For those of us who have been lucky enough, we have never had an impending issue with a roommate before: We respected their space, we communicated our household responsibilities with one another and heck, maybe we’ve even become close friends with some of them. But not all of us are fortunate. We’ve all heard at least one of our friends detailing their nightmare roommate stories as though the tragedy flashes before their eyes every second of the day, and perhaps these distressing or frightening situations have even happened to ourselves. However, roommate difficulties arise on a spectrum and do not always involve outright conflicts or violence. Sometimes, it can be as small as not doing the dishes on time or always leaving the bathroom door open — everyone has their own needs. As these two Highlander writers learned for themselves in their own personal roommate situations, perhaps the best we can do is to not be afraid to stand up for our rights and to outline obligations early on to prevent any damage from being done in the first place.
By: Martha Delgado, CW
I had a great roommate experience my first year. We both kept to ourselves, and dirty dishes never piled up. So, when it was time to apply to live in an apartment, I imagined that sharing a room would not be bad and thus, I should do it again. I requested in my apartment contract to be in a double-occupancy room. The apartment had two bedrooms and each room would have two people. I thought it would be like living in Pentland Hills. The living room would be like a lounge area, so it would feel like living in the residence halls again.
But when I moved in during the fall, I found out the apartment was small, and the bedrooms were even smaller. I shared one room with a friend of mine, who is really nice, so we didn’t have problems. But I also had another housemate who lived in the second room in the apartment who I had problems with.
One thing that never occurred to me would be how sharing a kitchen would work. I imagined we would all wash our dishes within the day that we used them. But college life is too hectic to allow someone to do daily chores. Additionally, my housemate in the second room and I had different cleaning habits.
A long-running issue I had with my roommate during fall quarter was the fact that she waited all quarter to throw away her empty pineapple cans.
The first time my roommate cooked, she left her dirty dishes in the sink and they covered the whole sink. If I wanted to wash my dishes, I had to take hers out of the sink and put them on the counter. What angered me the most was that she left home for the weekend and left her dirty dishes in the sink. Every time I went into the kitchen and thought about it, I would get extremely angry. I just wanted to call and yell at her for leaving her dirty dishes out.
The worst experience was the fruit fly incident. One day I was using the microwave and noticed how a bunch of fruit flies were in the corner of our kitchen. We all threw away the trash and washed any remaining dishes, but the fruit flies were still there. So, we set up fruit fly traps, but it felt like it changed nothing. Once finals week in fall quarter arrived, she left mid-week to go back home, and we still had a fruit fly issue.
The day that I left for winter break, I noticed that she had a bag of fruit left on the counter. I decided that, to not worsen the fruit fly problem, I should just put the bag in the fridge. But when I opened the bag, I found a bunch of fruit flies and a rotten smell coming from the bag; she had left bananas outside and didn’t throw it away before she left for winter break.
What I learned
You hear it all the time: Communication is key, especially when you and your roommate have different cleaning habits.
I felt like I would sound aggressive if I texted her to wash her dishes or take out the trash. Thus, I would wait until I saw her in person and politely ask her to wash her dishes or so. Sometimes I had to continuously remind her to clean her dishes or put her dishes away.
I consider myself a nice person, but I am also very shy. So, I am usually scared to ask people to do something, like wash dishes or take out trash. I was afraid to come off as bossy to my roommate. Even though I might have felt guilty if I asked her to clean the kitchen, throw away her boxes or clean her dishes, it was much better to tell her personally than to clean for her and be resentful toward her. It is never good to keep tabs in your mind because you will reach your boiling point and possibly make the situation worse.
Roommates in apartments are way different compared to roommates in residence halls. Maybe if we weren’t sharing a kitchen then my roommate and I would have had a much different relationship.
But for now, I have come to realize that we won’t always have the same roommate experiences. Every person is different and so are roommates. While this may not have been my best roommate experience, it has showed me that I do have preferences when living with others. I would not have known that I prefer to have counters clean and fruit fly-free if it wasn’t for my experience living with her. In the end, it’s not like she will be my roommate forever, just for the academic school year.
By: Edward Dave, SW
Most first-year college students dream about having the perfect roommate. I did that. I made a proverbial list inside my head of everything I wanted to tackle with them. Loaded my mind with expectations and heavy doses of optimism. I was ready to spend my first year with a roommate that I really meshed with.
