Last week, I was denied an apartment because I have a full-time job in the media industry.
I was feeling great. It was one of those unbelievably sunny and beautiful days in New York City. The studio apartment was in Fort Greene, a coveted neighborhood in downtown Brooklyn. It had a separate eat-in kitchen with a door to a garden. A garden!
It was immediately clear to me: This was it. This was the place.
I began having fantasies of how my life would change with this apartment. As Pearl, the woman who owned the property and was showing me the studio, pointed out a stand-alone shower, I wondered: Could this shower transport me anywhere though time or space? Or turn me into the person I wanted to be, like in that episode of "Family Matters?"
I was beginning to see the apartment as reflection of myself -- a little out of the ordinary, but with a lot of potential.
After the tour ended, I could hardly contain my excitement as I chatted up Pearl. We marveled at the coincidence that, just like me, both of her children had worked in the news at one point. They'd also both been laid off from those news jobs, her daughter taking a buyout at Newsweek and her son's entire department being eliminated at The New York Times. It was a sobering reality for them, she recalled, and they both changed career paths afterward. She then added I was "lucky" to be at a media outlet that is "doing well."
Eventually I left Pearl with a deposit on the apartment, copies of my financial information, and the confidence that I had it in the bag. I am an ideal candidate, after all, aren't I? In my late-20's and single, gainfully employed, and financially stable. I also consider myself a pretty mature young lady, having already long kissed goodbye to my stay-out-'til-sunrise days. I have even begun to think critically about what the next ten years of my life might look like. Just like a real adult.
The next few hours were spent checking for the inevitable approval email like an eager cat returning to its bowl again and again, hoping for food to suddenly appear. And then, finally, there it was:
I gripped the keyboard, rereading the email over and over, which Pearl had written with the condescending air of a micromanaging parent.
"Your job is too shaky."
"Media is a low-paying industry."
It felt like I'd been dumped. What the fuck, I barked at my computer screen. A feverish daydream of the sharp-tongued, what-makes-you-think-you-can-talk-to-me-this-way rant I would have reamed Pearl with played out in real time in my head.
"Entrepreneurial," she had called me.
"Get a roommate," she suggested.
Shut the hell up, Pearl!
Acute despair was followed by a tearful existential crisis. Admittedly, crying might have been an overreaction. But I was stressed, confused. I had all my ducks in a row, but somehow my job wasn't good enough? Was this housing discrimination?
Nope. Turns out the Fair Housing Act is limited to "race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap." Being turned down because the landlord thinks you'll be fired any minute? Totally fine.
I gave myself a few moments more to be angry before begrudgingly clacking the Craigslist URL back into my browser. Who needed Pearl, anyway? I only had two weeks left to find a place, after all, and in my line of work, I am accustomed to fielding the unfair and infuriating things that happen in this world every day. The only way to carry on is to accept them and move forward.
The next day, in a clear effort by the universe to add insult to injury, a new survey ranking the 200 best and worst jobs in America was released. "Publication editor" came in at an ignoble 168 while "newspaper reporter," a job I have had in the past and still admire, was dead last.
According to that survey (and probably Pearl), being a "bartender," or "taxi driver," or "artist" are all more viable jobs than working for print and online media. Coincidentally, it also ranks those things well above being a real estate agent.