I've now done plenty of online dating. And after 10 years of renting in this city (I spent as long as I could in on-campus housing at GW), I'm well-versed in the game of finding the perfect apartment online, too. Back in the day, you used to wait for the Washington City Paper listings to come out at 2 p.m. online on Tuesdays (or was it Thursdays?). You knew if you didn't respond in that first hour, you didn't have a chance in hell of seeing the place you were now lusting after. Nowadays, Craigslist is where to find that obscure, perfect apartment, especially when you're looking to get out of the big box high rise rentals. But it takes work. And patience.
The other day, I was giving my friend a rundown of my latest finds. In her email reply she said, "apartment hunting is exactly like dating." I started thinking about it and realized all the funny similarities. Allow me to illustrate:
You're wary of what kind of stuff you'll find on Craiglist. You've heard all the urban legends -- my friend's roommate works with a girl who met her boyfriend through the personals on Craigslist (the nice ones, not those other ones) and it works, swear it! Same goes for that friend of a friend who swears they know someone who found a large one bedroom, with hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances, in Clarendon, for under $1800. Someone this weekend told me about this tiny row of townhouses in Clarendon where a friend found a rental through Craigslist and pays peanuts. I call bullshit.
You stress about that first date. Does this outfit say "responsible tenant" or do I look like I care more about shoes than paying my bills on time? Ugh.
They don't look like their online pictures. I think apartments are even worse than men, in this regard. Wide angle lenses are more deceptive than MySpace angles. What looked like a huge closet in that online picture is really barely a coat closet in real life.
You hold your breath for the credit check. Even if you don't have credit baggage -- or emotional baggage (check!) -- you worry if you're going to make the cut. Am I good enough for this one? Will they judge me for that little indiscretion (Express store credit card) way back in college?
You worry about when to tell them you have a cat. With guys, I don't want to bring it up too soon, because that screams crazy cat lady. "I have a cat! Let me tell you about him!" But I don't want to wait too long, either, because know what? The ones I really like are usually allergic. Or are strict dog-only people (which is another term for asshole who doesn't really like animals, in my opinion, but I'm getting off track.) With apartment hunting, I've just decided to keep it quiet unless I have to say something. Don't break my heart and tell me you hate my cat after I've fallen in love with your apartment.
You worry when they don't write often enough. He didn't text me after the date. It means he doesn't like me, right? The owner hasn't replied to my email about how I love the place and will gladly sign over my life to fill out an application. It means he likes someone else better, doesn't it? What did I do wrong? Was I too perky? Too interested? Shit.
And just when you think it's for real this time ... You take another peek at Craigslist (or OkCupid) and find they reposted their ad or profile since your perfect date. Damn it, back on the market ...