What’s in a flatmate?

There’s nothing quite like being busted by your flatmates.

It’s their mirth that I fear most.

Tonight, for example, I was on my way home from a run that was more ambitious than I had intended. My energy was lagging and I desperately wanted to slow my aching limbs and stroll along at a more sedate pace. But, somewhat miraculously, my motivation did not lag.

I wanted to keep running so badly that I began punching the air. The movement impelled me and I picked up speed rather easily. You see, I had seen a shirtless fit dude doing similar running punches on the path a few days earlier and thought that may be my ticket to a flat stomach.

It was a great sprint to the bubbler, the punches keeping me going like the boost you get when a musician pumps out their best song at the end of a gig. It kept me kicking.

I was aware I looked like a lunatic, madly punching the air as I screamed along the pavement, sweating and panting.

I made it to the bubbler and then went on my merry way.

Later, as I was strolling back from the supermarket, (yes, I am one of those people that loves to extend my post-exercise glow and stench through Coles) Shorn Lowry sends me a sneaky little text.

“Pen were u running listening 2 eye of the tiger, I saw u punching the air.”

Oh, the cheek. Luckily, he already thinks I am crackers.

“Rage against the machine,” I reply.

The incident got me thinking about the relationship we forge in share-houses.

Some flatmates are dire. There is the sort you wouldn’t want to be placed next to at a spacious restaurant, yet there you are showering in the same recess. Watching them empty your shampoo bottle and secretly stealing away their cheese in the dead of night is tiring a charade.

Those folk are not the ones we like to share a wall with.

The ones that can cook and enjoy cleaning, they are the real winners in this contest.

It is enormously pleasant to wake in the morning and find a steaming cup of tea sitting by your bed. Once you are cool about them sneaking in and watching you sleep in your birthday suit, it’s a lovely gesture.

I have been thinking recently about the evolution of strangers and friends shacking up together and sharing fridge space.

Is share-housing a new phenomenon? Did the cave men shack up with the cave kids from down the gully?

Is it common in countries where there is a greater focus on family? Or is it mostly country kids, trying to get by in the harsh big cities, who are lucky enough to know about flatmates?

At last count, I have lived with 23 people. That does not include boyfriend’s flatties, who often fall into the flatmate category, by default.

Of those 23, some become very special. It is easy to forge a friendship, for when you share a house great intimacies are carried through the walls. Also, your buddy in the room next door is likely to catch you running like an idiot. And then tease you about it, which is certainly the way to my heart.

The saying goes that you don’t really know a person until you live with them. It’s true, I reckon.

The friendships are as solid as my eternal love for Ben Harper. And Johnny Depp, gosh he was fabulous in the Rum Diary.

It’s a different friendship to the way you interact with mates from school or work, or lovers even.

I believe living with people is one of the most honest pursuits we have in this society. Try hiding diarrhoea in a house where the bathroom adjoins the living room. It’s a disgusting home truth.

Your flatties, they know who is dossing in your bed on a rainy Sunday. They know, at most times, how much liquid income you have, give or take. They probably know about most of your allergies and a few of your fears. Your doctor should ask your roomies how many units of alcohol you consume a week, if they want an honest answer.

A good roommate knows your parents by first names and the relationship status of your siblings. Often childhood pets are mentioned over dinner.

Flatmates will figure out fairly quickly if you have nudity tendencies, a penchant for wearing dirty clothes, take drugs or, God forbid, if you have a secret Shakira habit.

And recently I heard about a beautiful Spanish girl that had an intervention forced upon her by some cranky house buddies. The early-morning Shakira was too much. There were tears.

It’s the kooky little habits that make the relationship so honest, I reckon.

A good flatmate will enrich your life. They see in you what you sometimes miss in yourself. That can be creepy and weird, but it’s enlightening.

And the fun you can have playing Jenga, sliding around in your socks on the polished floor, destroying each other with the Super Soaker and, more generally, teasing each other about eccentricities; that fun is boundless.

Flatmates, I reckon, are like teapots. A crappy one will spill stuff everywhere without a consideration. And you will hate it for ruining your moment-of-pure-unadulterated-bliss cuppa. That teapot can do no right and should be swiftly taken to Vinnies for some other sucker to suffer.

A good teapot, however, will pour you a sweet brew when you’re nursing a broken toe. It will worm its way into your heart.