Flatmates are disgusting. What would it take to fall in love with one? | Emma Beddington

You’d have to ignore the hair-clogged plughole for a start. But I guess that’s where pheromones come in

Home alone last week, I did what I only do in private: flipped open my laptop and surreptitiously signed up to another unnecessarily complex streaming service to watch the romcom series The Flatshare. It’s not that I think enjoying romance is shameful; I just live with someone whose comfort viewing skews to stuff exploding and Kevin McCloud raising an eyebrow at architraves.

I adore a good romcom, but the reviews were adamant: The Flatshare is not that. I switched off my limited critical faculties and surrendered to a fondue-gooey viewing experience. It has a sketchy plot, damp-squib sexual chemistry and supporting characters limited to one personality trait, as if rationed. Then there’s the loopy premise: the leads share a flat and a bed (one gets it during the day, the other at night) without meeting. Fine by me.

There was one insuperable stumbling block to my enjoyment, though: I don’t believe you would fall in love with someone while living with their detritus and sordid habits, getting to know them only through Post-it notes, the most pass-agg form of communication imaginable. With an effort of imagination, I can just about understand falling in love in a real flatshare; pheromones could absolutely trump a hair-clogged plughole. But if your only contact with the other person is finding their toenail parings in a crumpled tissue, juggling their draining-board Jenga and scrubbing at their bath tidemarks, you are only getting the worst of them. How could that awaken emotions other than disgust and blind rage?

I’m sensitised to this at the moment because my sons are experiencing their first flatshares, reminding me how grim living with other people can be. I’ve received pictures of a recycling pile big enough to get Kevin McCloud excited about its radical use of negative space, an overflowing bin that should be destroyed with a flamethrower and a shower that needed a content warning. I’d still be single if I’d got to know my spouse only through his abandoned bean tins; he’d have been repulsed by my floordrobe. Flatshares – other people – are disgusting. My next romcom comfort watch will need distant, Regency-style longing as a palate cleanser.

• Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist


Emma Beddington

The GuardianTramp

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