You know how it’s definitely, absolutely, no-questions-asked rude to play music past 10 p.m.? And how everyone knows that cups should be placed upside down in the cabinet? Yes, well, these are arbitrary rules and preferences that you have amassed over the years, not infallible truths.
The first step to understanding your roommate is understanding yourself, and recognizing what are legitimate dealbreakers — and what are your own quirks you might have to adjust.
Communicate face to face
Texts can sound snippy. Emails can sound stuffy. Post-It notes can sound psychotic. If you can’t deal with the way he flicks toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror, talk to him — face to face, human to human — about it. You’ll be more polite when you have to experience his reaction, and he’ll be more receptive when he sees your concern.
Passive-aggressive notes are the anonymous Internet comments of apartments: Normal people don’t write them, and normal people don’t respond to them.
Have a real relationship
Your roommate has seen your slobbery retainer, watched you cry at commercials, heard you have sex, and smelled you that time you didn’t shower for three days. You have no choice but to have a disturbing amount of intimacy, so it’s worth trying to round out the relationship. Have dinner together once in awhile, invite her out with your friends and get to know her as a person. There’s a good chance she’ll accidentally see you naked someday — don’t make this any weirder than it has to be.
HOUSEMATE HORROR STORIES
If you can relate to these roommate horror stories, we can’t help you out. But we can laugh with/at you.
“When we had parties he would play his acoustic guitar alone, 10 feet away from everyone, and then cry when girls asked him why he wasn’t hanging out with everyone. His room smelled like the SPCA.” Chris, Philadelphia
“My roommate has a knack for doing laundry drunk. Last night, instead of using detergent, she just threw about 40 dryer sheets in the wash with a bunch of plastic bags and some newspaper. Worked great.” Brittany, Los Angeles
“I tried for weeks to humanely evict a mouse. Came home to a brick of cheese on the counter with a note: ‘For the mouse to snack on.’ The mouse brought friends and had a feast.” Maggie, Philadelphia
“She had my photo set as the background on her phone. We had known each other for less than a month.” Jamie, New York
“‘I think your pan is broken. Whenever I use it, it burns something,’ said the dumbest person I’ve ever had the misfortune to know and live with.” Nick, Philadelphia
“My old roommate would come home hammered and ride her track bike around the house banging into stuff — and not remember how she got huge bruises.” Nicole, Philadelphia
“I found a public health major off Craigslist in need of a room. I lived with him for about a year, and in that time I could count the number of toilet flushes and showers on one hand. The smell was unreal.” Ptah, Philadelphia
“There was never not pubes all over the bathroom.” Rachel, London
EXPERT ADVICE ON SLEEPOVERS
Conflicts about significant others are some of the most common — and ugly — roommate problems. For this, we called in an expert: author Anna Goldfarb, founder of dating blog Shmitten Kitten and ace advice columnist for The Frisky.
Here are her top tips.
• Be upfront about what’s acceptable and what’s not. “Have a Hookup Charter,” recommends Goldfarb. “Agree upon times that dates come over, maximum overnight stays and the consequences if someone breaks it.”
• What you do in the bedroom is your own business, but respect common areas when it comes to date night. “You can’t take over the kitchen finessing your scallop noodles for four hours,” she says. “And don’t do movie marathons on the couch, covered in blankets — this isn’t your bunker.”
• Above all, have some basic manners when you have a guest over, and remember that sharing is caring. “Always share the food and the booze,” she says. “It makes everyone forget about inconveniences.”