I had somehow found myself sitting in a heavily air conditioned (yet still stuffy) office building feeling as though I was about to sign my life away.
“Do you know what must go on in that house?”
At first I didn’t really understand she was banging on about.
“Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?”
She sat there staring at me, holding hostage the rental papers I’d been lusting after for months.
See, I was stuck in that shitty transition period where one share house collapses prematurely and all you’re left with is a whole bunch of records, a few pillows and some odd socks. You find yourself standing at the bottom of your parent's driveway at 26 thinking: how the fuck did I get here… again.
After being woken up at 5am, for the hundredth time, and listening to my Dad's spoon sadistically scraping at the bottom of his cereal bowl, I began to seek an alternative: a three story, five bedroom, 200 year old Terrace house, sharing with four boys.
I didn’t even think about the gender situation at first, although in a way, it was most likely the thing that swayed me the most. But now sitting in front of a woman whose name I’m presuming was Debra or Kathy or Helen, it suddenly felt like it was meant to be an issue.
“You couldn’t find a nice quiet house with at least one other girl to talk to, I’d be happy to show you some if you…” I let her trail off and talk to the stale air.
Her words made it sound like there was semen dripping from the walls in some kind of weird House Of Wax soft core porno spin off. I still sat, staring, nodding away, thinking partly about why I’m not a soft-core porn screen writer, but mostly about perception, particularly in regards to masculinity.
With her mindset clearly stuck in the same decade as her knock off pearls and yellow tinted sunglasses, where girls were damsels and men drank whiskey and celebrated the great bread lottery… (as long as dinner was on the table by five), her concern confused me. But then she wasn’t the first to assume the worst. “Four boys… and you. So… just four boys and then you? In one house?” they would all ask. Each repeating the phrase over and over again, as if by some chance their words would magically tip the gender imbalance back towards my favour. I’m sure even now, images of sweaty frat boys running around, drinking warm tinnies from sweaty shoes and hanging from the ceiling, howling at the moon are circulating through your mind; but this was not the case.
Take one afternoon for example - “Laauuurraaaa” a chorus of voices bounced up the rickety staircase and slipped under the crack beneath my door. Since most of my stuff still sat piled in boxes in the corner of my room, I didn’t really know what to expect.
“Come on mate we’re going to get a beer," the voices rang out again.
My thoughts of sinking a few tinnies in a dark bar talking about girls disappeared pretty quickly when we crossed the road and went into a building smelling of shoe polish and day old sponge cake.
“The lady who runs the place, she can’t carry the boxes upstairs”, one of the guys said to me, placing a heavy box into my hands as he pointed up the rickety staircase, “and she’s always up for a chat."
This is pretty much where the idea for this piece initially stemmed from, because the boys that stood in front of me - the same boys that welcomed me into their home - had just made me realise how lucky I was.
To a great portion of society, masculinity acts as a sort of panic room, for all men who are “just boys being boys”. Because all of the things that make us human, sometimes collide with this perception of masculinity. Because boys are strong, they have no feelings, they don’t fall in love and certainly do not show their emotions to anyone… right? Because all there is to being a man is how you measure your brute strength, how well you earn your money, and how fast you can drink it all down… right? This is the real conversation I wish I had with my Real Estate agent, as she sat there, staring down her glasses chattering away to no one and pausing occasionally as if to say 'blink once if you want to be rescued'.
The assumption that the anti-feminist, bro-boy stereotype applies to every single male we come into contact with, is honestly… bullshit. Because instead of the beer soaked walls, fist fights and howling at the moon, I found myself in the company of some wonderful individuals, who really make my house a home. I blinked myself awake realising the pretentious droning from across the table had finally stopped. Smiling and scrawling something that resembled my signature at the bottom of the page and turning to go I apologised.
“For what dear?” she cooed from across the table.
“For just how out of touch you are…"
When Laura drinks whiskey she (thinks) she turns into a mash up of John Wayne and Joan Jett and starts to measure everything on a scale of 1-Cowboy. She's also a fan of novelty socks and took up writing to talk about other people doing amazing things, just so her parents would get off her back. You can follow her insta @laurakebby or on the Twittisphere.