Wednesday, October 07, 2009


The concept of ownership is an interesting one, I think.

I own my phone.
I own my car.
I own my ideas.
I own my own brand of crazy.

In living with a roommate for the first time in a long time (my parents don't count, they're MY PARENTS), I have realized that one of the most important things in two people getting along is their concurrent definition of ownership.

I am a very private person- I don't like people in my house. I barely even tolerate having strangers in my car.

This is not to say that I dislike people, because I don't. But I would much rather meet people outside of the place I live. And I would much rather that those people drive their own cars or take cabs or something, because I don't need people in my car.

I like my space. I firmly believe that a house (condo, apartment, shack, mansion, whatever) is the only sanctuary that a person can have. It should be an absolute sanctuary, because if you cannot be at peace in your own humble abode, where else would you find serenity?

My roommate, who is also my best friend, is a dear, dear friend of mine. She's lovely, caring, giving, compassionate- basically, all the qualities that I lack- but she's also completely COMPLETELY opposite when it comes to household privacy preferences.

Everyone comes over. All the time. One person that comes over altogether too frequently is our neighbor and her ex-boyfriend. Yes, she dated the boy next door (the boy around the corner, actually). And they broke up. She broke it off, as evidenced by the fact that he comes over all the time. ALL THE TIME.

I do not appreciate "just dropped by to say goodnight" or "just stopped by because I left this here" or whatever. She is fine with it. She lets him come over when we're not home, which I am completely uncomfortable with. He comes over to watch TV. He comes over to use the grill when neither she nor I are there, then sits in the living room with his friend (another neighbor) eating dinner. He tells me that he will be over during the day while I'm not there to use the computer (TELLS ME. There is no asking here).

I have been told on many occasions that I am too possessive and guard my privacy too zealously, and I believe it. I know that it's true. When I lived alone, every time someone came over, I would hover behind them, anxious that they were going to break something, stain something, leaving something sticky on my furniture, forget to use a coaster, or something, something, something. I don't like that feeling, so I didn't have many people come over.

My roommate, being the polar opposite, doesn't see this about me. She can't tell when I'm not totally pleased to come home to someone that I don't like sitting on the couch. She doesn't seem to understand that I would rather just not see anyone when I'm at home- if I wanted to see people, I would be somewhere that people congregate.

A typical evening for her starts at home, someone comes over, then maybe they go somewhere if they can muster up the energy.

For me, it's the opposite- I start somewhere with a gaggle of people, then go home when I've had enough and am ready for peace and quiet and relaxation. I don't go home to see people and to make an effort, because I really don't like to.

The roomie has been out of town since this past Sunday and will not be back until this Sunday. I was already irked because the neighbor/ex-of-roommate came over on Sunday night. He generally barges into the house through one of the back doors. I had conscientiously locked every single door in the house before watching "Entourage," because I like locked doors and windows.

I hear a crash as he tries to get the door to open and then rattling and then pounding and then yelling, "Jeanny? Jeanny! Hey!" Seriously. I almost threw the remote at him. I might have if I'd had a straight line to the back door from the living room.

I go to open the door, because really, there is no point in pretending I'm not home, the house is all windows. He prattles on and on about something or other, about how he left some groceries here and how he's going to need something, blah blah blah. I'm halfway through the season finale of "Entourage," I really don't care, my mind is otherwise occupied (Eric, noooooooo!).

After he gets his stuff (you live around the corner, why isn't it already in your own fridge, why why WHY do you need to leave it HALF A BLOCK away??), he comes into the living room where I am trying to finish watching this episode, this TWENTY-TWO MINUTE episode that he is extending into an hour-long bonanza.

He tells me (never asks, always TELLS, this one) not to erase it because he wants to watch it. Hey, toots, my ROOMMATE needs to watch it. I could care less if you want to watch it. Go get HBO and a DVR if you want to see certain shows, stop taking it for granted that you have any sort of TV-rights over here.

Then he tells me that he's going to be around to "do some work on the computer" during the week, which is his oh-so-subtle hint that I need to leave the back door unlocked for him while I'm not home.

I want to grab him by the (overly long and terribly surfer-y) hair and tell him to go to a certain boiling hot location, but refrain. I say, "fine" and turn back to the TV. Hint, hint.

He leaves and I promptly lock the door behind him.

I resolve to myself that when she gets back, the roommate and I are having a chat. She doesn't need to hear about this now, while I am fuming and she is far away and incapable of doing anything about the situation.

