10 Atrocities I’ve Committed Against Former Roommates

Forgive me, former roommates, for I have sinned.

The spectrum of roommate relationships is wide: At one end is the roommate you rarely see but with whom you split rent, utilities, and the occasional jar of peanut better. At the other end is the roommate you casually refer to as “the arch nemesis.” You might suspect this roommate of taking great pleasure in your misery. Also, this roommate might be your cat.

The majority of roommates fall in the middle of the spectrum. These are roommates with whom you have passing conversations about work presentations, nearby road closures, and top-line weekend plans. They’re not important in your life, and so you might assume  —  as I did  —  that they don’t impact your life.

That’s because the roommate narrative is usually about the roommate and not the narrator. When a roommate is awful, we complain about her. But when a roommate is peaceable, we say nothing. This has implications for self-awareness: If there’s no reason to comment on our roommates, there’s no reason to comment on ourselves as roommates.

Until you’re your own noxious roommate.

Living on my own has forced me take a closer look at my own company. It has dragged into the harsh light of day the bad habits I swept under the rug  —  literally and figuratively  —  when I lived with others. In the spirit of a true Catholic (I go to mass once a fiscal quarter), I’m hoping confession brings absolution. Forgive me, former roommates, for I have sinned by:

1. Interrupting your romantic dinner for two

To ask where the Nutella is and if I could have some, because I knew you wouldn’t refuse me while trying to impress your love interest.

 2. Plastering my hair against the shower wall

Like the wet demon-child of Chewbacca and Jackson Pollack.

3. Pretending I didn’t see that bug

Because I knew you would. The blood is on your hands now.

4. Setting off the fire alarm at 5:00 a.m.

There are things I can’t control, like the fact that I’m an early riser and a kielbasa-loving Pole. Also I can’t control grease fires.

5. Never figuring out how to work the thermostat/remote/generator

So that I could feign ignorance if there was a problem, leaving the solution entirely up to you.

6. Using your shower when I’m caked with mud and dirt

And my shower when I’m just freshening up.

7. Passive aggressively Swiffering

Making sure to dust every inch of the house except the 24 square inches that I specifically asked you to please Swiffer like three days ago.

8. Giving you side-eye when your girlfriend stays for the weekend

After inviting my boyfriend to stay the night pretty much daily.

9. Playing the dumb blonde when it was time to clean the bathroom

“But, like, why clean a sink when all it ever sees is soap and water?”

10. Rearranging your cabinet

To access the Nutella you tried to hide from me, and then putting everything back into place, like the finest cat burglar.

Tallying my atrocities, it’s apparent that perfectly fine roommates brought out my worst qualities. Living with others made me a lazy, hypocritical, Nutella-crazed version of myself. We don’t usually count roommates among our meaningful relationships, but perhaps we should: Roommates are social context-setters, inputs that change our behavioral outputs.

It’s a worthy and humbling exercise to notice how your behavior changes with and without roommates. Whatever you learn about yourself, let it guide you towards more empathetic relationships with others. We’re constantly adjusting our habits to our habitats  —  whether we live alone, with roommates, or with a romantic partner   — and those adjustments can get awkward. That’s fine. Let’s be awkward together. And also let’s share the Nutella.



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