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The Not-So-Wonderful Roommate and Tips on How to Get Through It

by Abby Thompson
September 21, 2016 | Living

Maybe you’re a first year at your university taking on dorm life. Maybe you’re living with friends in a house near school. Maybe you’re in the middle of your lease post-college, no matter what, young adult life can be a ride on the struggle bus, that usually includes having at least one not-so-wonderful roommate.

I know firsthand what it’s like to deal with a troubling roommate, this wasn’t a typical ‘sexile’ situation or my roommate being messy. I had a roommate who tried to kill someone. Snuggle up kids; this is real. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

A few months before I was set to move into college, a girl messaged me on Facebook asking if I’d be interested in meeting up to talk about possibly being roommates. She was from a nearby town and she seemed normal enough in the social media sphere, so I immediately said yes to meeting.

I met her for coffee the first time. I knew she was studious, but in hopes of not getting a crazy party girl bringing back guys every night, I thought that was totally fine. She seemed nice enough and it seemed like it could work out, so we decided to be roommates.

The first month of school went fine, we talked, hung out some, and went to dinner on occasion. We weren’t close friends, but could live comfortably with each other. She was a little neurotic and talked to herself at times while getting ready, but being the person who tries to see the best in people, I thought it was all just quirky habits and nothing truly concerning.

My roommate ended up joining the school’s Model UN team, which is incredibly intense and competitive. The night before her first tournament, she was packing her suitcase on the floor as I returned from class. We exchanged a casual greeting and as I began to unpack my bag, she started telling me what she did.

“Do you want to know something kind of bad I did?” she asked me.

“Sure,” I nodded assuming it was something not that bad. She was a tame A student who sat in the front row of every class; how bad could anything she do really be?

“So you might have noticed I woke up kind of early this morning,” she began.

I did, she had flipped on our main light at about 6 a.m., which my half asleep brain had forgotten about until then.

“So you know how that guy on my Model UN team bailed on us for Florida?”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. She had come back from her practice the night before, fuming. Some kid on her team forgot to tell them that he wasn’t going to make it to their first tournament, because of a family trip to Florida until two nights before the event. And of course, my roommate was the one who had to pick up all of his work. She had a right to be mad.

“Well,” she continued, “I got him back.”

“Oh my God, YES! What did you do?” I asked, again assuming it was harmless and she was just advocating for herself.

“Yeah, this morning I went to the store and bought Cheetos, because that guy’s allergic to the stuff in them. When he breathes in the chemicals his throat closes up” she sneered, “And of course he’s pre-med so I found his lab stuff and stuffed as many Cheetos as I could in it.”

Death by Cheeto? Who would do such a thing?

Yeah. I know. When I heard this, my face froze while my mind raced trying to comprehend what she had just told me. She had found out that this kid who she had a vendetta against was allergic to Cheetos, so she proceeds to buy Cheetos at six in the morning, and then goes ahead to find this one person’s lab equipment in the life science building that is 12 stories tall in a school of primarily bio majors.

“Wow!” I smiled artificially trying to mask my fear for my own safety.

“Yeah, I honestly hope it kills him.”

That was when I realized this was entirely pre-meditated. My roommate had attempted to murder someone. What if I did something to set her off? Could I be next? Luckily, the guy was okay, I guess when he saw the Cheetos, he just backed away. Even more lucky is me not being allergic to anything, I’m happy to report I made it out of that roommate situation, alive.

Hopefully your roommate and future ones are not entirely as insane as mine was, but if they are, there’s hope.

Here are five tips on how to cope with a crappy roommate:

  1. Find a space that’s relaxing outside of your room/apartment/house. Maybe it’s a communal lounge on your dorm floor, maybe it’s some comfy chair inside your school library, it could be your significant other’s place, maybe it’s a quiet cozy coffee shop. Find a place that you can dedicate to recharging in if the person you’re living with isn’t giving you vibes that make your space feel like home.
  2. Get the important things in writing. If you’re roommate belongs in the downward spiral of a toilet, you probably won’t want to spend a lot of time with them, so get the awkward stuff out of the way. Figure out what you’re doing for bills, if you’re setting up some house rules, and any other concrete things you need to sort out. Have the conversation and get it in writing, so there’s no question about what the expectations are.
  3. COMMUNICATE. Whether it’s through passive aggressive post-it notes, casual texts, or a face-to-face convo, it is important to communicate in the most respectful way of what your concerns are and how you both can be content while coexisting in the same space.
  4. Don’t be vengeful. Don’t be like my roommate and try to get someone back, even if you have incredibly valid reasons for it. Keep your cool and rise above the suck this person ensues. They probably do suck to an extent that is comparable the action a toddler’s thumb gets. It’s hard, TRUST ME when I say I get it, but you can make it through.
  5. This is temporary. In the words of the overly cliché tattoo: This too shall pass. You don’t have to live with this person forever, you don’t have to room with them again, you don’t need to renew your lease, this will be over soon.
Abby Thompson
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