Having a roommate is one of the most unique, wild, and uncomfortable social experiments to ever exist. During our pivotal early 20’s we’re all trying to find ourselves, and most of us are stressed/ cracked out on caffeine. These factors only work against us to heighten our emotional mania. Paired with the fact we need to cohabitate with each other creates a boiling pot of misplaced aggression and personal boundaries being crossed.
My college freshman living situation, for example, was one hazy fever dream. My roommate was pratically the physical antithesis of me. He was a tall, built, football-player who dwarfed me. Despite being high-strung and terrified of other men already, his stature only made my initial trepidation about meeting him only greater. I had never lived with another man before besides my father, who snores like a fog horn and burps just to annoy me. The idea of being forced to cohabit in laughably small room with a boy my age was both terrifying and fascinating to me.
I had always hoped my freshman roommate and I would become the best of friends. We would go out to house parties together and go to the gym and laugh about hookups. The reality of that situation, however, is we were not the most compatible to live with each other. There is a list of horrors that include (but are not limited to): ball pythons with homicidal eyes, dip spit cups, and the whole ‘he never ever did his laundry’ thing’ that came with living with him. If I hadn’t been so meek, maybe I could have made some changes. I eventually found solace when he had to leave school and I had my entire room to myself for most of the Spring Semester.
Deep down, I had a strange fondness for the guy. He was kind at heart, albeit misguided, and helped me dunk my toes into the deep pool that is potential roommate conflicts. Here is my advice on how to deal with a roommate who might not be the most pleasant to live with:
Be up-front and bold with the rules
Lay down all nit-picky rules you’re going to need to beforehand. Even things you think you may never need, such as “Please don’t use my toothpaste,” or “Please make sure your friends don’t write on our walls with chalk.” That way, nothing is a surprise for anyone. We’ve all had living situations in which we just wanted to be pals with our roommates and therefore we were meek about our needs. Then, a few months into the semester you’re pulling out your hair at the passive aggressive notes they leave on your white board. “Clean up the dishes, please it’s starting to smell like a homeless shelter in here.” Oh, yea?
On that note, just avoid leaving notes
I understand that it’s 2013 and the Internet has turned us all into huge babies who shy away from combative, in-person interaction, but passive aggressive notes are never the route to take. Don’t write them, don’t indulge in them. Every smiley face my roommates would use against felt like a bitch slap to the face. Every ‘love you!’ felt synonymous with “fuck you.” Just sit down face to face. You know, like the adults we’re all demanding to be treated like.
Don’t talk behind a roommate’s back
Okay, who am I kidding, if a roommate eats all of my cereal, my first instinct is to call up my best friend and gossip like I’m at a French Salon. The #dark truth of the matter is that it almost always gets back to the roommate. If this happens, and it will, you can just take pleasure in reenacting a scene directly from The Hills; you know the one where Lauren screams at Heidi “YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!”
Aggressively walk around in your underwear / a cat onesie
Whisper nonsensical things until they leave for the night and you’re free to use the living room to watch Game of Thrones and openly weep without judgment. Make sure your roommate knows you need your space and alone time. It’s not you being a jerk, it’s you loving yourself and making sure you have time to decompress.
Get rid of them
If all else fails, take back your castle! Or studio apartment, or whatever. Put Nair in their conditioner, tell them you have mono and promise to infect the whole apartment unless they leave. Get a cat and tell them Mr. Whiskers is moving into their room. This may be tricky since there are legally binding leases involved with having roommates, but no matter! Go Lindsay-Lohan-Parent-Trap style on their ass and move all their furniture to the roof. No, don’t do any of those things. If you and a roommate cannot see eye-to-eye, it’s best to try and figure out alternative arrangements for one of you. Living with someone you despise is completely toxic and so detrimental to both your mental and physical health.
I’ve been lucky to make some wonderful friends through living with others. It is completely possible to co-habitate with another human being without the result being you want to dip them in a vat of acid. Roommate scuffles can be a battleground in which the worst version of you becomes a warrior. As long as your roommate isn’t a total sociopath, you should be able to sit down and discuss things thoroughly. Some of us come to college in order to get an education, but we’re also here to gain the life skills necessary to be independent, experienced adults.