My First Home: When it comes to sharing a house, eight is enough

My First Home
Rebecca Bradley for The Boston Globe

They always asked the same questions when I mentioned, casually, that I had seven female roommates.

“So how does that work?’’ (Eight rooms, five bathrooms, three floors.)

“Do you live in a sorority/group home/brothel?’’ (No, no, and, ugh, no.)

“Do you have the best parties?’’ (There were some good times, although the gender ratio was often skewed. Apparently many nearby bachelors all had the same idea about a house with eight women.)

“Do you all get along?’’

Better than you’d think, I’d reply, despite what you may have seen on “The Bachelor’’ (which we watched loyally). We were just out of college and living in Washington, D.C., where “group housing’’ is relatively common thanks to the city’s transient twentysomethings, high cost of living, and many colorful row houses.

For most of us, it was also the first time we’d lived on our own after college — and it was not an apartment, but a real house with a washing machine. Over a couple of years in that Adams Morgan house, a handful of us remained the core residents, while others moved in and out as rooms and State Department postings became available.

I didn’t have a job when I decided to move to Washington, D.C., in late summer 2005 to be a political reporter. I met my future roommates — friends of friends of friends — one morning, and we signed a two-year lease that afternoon. We bonded quickly over the lure of a backyard patio that could hold nearly two dozen people.

Sure, seven roommates might sound like hell to some people, but the size often worked in our favor. When you live with one roommate, it’s clear who left that dirty dish in the sink for two days. With seven roommates? It’s anyone’s guess.

And then there was ice cream. Our landlord ran the most delicious ice cream shop in Dupont Circle, and every month, when I delivered the rent check, I picked up either the most expensive or cheapest scoop I would ever consume.

Pistachio aside, my roommates and I quickly became chatty, staying up late to talk about what we wanted out of life with all of the wisdom and wonder you would expect from 22-year-olds. We commiserated about our bosses, our co-workers, our checking accounts, our families. Together we figured out how to argue with our landlord, ask for a raise, split with a beau, tap a keg.

More than a decade later, my former roommates and I have fanned out across the country. But I’ve since wondered what about that situation created such engagement among us. If I had never met those women before, and we were introduced today, would we still have that chemistry in our conversations?

Why was it so easy to open up to one another about nearly anything, and why now, in my 30s, does that kind of candor in female friendship take months or years to build?

Yes, the house was awesome, but I think it’s because we were so fearless. We didn’t know all the things that could go wrong when we signed a two-year lease, like a broken washing machine or the Great Recession.

We hadn’t made many mistakes yet. Our aspirations, personal and professional, were hinged to the hypothetical. We had nowhere to go but upstairs.

Shira T. Center, politics editor at the Globe, can be reached at Send a 550-word essay on your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue. Subscribe to our free newsletter at