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The Roommate From Hell


hen Juan Espinoza’s roommates refused to sign the roommate contract, it foreshadowed what

was yet to come. At first, everything appeared fine. Then

Espinoza came back one day to find his drawer opened and found his pencils and pens taken without his permission. One roommate would eat Espinoza’s

food, bring guests over late at night and leave the room a mess. The night before Espinoza’s midterm, that same roommate came back drunk and loudly made love to his girlfriend. Later in the year, when the roommate told him that he would need the room, Espinoza was “sexiled,” a term used for people forced to leave the room because their roommate is having sex. The other roommate wasn’t much better.

Since he had transferred, Espinoza introduced him to his group of friends. He appeared friendly, but the roommate began to talk behind his back and concoct ways to exclude him from group events. The exchange of roommate horror stories

has become a tradition on college campuses. Whether the roommate is messy, promiscuous or a party animal, their lack of consideration has pushed countless students to the limit. In graduate school, Victoria Namkung

roomed with a body builder who would engage in Tae Bo workouts at 5 a.m. and go on cycles of binging and purging. Although Namkung’s friend attempted to mediate a talk between them, the roommate wasn’t interested in changing. Namkung’s experiences led her to co-found

the website My Very Worst Roommate, where users can anonymously vent their roommate horror stories. Most of the stories on the website revolve

around hygiene issues, mold and dirty dishes. Some roommates shirk on paying equal rent, while others steal. Namkung’s favorite story involves an art student who moved to New York City. During her two-week stay, she met

20 Winter Break 2011 |

an interesting cast of characters, from a chain-smoker who wore her clothes without permission, to a Colombian drug lord. Most people don’t want

to terrorize others, Namkung said, but some may be very narcissistic or may be used to someone always cleaning up after them. They may not have had boundaries growing up and not realize how much they’re affecting their roommates. Communication is always

the best policy, said Kathryn Williams, author of “Roomies: Sharing Your Home with Friends, Strangers, and Total Freaks.” “If your roommate is messy, ask nicely if

they can clean up after themselves, or at least contain their mess to their own space,” Williams said. If the roommate is noisy or inconsiderate, talk to them about it. Ask to set up designated quiet hours and take parties elsewhere. While it may not be for everyone, rooming with people of different cultures or backgrounds can be a wonderful experience, said Williams. However, she also stresses that it’s important to feel comfortable and accepted, not just tolerated. “Don’t just stew silently as you clean up

after them or let roaches take over because you refuse to wash their dirty dishes. If they still don’t respect your request, it may be time to get passive-aggressive,” she said jokingly. “Or find a new roommate.” One key point is not to wait too long to

discuss your frustrations and expect things to get better, said Susan Fee, a professional clinical counselor and author of “My Roommate is Driving Me Crazy!” “Although it can feel awkward, the best thing

to do is sit down with your roommate immediately and discuss lifestyles and expectations,” she said. “Everyone defines ‘messy’ or ‘loud’ differently.”

She also advises people to give examples

and be specific. Also, don’t take the roommate’s behavior personally. “Students have come from all sorts of homes

and families, you may be offended by something that the other person is clueless about. That’s why early (face-to-face) communication is necessary, otherwise you’ll be missing out on a critical skill of how to address conflict,” Fee said. Eventually, Espinoza’s roommates moved

on and he had his room to himself. But in spite of their lack of consideration, Espinoza said he still wouldn’t have changed his rooming situation. “It was a good experience not because

it was hard, but because it [taught me] there are a lot of different people out there, and not everyone is as nice, neat and disciplined as you,” he said. He also credits his experience into encouraging him to apply to be a student leader in order to help other students with their housing experiences. Espinoza advises students to set boundaries

from the beginning, being as specific as possible and making sure that their roommate understands. They should also be clear and straightforward about their needs. Lastly, he appeals to the golden rule,

“Treat others as you wish to be treated.” cn


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