Straight talk with Aunt Aggie: My new roommate is a jerk

Rachel Musselmann

AuntAggie
Aunt Aggie. (Photo Illustration: Julio Becerril)

Dear Aunt Aggie,

I moved into my new place two weeks ago, and my roommate is already the worst. He leaves piles of dishes in the sink for days, to the point where I have to clean his mess in order to use any dishes for myself. He seems to be under the impression that things like emptying the trash and getting the mail are done by some sort of magical chore fairy. He plays his stupid music way loud and has people over when he knows I’m sleeping, which isn’t a huge issue at the moment but I know when school ramps up it might lead to violence (OK, not really). I didn’t know I could resent someone so quickly! The problem is that I’m generally non-confrontational, so when I try to bring it up casually without starting a fight, it’s easy for him to brush it off.

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So what should I do? I really don’t want to fight with this guy. Do I move out and try to find a better situation before it’s too late? I’m willing to live on someone’s couch rather than take this all year.

Sincerely,

Suffering in Silence

Dear Suffering,

Well, as much as it pains me to say, the only one who can fix the lack of understanding with your roommate is you. The good news? You do not have to move out. The bad? You are going to have to talk to him.

Clearly, he does not see anything wrong with his behavior, nor is he a mind reader, so he has no way of knowing that you are unhappy unless you tell him. This conversation does not have to be angry, defensive and confrontational. Instead, make it structured. You are both adults, so the two of you are going to have to practice real, grown-up problem solving. Scared? Don’t be. Auntie will tell you how.

First, bring up casually to Awful Roommate that you would like to sit down and hammer out some basic rules for cohabitation while it is still early in the year. Acknowledge that it is a bit stiff and formal, joke if you have to, but stand firm.  Point out that it will make it easier for both of you to know what is expected and to be aware of any pet peeves. This is especially true if you happen to be friends with your roommate and wish to remain friends. It is pretty common for friendships to end over small, quiet annoyances that pile up over time. Does he hate the smell of bananas? Is he mortally afraid of moths? These things are important to know.

Suggest that he go first in sharing some ideas he might have or rules that are important to him. Keep in mind the relationship is two-sided, and it is very likely you have been doing things that irritate him too. Ask if there is anything silly that bothers him that you should avoid (even if it’s bananas). That sort of gesture means a lot to people.

Then, it’s your turn. List out casually that you have a thing about dishes, and that you are a light sleeper. Ask that he please clean up after himself. Be careful not to be accusatory, and remember that you may have to compromise.

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Finally, discuss household duties. Establish what needs to be done around the house, and come up with a system to get these chores done. It can be as structured or unstructured as you like, just establish that there are expectations for both of you.

Feel free to write the rules down, or not. Make them funny, print them out huge or just slap a sticky note on the fridge. The important thing is to not wait too long. Get this conversation out of the way before the two of you get set in your ways. Even if he thinks the conversation is silly, at least your roommate will understand that you are willing to work with him, and that you have certain expectations.

You know, like cleaning his freaking dishes.

Much love and good luck,

Aunt Aggie

Looking for advice? Send your pleas for help in to entertainment@collegain.com or Tweet to @CollegianC with the hashtag #AuntAggie.