The beginning of our friendship was very cordial. We bonded over enjoying our different zones of territory. I was from SoCal, and he was from NorCal. He was from a suburban area in the Bay, and I was from the ghetto promise lands of San Diego. The vast differences between us made things interesting. We bonded over tales of our upbringings and made it a habit to have dinner a few times a week. On some occasions we would link up with hallmates and walk to the campus store for late-night cravings of ice cream mochi. We even took a leap of faith and went to the basketball homecoming game that fall of 2014, knowing very well neither of us enjoyed sports that much. I felt like I was crafting my own version of “Zoey 101,” except it was the college edition.
Halfway into the school year, however, my roommate joined an academic fraternity. I was happy for him and supported his pledging every step of the way. But little by little, I began noticing subtle changes in his attitude. At first I shrugged them off as anxious impulsions from being inducted into a new family. Then, as things became more deliberate, I had to start thinking more in-depth about his personality shift. I began to notice that he would invite his fraternity brothers and have them over at sporadic times of the day. He’d never ask permission or even attempt to gauge my tolerance for people coming in and out. I’d come back to our dorm and see my belongings brushed aside to make room for his friend’s stuff.
My roommate also had a hard time understanding the function of headphones. He would blare music from his MacBook, oftentimes very loud, zany Korean pop tracks, with no care about the shared ambiance of the room. The thing about K-pop is that it’s definitely an acquired taste. And when I was in my groove in the middle of a sensual R&B song, the Korean pop stuck out like a sore thumb.
The tipping point, however, arrived during one night when I was trying to watch television and he had a movie playing on his laptop. He mistook my turning up of the television volume as a battle of sound and went to Snapchat to post a picture with a negative caption about me. After my friends informed me about his Snapchat story, I went to confront him. And as I was confronting him, all of the anger, frustration and pent up feelings that were festering emerged. I didn’t care about being civil anymore. After that, we avoided each other as much as we could. He would come home late, as would I. It wasn’t until the very last days when I felt as though the turbulence had calmed down. But we maintained the silence and never uttered another sentence toward each other again.
What I learned
Roommate dynamics are delicate. When you’re paired with someone in a tight space, it becomes a question of compromise. My mistake was not setting parameters with him when we first met. We needed to lay out basic things like expectations for each other’s company, cleanliness and other forms of etiquette. We didn’t know what got on each other’s nerves because we never talked about our pet peeves. And when we did infringe on each other’s space, or distract each other with electronic devices, we were always too passive to say anything in the moment. Even at the peak of our friendship, it still felt as though we had to walk on eggshells when we were around each other. Laying down the laws of the living space may seem daunting, but it’s the only viable way to prevent from doing things your roommate dislikes.
Many people will confuse kindness for weakness.
Ambiguity and avoidance are the two prominent forms of kryptonite in a roommate relationship. The conversation doesn’t have to be hard. Define what you think a good roommate is and hear what your roomie has to say in response. In this chat, you can begin to delve upon pet peeves and basic concerns so that no one can be confused on what to expect throughout the year. If you set a precedent at the beginning, there can be no excuses for not adhering to that.
Additionally, in the beginning, whenever my roommate did something I didn’t like, I always held myself back from complaining. I valued civility over confrontation, which ended up backfiring in my face. By ignoring issues, the person who is abusing their privileges feels as though they have the ammunition to continue the acts. Many people will confuse kindness for a weakness. When you don’t give them any resistance, they’ll continue preying on your silence with more carelessness. Don’t accept what’s being dealt to you simply because you want to maintain the peace. I had to learn that keeping the peace wasn’t worth having my dignity being trampled on. If your roommate is a decent individual, they’ll find a way to limit or cut out whatever it is that’s angering you. It’s very telling when you address your roommate with a grievance and they respond with shade. Know your worth, even if you share a space the size of a master bathroom.
Living with a roommate is not easy. In fact, many people can’t submit to living in such close quarters with another being. But no matter how much you want to maintain solid relations, it’s important to never undermine your happiness for another person’s pleasure. The easiest way to avoid squabbles throughout the year is to lay down the groundwork for both parties head-on. I did this the following year with my new random roommate and was surprised with how easy things became once we established boundaries in the beginning. Communication, no matter what the setting may be, is the gateway to understanding.