Roomies Like These
January 29, 2016 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Margaret Sugg, Nancy Fassett, and Barbara Fletcher moved into a group house together in the 1960s and have lived together ever since, renting a row house in Georgetown, DC; buying a home in the Maryland suburbs, and then retiring together to a nearby retirement community.
They all grew close to each other’s families — acting as doting aunts to various nieces and nephews—and became famous among their friends and neighbors for their frequent house parties, as well as their “Magical Mystery Weekends.”

They’d plan trips for themselves and other friends, keeping the destination a secret. Once they brought everyone to National Airport, and boarded a flight where they’d somehow convinced the pilot not to mention the destination. They ended up in Winston-Salem in North Carolina, where they had arranged for friends there to host a cocktail party, and stayed at a resort nearby.

The years just went by. Fassett, now 84, worked for Montgomery County public schools, Fletcher and Sugg eventually got into real estate sales. They each portray their lifetime cohabitation as not so much a decision made at a particular moment but rather as an arrangement that simply grew too comfortable to leave.
posted by sallybrown (17 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
That's really lovely. It does sound very comfortable.
posted by clockzero at 12:51 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Notice how their hands tend to be in the same configuration in every photo.
posted by rhizome at 12:53 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

What lovely people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:53 PM on January 29, 2016

so cool
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2016

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
posted by duffell at 1:24 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

This brought tears to my eyes, because the biggest regret I've ever had was to ask my roomie to move because of a spectacularly stupid boyfriend who was jealous of her.
We had this sort of relationship and I can just see us living till old age together. She is dead now, and I blame myself for her death sometimes.
posted by mumimor at 1:27 PM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

How awesome.
posted by suelac at 1:32 PM on January 29, 2016

Saving this for my daughter, to show her there are more ways of making family than by romantic partnership.
posted by sobell at 1:34 PM on January 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

muminor, I think one of the reasons why this story is so interesting is there are so many of us who would enjoy living this way, but one thing or the other (romantic relationship, family needs, societal expectations) intervenes and takes our lives in a different direction. You are definitely not alone in this.
posted by sallybrown at 1:42 PM on January 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

Squad goals.
posted by praemunire at 6:22 PM on January 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Man, if you think about who you were right after college, your friends and roommates in your glorious mid 20s and to choose to stay frozen there I wonder how many of us would throw it all away and go back there. I certainly would.

We had a house on Sharon Street in San Francisco in the mid 90s. I recall having a serious crisis, I had been accepted to med school on the east coast, had just been dumped hard by my girlfriend who lived in the town where my future med school was and I recall thinking, for the first time in my life, I was in a place where I was surrounded by friends that I loved more than my family. My job was interesting enough and afforded me plenty of free time to socialize, make connections, and enjoy life. My three room mates remain some of the most important people in my life years later, though we rarely talk. I recall thinking "everything is just perfect right here, right now, why would I ever leave this?"

Because I knew we'd all eventually pair off, find careers instead of jobs, decide we'd want more space and privacy, and I might as well take the plunge and leave while I had a good opportunity and before things soured.

And things turned out well, I have an amazing job, a beautiful brilliant wife, a great house in a new city and 2 incredible kids. But on those rough days when I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and the kids are screaming when I come home after a 14 hour day, I think about those glorious days when I was free and wide eyed and independent. When I enjoyed closeness with my friends and roomies without responsibilities or expectations and I wonder what would have happened if I'd just flipped a coin and never left. I'm quite certain the happiness in my life would be no less than it is now.

Thanks to rent control, one of my original roomies still lives in that flat on Sharon Street 20 years later and I'm still on the lease. The rest of us have all moved out and are successful in our careers and have families. My buddy lives there alone with his daughter. We've been chatting on Facebook about a reunion weekend sometime and I think it's a fine idea.

These ladies are awesome and I am very happy to know that they are happy.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:24 PM on January 29, 2016 [19 favorites]

It's a real life Crone Island!!
posted by lunasol at 8:24 PM on January 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

Life is about making good choices, these three women have succeeded in that. I wish them well, and, honestly, envy them.
posted by HuronBob at 9:27 PM on January 29, 2016

Beautiful story. And Slarty describes perfectly a feeling I know I had in my twenties (everything is just perfect right here why would I ever leave this)?

But I also know that feeling could have kept me stuck when it was a good feeling, and probably helped end my first serious relationship. When my mid-twenties crisis of breakups and job shifts hit me I was in a group house in DC too, but most of my proper friends and my girlfriend had moved on in cities, houses, and jobs.

I remember distinctly feelings of being stuck in randomly filled group houses in DC, arguing about taking out the trash and utility bills, on entry level freelance rates without a girlfriend, and having a nightmare that I would be living in group houses in DC for decades with no end in sight. This article would have been read by me back then as a cautionary tale.
posted by C.A.S. at 12:04 AM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

What a cool story. I wish I'd been that lucky with roommates.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:28 AM on January 30, 2016

I also think their success at this arrangement is somewhat generational. For example, my mother and her college friends/former housemates, all 80-ish graduates of seven sisters colleges with plenty of money, think nothing of sharing hotel rooms when they travel together. They go on trips together often, especially as more of them become widowed, and no one ever suggests separate accommodations. Moreover, they practice the same cohabitation rules they negotiated back in their 20s, seemingly without even needing to discuss it. As young women sharing apartments while working their first jobs, they definitely assumed they would live together until they married. Even having their own rooms after dorm life seemed like a big step towards adult life. The shared apartments hit the sweet spot between independence and family, between freedom and propriety, etc. If things had gone differently in the romance department for my mother and her friends, I could see them evolving towards this solution. The older ones are mindfully choosing the same assisted living facility and, while my mother insists she will stay in her home until carried out under a sheet, I actually think she would enjoy the adult version of dorm life.
posted by carmicha at 7:16 AM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's worked well for them financially, too -- pooling resources and not having children has given them opportunities most women of their generation don't have. Their house, their summer house, their Caribbean timeshare, their vacations... Good for them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:03 AM on January 31, 2016

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