Roommates!!!..Am I right?!

I’ve searched online, asked for help from friends, from strangers at some random bar, virtually any resource I could find for some kind of universal handbook for “living with crappy roommates” or just “living with strangers after college”or “why do people suck so much”, and while I have occasionally found some helpful advice, it often wasn’t thorough enough or tended to deal more with situations which didn’t perfectly illustrate MY situation. Therefore, as a result of this frustration, I have decided to craft the first ever “ Comprehensive Guide For living with Crappy Roommates”or “Crappy People” or…….” Something about Something to Help Me Feel Better!” thingy, So here goes….

Now, after that uplifting intro I guess you’re expecting a piece on how to deal amicably with roommates……(crickets*)when you figure it out let me know. I have lived in probably 30 group living situations and it rarely gets easier. I suppose some back story is necessary cause that does seem like a ludicrous amount and…..well… is.

After leaving college I wanted to experience as much as possible, so I began travelling the country and living for a least a year in different cities. When you do that, unless your independently wealthy, which I was not (one could generally classify my existence as “Independently Poor”) you have to live in group houses/shared apartments. Meaning Roommates. The motive for this is obvious, but I’ll explain my reasoning a bit anyway: For one thing, its cheaper, that’s pretty self-explanatory, and another is, it’s a great way to immediately have a little community in a new, scary, cold city! Sometimes you get lucky, I certainly have. Sometimes you end up in a situation where your all at the right time and place in your lives and all the weird nuances that come with it and for whatever reason, It just works. Chemistry. This is rare. Very rare. Usually, most of the people are fine just going about their lives and you’re not friends or enemies, your just people doing the best you can and you try to respect and consider each other as best you can. Sometimes you do butt heads or they do annoying things (it couldn’t be you that's annoying, of course) but knowing that it’s not intentional or vengeful, it’s just them being them, makes it easier just to suck it up for the greater good. Then (que music from the first Poltergeist when the little ghost medium first informs the family about….THE BEAST!) there are those roommates who make it their mission to irritate you every chance they get. Who consider before every action the degree to which they THINK they can aggravate you, and once they know what bothers you, they hammer at it every chance they get. The consequence of them being the target of your ire is not only an accepted outcome, but they welcome it as proof that what they are trying to do is working.

The more you react the happier they are and the more they act accordingly. I’m being melodramatic you say? I’m exaggerating you say? Well…yeah… maybe and that’s the point and also not the point. It will become clear as we move on…I think/hope…

The next phase in this toxic scenario I have coined….

“The Revenge Factor”.

This is probably the worst way to handle a passive-aggressive EVIL roommate. For one thing, they will revel in the fact that you noticed their infractions and were bothered by them, the other is that it will be evidence of your own EEEEVILNESS in their eyes and give justification to continue to ramp up the petty. You are now the flawed dysfunctional person they must teach a lesson to. As the great Christopher Walken says in the underrated classic ‘True Romance’ “I beg you, not to go down this road”. Now they are no longer the sole perpetrator, the antagonist, they can now point to YOUR actions as the reason that They act the way They do. Basically, they can play the victim. You have now given them the ammo to call you out if you ever call them out, and the chicken or egg defense is generally ineffective anyway. Not only will this fail in making living in the Apartment better, it will create a Nuclear Winter/Cold War one-upmanship atmosphere where everyone, literally, will lose. No winners here, only miserable, petty losers.

Sometimes you might read about issues with roommates and the solution is “just move out” well great! That sounds EASY! Often, is not only NOT easy but sometimes prohibitive for any number of reasons, money, availability, the time involved. This should be considered though, if things are untenable, but even under the most ideal circumstances it’s a process and could take months to get it together to move. If it becomes unbearable, start the process, but in the meantime you still have to deal with this person.

So my advice is, after much hand-wringing and soul-searching (drum-roll please)…….. a little more absorption (meaning swallow a bunch of petty crap) through changing your own mind. Decide to see them differently, the situation differently, and yourself differently.

Them: try to remember that they are human and trying to navigate life the best they can, (even if part of that is just trying to fuck with you) because ultimately, if they pull this crap with you it’s fair to assume that this is how they deal with people in general sometimes; they will no doubt be having these issues wherever they go, and its something that they will have to deal with long after your sunning yourself in Acapulco sipping Mai Tai’s. So in your own mind, try to give them a break (This is much harder if you view them as irredeemably EVIL so try and not do that).

The Situation: It’s temporary right? Just try to remember that you wont be there forever, so try and make the best of things. People suck sometimes, that’s just a fact, and living with strangers sometimes sucks and just accept that people are different and you trying to control things too much is going to make you unhappy and them resentful and defensive. Its hard living with random people, they’re not there for you, and your ideas of how things should be might not jive with theirs. Be open to the fact that there are different ways to live and give up the control a bit. You could ruin your present worrying about what other people are doing all the time. Try to limit this.

Your Mind: The things listed previously are a start, but delving further, ask yourself what your role is in the problems. Are you too controlling? Are you too judgmental? If the answer to these questions is in anyway maybe, try, on your end, to be mindful of this. Are you letting petty things that don’t matter get inside you? Try to be the Buddha. You have your private space and room, (hopefully) that should be off-limits, obviously, but everything else is fair game. Dishes in the sink? Messes in the living room? Different ideas of when and who should take the garbage out? Try and chalk all these thing up to living with random people and deal, by either acceptance, or the reality that you will probably end up doing more of the general chores or whatever. There are worse fates. And it’s probably worth it for a peaceful home vibe. If someone cranks the heat up all the time and is costing you money, or never buying things the house needs i.e. toilet paper, sponges etc. then a discussion is in order and maybe a different split of bills. But barring things like that, I think most other issues are relatively minor in the grand scheme of being on a rock hurtling through space that could collide at any minute into a star or meteor shower and end everything. Ok, maybe not a star, but the asteroid thing is REAL!

So start by lightening up a little, if you can, smile more and try to keep things in perspective. As a wise man once said “Earn more sessions from sleeving!”.

Originally published at on March 28, 2018.

Writer, artist.

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