IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Landlords Propositioned Me For Group Sex

Bob and Mindy struck me as the kind of cool, worldly couple with whom I aspired to be friends.

May 13, 2014 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

It happened on a mosquito-infested July evening. I was drinking a glass of Yuengling straight from the keg in the back yard. My landlords, Bob and Mindy (names have been changed), were hosting a Fourth of July party in Washington, DC. This was in 2004, the summer after my college graduation when dead cicadas littered the sidewalks and lawns.
 
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I used to have blonde hair, live with a married couple and steal other people’s solo cups.

 
My boyfriend had driven me to DC in his mother’s Buick. We were in the eye of our final break up, a fact that neither of us had wanted to confront when he dropped me off at Bob and Mindy's front door. It had been difficult to find summer housing in DC from my college in Illinois. My internship boss had sent an e-mail to her friendship circle that her intern needed a place to stay. The first person to respond was a stern woman who lived in Maryland on the end of the train line. She insisted that I live in the same bedroom as her female German exchange guest.
 
“Katarina needs an American friend,” she barked at me. Uneasy about that living arrangement, I politely declined. 
 
I received Bob and Mindy’s e-mail next and they struck me as the kind of cool, worldly couple that I aspired to be friends with. They were Midwestern transplants who ate a vegetarian diet and kept a compost pile in the backyard. Bob was a minister in a progressive church and Mindy was going back to school. They were looking for a tenant to take care of their cats while they traveled that summer. I’d be living in their guest room on the first floor and they’d be gone for half of July and all of August. Their easy nature and lack of German exchange student hooked me. For $500 a month, the guest bedroom and cat responsibility was mine.
 
I arrived at Bob and Mindy’s in May. Their house was regal and charming, but Bob and Mindy were much more relaxed. They asked me to a meeting my first night to discuss house rules. Mindy explained that she and her husband were casual pot smokers and was wondering if I would mind. I said I didn’t care and had smoked pot in college. They asked me to respect their space and allow their cats into my bedroom.
 
“We never shut the doors on the cats,” Bob explained. I agreed I could do that. Mindy then asked what I hoped to accomplish for the summer. I told her I was looking to meet new friends and get a head start on my career. Mindy squeezed my hand and said, “You’re on a journey of discovering yourself.”
 
Over the next few weeks, we settled into coexistence. I spent my time at a paper-pushing job near the White House or out with friends in Dupont Circle. I eventually learned what “casual pot use” meant to them: The house was perfumed by the smell of marijuana every night as Bob and Mindy smoked in the basement. One evening I came home to photos of Jupiter projected onto the basement wall. Bob and Mindy then admitted with a hint of shame, “We ate all of your soy products. We were too high to get to the grocery store.” They offered to deduct the grocery bill from my rent.
 
I laughed and sat down at the table with them, marveling at the photos of the distant planet. Bob passed me a bowl and a lighter as he talked about astronomy. We were an odd trio in the basement, fit together like misshapen puzzle pieces. I was part tenant, part employee and starting to become a friend.
 
Some nights, if I wasn’t having drinks at Front Page, I’d join them in the basement for a joint and deep discussion. I confided that my boyfriend and I were having problems and I wasn’t sure if I loved him anymore. Mindy hugged me and told me to accept what life was making available to me and to leave college and my boyfriend behind. She told me that I was a rare gem, too precious to waste on just anyone. Under her wing, I felt my old insecure self fade into the distance. I stopped returning my boyfriend’s phone calls, and told him not to come visit me. I flirted with military brats in Adams Morgan and befriended paralegals at my gym. I was fitting into the DC scene. 
 
Later that summer, Bob and Mindy hosted a Fourth of July party in their backyard. I drank outside with their friends, sitting on plastic lawn chairs and talking about the time I lived in Costa Rica. I felt bold and desirable, flirting with Bob and Mindy’s friends.
 
A few hours later, the fireworks started. Mindy left the backyard to go inside to watch them on TV. Her friend Amy followed her. I stumbled into the TV room to get a glimpse of the fireworks myself and saw Amy and Mindy giving each other massages on the couch. Bob watched from the chair beside them. I sat on the floor and tried to fix my drunken eyes on the television as I heard Amy tell Mindy that she had a beautiful body. Mindy responded back, “Your body feels amazing, too.”
 
The symphony on TV was playing William Tell Overture as I heard coos and groans behind me. I looked back and saw Bob rubbing Mindy’s thigh as she was massaging Amy’s shirt off. The pre-coital energy was building as champagne-colored fireworks lit the television screen.
 
“Jenni,” Mindy said. “Jenni?” I tried not to turn around. “Come join us on the couch,” she said.
 
I mumbled no and tried to narrow my vision to block out the caressing. I was caught between a moment I didn’t want to happen and the reality of wanting to escape. I said something about needing to go to the bathroom and ran upstairs to hide in my bed. I closed the bedroom door, shutting out the cats and the sounds of sex. 
 
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Drunk in Adams Morgan: confused about my alcohol limits and sexual boundaries.

The next day I handled the incident the way any 22-year-old would, by waking up before my landlords and running out of the house. I called my friend for brunch and used mimosas to try forget what happened. The rest of the summer I continued to tiptoe around the house. I wavered between crashing on friends’ futons in Georgetown and coming home after last call. When Bob and Mindy left for the trip to Europe, they had to leave me instructions on a Post-it note because I was never home. I had avoided an awkward sayonara.
 
I got a postcard from them in Italy a few weeks later. It read “We miss you!” and I felt a pang of both anger and regret. I missed my friends, the Bob and Mindy that had championed me, and I hated myself for being so conflict-avoidant. 
 
My summer ended while Bob and Mindy were still out of town. I took a plane back to Chicago where my boyfriend picked me up from the airport and dumped me. Despite leaving DC, my problems had followed me back to Illinois like a ghost. I decided to e-mail Bob and Mindy to thank them for housing me that summer. I let them know I was pretty crushed that I was now single and scared about where my life was going next. Bob responded that it was my boyfriend’s loss and that they were proud of me.
 
In retrospect, Mindy was right about my summer in DC being a journey of self-discovery. For those few months, I found comfort in the two strangers who had invited me into their home and also discovered the lines I was unwilling to cross with them. And I learned that a shared bedroom with a German exchange student isn’t the strangest housing opportunity you’ll get.