As a woman, here’s what I’ve learnt from living with three men



“In our house, vulnerable conversations are careful and nuanced, made up of sympathetic looks and icebreaking jokes and pats on the shoulder. And it’s great.”

Before I go any further, let me clarify something. This isn’t going to be some kind of thinly-veiled stab at female friendships. While I believe the ‘pick me girl’ complex is inherently anti-feminist (a story for another time), I understand the sentiment. It can be tough to listen to women crumble under the weight of their own internalised misogyny – but that’s not this story.

Having moved to Melbourne from Queensland six years ago, I’ve experienced the full spectrum of sharehouse living – the pocket-sized, oversized dorm room, the spectacularly disgusting first ‘real place’, the uniform apartment in a residential suburb and the transient townhouse that’s full of safety hazards and never has a lease attached.

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Each place came with its own set of peaks and pitfalls (some pit more than peak) and was important to shaping those formative young adult years. Residing with someone can be very intimate, and I feel I learned a lot by observing the way others handled the logistics of their own lives.

I’ve always lived primarily with women, with the exception of one particularly close male friend. So when the opportunity arose to live with three men, I thought it would be a valuable experience to add to my mental scrapbook of sharehouse memories. Admittedly, I was a little nervous – I only knew one of the three boys well – but made a snap decision and had my many, many boxes moved within the month.

Within the first week, I started to examine my own comfort in platonic opposite-sex friendships. As I spent more time in the house, I realised there was a subconscious barrier that had never existed around my female friends. It was the deep-rooted instinct to be very pleasant, withheld and inoffensive.

Without even realising, I was stopping myself from watching embarrassing reality TV in the living room and unabashedly shovelling junk food into my mouth (two of my favourite things). Yes, this is a natural phenomenon in the early stages of a new roommate relationship – but it felt more acute this time.

I learnt that an uninhibited platonic relationship can be a beautiful thing. I mimicked my housemates and began to let go of insecurities, basking in the blissful nonchalance that is sharehouse living. And while I’d been taught that men lacked emotional depth, I was quickly proven wrong.

No, it’s not the same as the fragility I’ve experienced with my female friends. But in the moments when a house member is seeking advice or reassurance, there’s always time carved out for deliberation around our living room table. Dinner is often served by whoever can be bothered to walk up the road to the grocery store, with meals slapped together on craving impulse.

In our house, vulnerable conversations are careful and nuanced, made up of sympathetic looks and icebreaking jokes and pats on the shoulder. And it’s great. I’ve learnt that a lot of the time, I can actually use half the words when I’m speaking and still say the same thing. Actions are important and you don’t have to shout every passing thought from the rooftops. Maybe this experience will make me more mysterious?

I’ve also learnt that throwing caution to the wind is sometimes really fun, generosity is important and boys also appreciate fancy skincare products. If men are from Mars, I’m decidedly happy to live there for a while. It’s quite a nice planet.

For more on connecting with male friends, head here.

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