Archive for February, 2013

12
Feb
13

New Year’s Amended Resolutions

Start the T process. (EDIT 2/10: I talked to a caseworker at Chase-Brexton last week, and I’m now on the waiting list for a second appointment, and then hopefully bypassing any waiting period they might have with my retroactive “life test” piles of documentation also.)

As a corollary, have a serious conversation with my parents about names and pronouns. And ask my dad what puberty was like for him, because we really just want this conversation to be as awkward as possible.

I need to pick up my own car insurance this year.

Go back to school for business degree. (Maybe in the fall, situations depending. If I go to CCBC, maybe I can take Mr. Merciless’s class. WON’T THAT BE FUN.)

Not smoke. I had a clove last November and was like… this tastes like ash. NOPELOL.

Make with the retirement plan.

ALSO ALSO I’ve decided to save the world. One foster child / homeless transperson at a time. (And a farm! With goats! and bees! and a mead hall that’s built for acoustics so we can have dance partiiiiiiiiiesssssss!!) (EDIT 2/10: and a library and an interfaith sanctuary and an organic farm and a charter school and and and…)

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12
Feb
13

Learn Something New Every Day, Part 6: Couch Surfers

Neutral pronouns because stuff.

So we had two couch surfers last year, for about two weeks apiece. They’re both people I knew fairly well, who’d been kicked out of their previous abode and needed a quick place to crash and get their heads together.
For a lot of reasons, the Pirate House was a really convenient spot for them to stay, and they was willing to work for their keep until they could afford to contribute or found a different place, which was awesome because none of us had enough time at that point to get done all the things around that house that need doing. So in theory it should have been a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Somehow nothing quite worked out the way we planned. So here’s me working through some of the things that we could do better next time, assuming someone comes to crash while broke.

DEADLINES
-Two weeks just isn’t enough time, realistically, to put the trappings of a life together (job, transportation, paperwork, plan). If this happens again, we need to be prepared for at least a month of cohabitation and probably more.
-Two weeks is, however, enough time to adjust to how our household works.
-If someone is just starting out (i.e., no job, no car, no savings), there need to be benchmarks. “Have a polished resume in 1 week.” “Apply to x number of jobs per day.”

TRANSPORTATION
-Not having a key hinders someone’s ability to be out and about. Fortunately the Captain was mostly working from home during the time the surfers were here, but having a key allows someone to come and go as they please. (One couch surfer had a key because zie had a job and a car, and the other didn’t, because zie didn’t.) Maybe this is me having control-freak issues? Maybe we can only live with people who have allowance-of-control-freak-ability? Not even the Captain’s parents have a house key, and they’re in business together. This is potentially a personal limit but not a general one.
-The bus system is Baltimore is ASSTASTIC, and I know Howard County isn’t much better, although both of those are secondhand information. I’ve never been in a situation where I need to rely on it, thankfully, but as far as getting to things on time, it’s not a good option. We need to be understanding of this, and potentially make sure we’re available to offer a ride when a surfer absolutely HAS to be somewhere on time.
-That said, it’s not always convenient or even possible for one of us to give someone a ride, especially when asked at the very last minute (!). A surfer needs to understand that their host is not going to be at their beck and call. More about this in the boundaries section.

