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The Flatting Series - Part One

The Joys Of First-time Student Flatting
Jess Boanas-Dewes - 4/2/00

Flatting, of the 'student' kind is truly an experience in itself - perhaps even an 'adventure' to an optimist. At least this is what I have discovered. In my first year of university, I was able to live comfortably at home. This year, a change of courses meant a different city - suddenly I found myself face to face with a 'student flat'. For a start, one needs a good deal of general ingenuity. This includes: a gastronomic tolerance for staple foods such as honey on toast and frozen peas, an ability to cope without normal levels of hygiene and a knack of finding the cheapest alternatives - to anything and everything.

My room in Wellington is a generous nearly two metres by just over two metres area..some friends call it my 'parking space'. Before I painted it sunny yellow, my flatmates referred to it as 'the dungeon'. Though in its favour - unlike other student's rooms I have seen, it actually has a window. Admittedly it looks straight out onto a steep bank. The upside to this is that it imposes privacy to an extent that I have the option of clipping my toenails naked or singing into my hairbrush with the curtains wide open, without fear of ever being seen. I can only offend overgrown vegetation.

Our flat is, well, basic. I didn't realise quite how basic until I moved in. Within my first 10 minutes of arriving, the other female flatmate asked rather carefully if I had brought any cutlery with me. I sensed a rather urgent tone and asked her how much we had. She replied nonchalantly "Oh, we have maybe a couple of knives and forks...and one teaspoon." "One?" I said, incredulously. "Well, how many does one need?" she reasoned. She had a point. I did find it vaguely ironic the next morning to see her attempting to eat her weetbix with a fork due to lack of more favourable options.

Little did I know that I was in for more surprises. If you enter a student flat, you must be prepared to encounter some 'interesting' phenomena. Possibly even: the eccentric Kiwi male. The other morning one of my male flatmates was walking around the flat post-shower with just a towel around his waist. He was also attempting to affix a karabiner (rock-climbing clip) to one of his nipples. You know, just to see if he could. Even more lucky for me, he demonstrated how he could hang it off the loose skin on his chest and stomach, but couldn't get it to stay on either of his uncooperative nipples. I tried to be a good flatmate by nodding sympathetically and keeping a reasonably straight face. But then again this is the guy who actually said to a girl he was trying to woo : "Hey, my friend Mike thinks you've got a fat ass'.

Getting my own back has not been a problem. Merciless teasing has always been a favoured past-time and this habit was (unluckily for my flatmates) not left in Christchurch. One of my favourite themes has been my categorisation of male underwear. To the ire of my male flatmates, all specimens that are not boxers, or that are remotely tight are now known as 'man-panties'. I decided that 'panties' was such a silly word that it deserved to be gender specific no longer.

A few months have passed now. I have witnessed many culinary disasters but have generally had a great time. I am about to move out...not because of any more indiscretions with karabiners or anything else equally glamorous. The tyranny of the tiny 'parking space' bedroom has finally got to me and I am moving to a bigger room. The new flat even has an indoor swing. Yes, more crazy Kiwi ingenuity and surely more mad tales to come.

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