for the first time means giving up control — control of your surroundings, control of things like the temperature and the thread count of the sheets, and ultimately, how the next six to nine hours of your life might be. Which is why for some women, it’s way too much of a hassle to bother staying over at a new guy’s place at all.
“Basically every guy I’ve slept with has had a bed on the floor and no dresser,” said Alison. “These days, I make them come to my place.”