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Why the internet loves dunking on guys’ terrible apartments

The latest viral Twitter meme suggests all dudes live in mostly empty hellscapes.

Parks & Recreation’s April and Andy are among the most famous of Bad Apartment-havers.
Rebecca Jennings is a senior correspondent covering social platforms and the creator economy. Since joining Vox in 2018, her work has explored the rise of TikTok, internet aesthetics, and the pursuit of money and fame online. You can sign up for her biweekly Vox Culture newsletter here.

It’s that classic scene in every romance novel: Girl meets guy, girl decides she likes guy (or at the very least has determined guy is not a serial killer), girl agrees to go over to guy’s place. And finally, the steamy climax: Girl discovers that guy lives in a wall-to-wall carpeted hellscape with zero furnishings besides a single PlayStation 4.

To be clear, there are no actual romance novels that include this scene, probably. That’s because it is being lived, constantly, by people everywhere, all the time.

That, at least, is what many of 2018’s viral tweets would have you believe. The most recent iteration, which states that “guys really live in apartments like this and don’t see any issue” next to a photo of a recliner and a sad-looking entertainment center, even became its own meme.

The gist is that men, in general, are presumed to live in apartments that are empty, ugly, or dated, and that they don’t even care enough to fix them.

Yes, this is a very sexist assumption. Many men take great pride in their living spaces, and many not-male-identifying people do not. I, for instance, once lived in a former tenement building where the bathtub was placed, bewilderingly, in the kitchen, and I can’t claim that I put all that much effort into making it any less bad.

It is also not a concern limited to the heteronormative: One woman I spoke to detailed a horrific encounter in which she arrived at a female Tinder date’s apartment in which there was what appeared to be a “wise old tree” in her toilet and a bedroom covered in dirty laundry and moldy dishes, and said date then got onto her own bed with rain-soaked clothes and shoes. All people are capable of being disgusting.

There is a difference, too, between renting a less-than-great apartment because it’s all that’s in your budget and almost purposely choosing to neglect your living space. The joke in all of these viral tweets about “male minimalism,” as one of my co-workers described it, is that men who should know better — men who are old enough, who have enough disposable income and free time and are otherwise not prohibited from putting a modicum of effort into interior decorating — choose not to, simply because they can.

Here is a list of items people have told me that they have found in men’s homes in the course of reporting this story:

  • Two queen mattresses on the floor and nothing else
  • An old bowl of mac and cheese in the bathroom
  • A Crown Royal bag of condoms propped up on the side of the bed
  • A sword and also a noose
  • Green Christmas lights affixed to the ceiling in a totally incoherent pattern
  • A toilet that did not have a seat
  • A bookcase of exclusively Stephen King novels
  • A cutout of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises in the corner of the living room
  • Multiple handguns loose on the floor
  • A live bat inside a curtain
  • Curtains that were actually black sheets stapled to the wall
  • A pillowcase that was actually an old pair of gym shorts
  • A photo of his ex-girlfriend that “didn’t mean anything, she was just so pretty”
  • Game of Thrones Funko Pop Dolls laid out in a way that mimicked Westeros (e.g., Jon Snow was next to the air conditioner)
  • A framed print of a Star Wars ship and a crate holding a (live) elderly poodle that he expected to have sex in front of

This, of course, does not include the more common indecencies such as mildewy towels, mysterious facial hair covering the sink, a single pillow, and by far the most widespread: no bed frame.

In a similar spirit, a viral Twitter thread last week started by user jodieegrace crowdsourced the very worst items found in men’s bathrooms, with responses ranging from dirty dishes in the bathtub to a lone slice of pizza in the cabinet under the sink.

Dunking on men’s bad apartments, it seems, is the current favorite activity of people on the internet. Lauren Walker, whose tweet about the difference between men’s and women’s apartments went viral this summer, says the idea for the tweet came to her after a conversation with a guy who had been in an apartment for years who seemed to have barely unpacked. “Nobody gets to live like this but a very select group of guys,” she says. “If their guy friends come over, they don’t care — or they just don’t have people over.”

The fact is that for many men, there’s no real consequence to living in non-cute apartments. In college, my friend Max, for instance, lived in an apartment in which his roommate slept on a mattress underneath a table. “Not only did he bring girls back to that, but one of them actually came back again,” Max says.

Women, meanwhile, have long been expected to be natural homemakers long after the second-wave feminist movement attempted to expel such stereotypes. A preternatural inclination for tasteful Etsy cross-stitches and vintage art prints is of course not coded into female DNA.

“You know, I don’t always put my clothes right in the hamper, I’m guilty of that too,” Walker says. “But it’s particularly the lack for furniture that always freaks me out. It’s just like, no decorations on the wall, totally bare white wall. That is serial killer shit, man.”

And that’s not to say that there isn’t a kind of female equivalent to the bad apartment problem. In a reply to kathasty’s tweet, one person wrote that “girls really have bathrooms like this and don’t see any issue” atop a photo of a sink filled with dozens of beauty products. Another replied, “Sorry we understand this economy and don’t waste our money on dumb shit like three wooden arrows that say ‘live, laugh, love.’”

No doubt, the backlash to the “men have uniquely terrible apartments” is already here. “There’s girls who have the same problem, who just don’t care, and that’s fine,” Walker says. “Maybe the female equivalent is just going overboard, and every square inch is covered with something. And the stringy icicle lights over the bed. But at least you made that trip to Target. At least your mom took you to Target freshman year.” Indeed.

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