Lucky enough to be accepted to the college of your parent’s dreams? Privileged enough to afford housing? It’s the first week in your new dorm and before you even set foot on campus, you have already Facebook searched your new roommate, and you aren’t pleased. Congratulations, you’ve officially reached a new checkpoint in life: learning to deal with people you don’t like.
I’m not perfect, and I’m pretty sure some people could use these tips on how to deal with me. Needless to say, it’s always important to have a game plan, especially if your opponent is messy, rude and never leaves the playing field. So, here are some “dos” and “don’ts” for dealing with a terrible living situation.
Don’t leave passive aggressive post-it notes. If you’ve already done this, you should really reevaluate your life choices. If you’re feeling bothered by a habit that your roommate has, use your words verbally. Be respectful. Turn on their favorite song and say “Hey boo, I really love your taste in music, but I’m not yet fond of your unwashed dishes. Let’s make a better effort to keep clean, and we can do that to your favorite tunes.” This will most likely end in a dance party, which means it will end well.
Do remind the bad roommate of the positive before the negative. Turns out the roommate didn’t get the memo about their wildly horrific B.O. when you bought communal soap for the shower. I understand your thought process, and I know telling someone you don’t know well something that’s not polite can be very hard, but if your nostrils are burning every time your roommate enters the room, you’re going to eventually feel like you have to speak up. (If you really can’t keep your mouth shut about this, you should say something while you still have the patience to be calm.) Try to sandwich your complaint with compliments. No, I do not mean “Your hair is pretty. You smell like horse shit. I like the poster above your bed.” I mean genuine compliments and a simple complaint. “I really like your taste in decorations. I noticed that our room has a funky smell when you walk in. Are their any smells you like, maybe your good taste could help us pick out some air fresheners!” Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but honestly if you can’t handle a little B.O., it’s time you learn how to confront it.
Don’t be territorial. If you’re in a dorm, this is a shared space. Allow your roommates desk to go a little over the line of “your” side, because when winter comes, you might want to move your bed closer to the heater. It’s all give and take. In this respect, your lives are shared lives. If you want your friends to come and visit your lovely room, realize that you’re bringing people in your roommate’s space, too. And if you bring some friends in the room, so can your roommate. So don’t get upset when there are five furries wearing fuzzy ears playing animal crossing on your roommate’s Wii the day after you had your friends over for a little pre-game to Saturday festivities. Remember: Mi casa es su casa.
Do find ways to relate to your roommate. By the looks of it, you and your new living buddy have nothing in common. You’re an outspoken city dweller who dyes your hair funky colors, and this new roommate reads the bible in their spare time and has more manners than you know what to do with. Don’t fear, a meeting ground is near! Not only are there a million different types of music, movies and board games, but there are also tons of books, websites and crafts to go around. Still don’t think there is a connection in your interests? I find that hard to believe, considering you’re both having the SHARED EXPERIENCE of living together. This is hard — on both of you. If you’re too outgoing for your shy roommate, try slowing down the pace of your friendliness and ask them how they’re doing. Take a bit of interest to hear about how they’re handling a huge life change, like moving away from their friends and family. A little care can go a long way.
Don’t hang around the room all day. We all need our space, and sometimes a roommate can get overwhelming because you’re around them all the time. Sharing a room with someone means that neither of you have seen the light of privacy since your last weekend visit home. Join a club or get used to taking walks. Find a place in the library (like the 3rd floor chronicles) that no one goes to and call it your own. When you have your own safe space, and steer clear of obnoxious roomies, suddenly the livin’ doesn’t seem so hard.
Do realize that they might not be the problem. We all come from different walks of life, and by no means do we have to LOVE everyone we come in contact with. Sometimes another person’s presence just upsets us, and that’s alright. It’s really important to realize that the problem might not be on their end– it might be on yours. If you’re really intolerant of the faults of others and unable to speak up respectfully, a roommate who is different than you can turn into “the devil” in your imagination. Take a breather, be positive, and do your best to make other friends. Remember, none of this is permanent. On the other hand, maybe your roommate will hate you, too, and request a room switch before semester is out. Just try not to be the one to push them to it!