BOUNDARIES
-The Captain and I are both, to an extent, introverts. We need our alone time. Sometimes that means the Captain kicks everyone out of the living room to work on his laptop, and sometimes that means I kick everyone out of the kitchen to clean. We have this understanding of that doesn’t mean we don’t like each other, it just means we don’t want to be around people in general right now. So a surfer who spends every waking hour on the couch watching tv (!!) and gets affronted and hurt when asked to be elsewhere for a bit (!!!) messes with the mojo. Fundamentally, this is nothing more than a personality mismatch.
-If Daddy says no, Mommy is not going to say yes. The Captain and the Geisha and I do this thing where we actually communicate with each other about what’s going on in our house. So if one of us hears something, we all know about it in short order — when everyone’s on the same page about things, the machine that is our house runs much more smoothly. So a surfer who tries to go behind someone’s back to get what they want / complain about the situation / weasel out of responsibilities is not going to get very far, and is only going to put someone in an awkward position and get someone else pissed off.
-I work full-time. So does the Geisha. The Captain has his thing going on at home right now, and works better when he can plug away at it without distractions for eight-hour stretches. A surfer needs to be somewhat socially self-sufficient, and fairly unobtrusive. Which might mean staying in the guest room by themselves a lot.
-We were pretty good at establishing what isn’t OK, but we’re not as good at establishing what *is* ok, and what caveats we place on that. Cooking with our food is generally ok, as long as there’s enough to share. Coming to us with a personal problem is ok, as long as if it’s with one of us, the surfer is actually talking to the person they have the problem with. Asking for help with job search is ok. Asking how to accomplish a cleaning task, or for help with something that requires more than two hands, is ok. Letting me know “Hey, the way my days are structured doesn’t allow me to tackle large-scale housework, which is why I haven’t gotten around to vacuuming. Can we swap that out for something I can tackle in between doing other things?” is TOTALLY ok.
-A surfer needs to respect that sometimes, the people they’re staying with have a set way of doing things. And unless they’re paying rent, and living here for an extended period of time, they have absolutely NO influence over that. For example, the Captain is really bad at confrontation. That’s why he’s Good Cop and I’m Bad Cop; we make a good team but if we’re by ourselves, he’s kind of a pushover-with-ulterior-motives type of guy, and I’m kind of an asshole-with-über-high-expectations kind of guy. So when we’re tackling a problem together, we give each other moral support to actually face it and rein each other in to remain civil. While ideally people would confront the person they have an issue with, sometimes that isn’t the reality of what happens. In a roommate situation, sometimes things need to be resolved in a meeting and not one-on-one. (Usually, when the three of us have an issue, the people who have the issue with each other talk things through with the third person first, and then we all get together and hash it out with some mediation. It’s worked ok so far — things don’t always get resolved quickly, but they do get resolved together.) That is “how we do it.” AKA, “just the way things are.”

CONTRIBUTIONS
-In general, the minimum costs of having a couch surfer include: less room in communal spaces, slightly elevated gas/electric, slightly elevated water*. If they’re not able to provide their own food, that costs the hosts money. If they’re given access to non-required amenities like tv, internet, and mailing address, those cost the host a set amount of money, and the costs are divided among three people but being used by four. At minimum, a surfer should contribute at least enough to defray the costs of their living there; ideally in a longer-term arrangement someone would be contributing labor equal to their full part of household expenses. (For example, a quarter of rent/bills in the Pirate House can be paid for with 12-15 hours a week of housework.)
-A surfer should be able to contribute something of value, regardless of situation. Our surfer thought a coffee grinder would be useful. It really wasn’t, since we rarely buy whole bean coffee, and already have a coffee grinder anyway. This is something that needed to be negotiated better.
-A host should not expect a surfer to be psychic. I think we kind of fell into that trap: “We have a routine, these things are automatic for us, OMG WHY ARE YOU DOING THINGS THAT WAY INSTEAD!?” Which we tried to correct for with a Google Document about housework. And, like the first point, two weeks was just not enough for those habits to fall into place. The only thing that would have helped more here, honestly, would have been more direct clarity and communication. So when the main communicator/go-between (me) is at work fifty hours a week… that doesn’t really happen.

PERSONALITIES
-I really just don’t think we can functionally have this setup (housekeeping in exchange for room and board) outside of a d/s context. I want things done my way, dammit! The dishwasher loading diagram is non-negotiable. I would feel right training someone who expressed an interest in domestic things, submission things, service things, and wanted to be held to a high standard of household service. I would feel wrong trying to train someone who was NOT interested in those things, i.e., a mostly vanilla roommate. But then they would be doing things their way, which is the wrong way as far as I’m concerned, and I would be unhappy and when I’m unhappy I get nitpicky and when I get nitpicky people get offended. So that’s just not going to work.
-This might be different if it was more of an employer/employee relationship than friend-crashing-on-couch relationship. But I have some degree of trouble acting as an employer with friends outside the house (things get weird with the Geisha at work sometimes because I’m her manager; we get things done but it feels awkward) and I’m not sure how I feel about having a business relationship inside my house.
-Realistically I want a house big enough for a separate servants’ quarters.

*For the three-month billing period which contained the two weeks one of the couch surfers was with our, the bill TRIPLED. I’m not sure how that was managed.