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04.17.2003: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners for real-world living
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continued from page 2
a girl, her roommate, and his girlfriend
A: (cont.) Have a meeting where everyone – you, the official roommate, the unofficial roommate -- can get their concerns out in the air. Explain your position as clearly as you can, while doing your best to listen to both the boyfriend’s and her feelings as well. Be kind, be understanding; tell them you realize that it’s difficult for them to find somewhere other than your apartment to spend their nights, given the fact that she lives with her parents. Be so nice and so sympathetic that they won’t have any choice but to really listen to your side of things as well. And then be firm. Let them know that you feel that a guest, by definition, is someone who only stays over from time to time, or for a short period of time, and that given the fact that she sleeps there every single night – and is often hanging out at the apartment even when her boyfriend isn’t – you feel she’s much more a permanent resident than an occasional visitor. While she may not require an extra bed, her presence does use up other shared resources in the apartment: communal living spaces like the kitchen and the living room, as well as utilities and groceries. The dishes pile up in the sink a little sooner, the mess accumulates in the living room a little more quickly, the bathroom needs cleaning a little more often. It’s not just that her presence means your water bill is a little higher – it also means that sometimes, you can’t, say, use the bathroom when you need to because she happens to be in there … a fact which in and of itself, doesn’t bother you, because you genuinely like having her around, but does make you feel a little like you’re getting the short end of the stick when you realize that you’re shelling out $750 a month to have that there bathroom available for your use, and she’s not contributing a dime.

You might also want to take a good look at you lease, and see whether there’s anything there that says that the only people living in the apartment are supposed to be the people who are on the lease. If that’s the case, and it ought to be, you can always use the whole legality issue as an excuse for getting them to do something to rectify the situation – in which case, she and the boyfriend would need to do some talking on their own to decide whether they’re ready to officially live together. Let them know that you understand that it’s a big decision for them, but that if she’s not willing to co-sign the lease, then you just don’t feel comfortable with violating the terms of the lease yourself, and that you’d like her to only be in the apartment when her boyfriend is present, and preferably not be sleeping over every single night. Personally, I’m thinking it’s not going to go over well with either her or the boyfriend if you flat-out make a rule that she can only sleep over on weekends; as a not-always-reasonable, stubborn-as-a-mule sort myself, I know that my first reaction to anyone telling me that I can’t do something is “Screw that. Nobody tells me what to do!” Rational? No, but sadly, sort of human nature.

In the end, of course, you may just have to accept that either you’ll have to kick the roommate out, bummer though that might be, or suck it up and live with the inequities. Ultimately, though, I’d worry less about being right, and concentrate instead on doing whatever is going to turn out to be the least stressful solution for you. No one should be uncomfortable and unhappy in their own home. 


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