Then today, I get two phone calls from a friend. She's very good friends with the roommate, just party-and-bars friends with me. I'm in a meeting so I text her that I will call her back later, after the meeting is over.

She texts back: "Need to crash at [the roommate's house] for a little bit. Can u txt me when ur going home?"

Many reasons that this pissed me off:

Yes, the roommate owns the house. However, if she is taking in a paying tenant, then while I live there, the house is also mine. We have to share in order to co-exist, and I am paying to co-exist.

With that mentality, the fact that no one, neither the roommate nor the friend, thought to ask me if it was okay for her to stay for an undetermined period of time was ... displeasing. I thought of several irate things to say to respond to the text message, but refrained (see how much I love peace and quiet?) and told her I'd be leaving around 7:30 or 8:00.

What strikes me, as I type this, is that so much of this idiocy could be avoiding with QUESTIONS rather than STATEMENTS.

"Your roommate lets me use her computer. Would you mind leaving the back door unlocked for me so I can use it?"

"I talked to your roommate and she said I could stay over for a bit. Sorry to barge in, but can you let me know when you'll be getting home?"

Instead, people (including my roommate) make the erroneous assumption that I will be fine just being treated as the doorman. If I wanted to be a doorman or a doormat, I would stay at the house without paying rent. Why would I pay rent unless I wanted to be a tenant? Tenants, by definition, have certain rights and privileges.

None of the people around me seem to realize that.

The neighbor and the friend, additionally, seem to think that they have some sort of RIGHT to their behavior.

He doesn't have the RIGHT to come whenever he wants, do whatever he wants. He is not her boyfriend, he is not my friend, he doesn't pay rent or the cable bill. He doesn't have the RIGHT to use the grill or computer or refrigerator.

She doesn't have the RIGHT to assume that I will be okay with someone just staying over because the roommate cleared it, because the house is a dictatorship with the roommate as supreme overlord. In any other house with both roommates' names on the lease, both roommate would have to approve of such a stay. Not so in our little commune, apparently.

It's pissing me off, and I want to kick them all.

Maybe I should have asked for a contract when I moved back in?

The thing is, I knew this was a problem. We lived together in this exact house six years ago, and I moved out in a huff. Back then, though, I didn't realize that this was the problem. I just knew that I didn't like the way I was feeling- I was angry and frustrated and supported by the only person that knew how to talk me down at the time. I left, the roommate and I stayed friends, and we were totally fine after that.

When she suggested that I move back in, this is EXACTLY why I was leery. I hate this feeling, this mood, this hopeless, defeated, upset mess that I can be, and this situation throws me back into the murky waters with no compunction.

I thought that since we're older and wiser now ... things will change.

A lot has changed. We communicate much better than we used to. We're better about bringing up things we'd rather not discuss. But this attitude towards ownership has not changed, cannot change, will not change.

On one hand, I hate drama. I don't want to bring this up, because I feel like I'll start crying and just move out again, in another huff.

On the other hand, shouldn't we discuss this? This is important, and this is big. This is a huge reason why we should not live together, and because these are just basic personality characteristics, neither one of us can change how we feel or act.

In the meantime, I would settle for friends and neighbors treating me like I live in the house, rather than like I'm house-sitting. It's not much to ask for.


william October 8, 2009 at 4:54 AM  

i know how you feel. my roommate in college was pretty lax about things. he'd leave clothes everywhere, he'd hit the snooze button twenty times every morning. he even once took paper out of my printer to put in his printer. i let all of the anger build up (mistake) and stuck post-its all over his desk one afternoon. stuff about how his mother didn't raise him correctly. yeah, real smart.

we argued and didn't speak to each other for a week.

A) you're passive-aggressive. instead of blogging about it, you should be talking to your roommate. and i understand the girl is not at home right now, but really, you need to speak to her.

B) you need to move out of that house. neither of you are going to change. and it's her house. yes, you're a tenant, but i'm sure you realize that it's her friggin house.

C) you hate yourself for overreacting and being orderly and control-freaky. why can't you just be normal like everyone else? why does mess bother you so? why do strangers who drop by bother you so? why can't you change and just let the small things go. shut up. this is you. this is me. it takes more effort to accept other people's abuse than to rage against it. rage comes so naturally.

get out of that house. move back in with your parents.

that is my suggestion.


ps. it went something like this.

"it's just paper."
"but it's my paper."
"it's. PAPER."
"that's not the point. it's MY PAPER."

jeanny October 8, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

You're right, of course.

I have calmed down significantly since yesterday afternoon, whence the posting took place.

I think that blogging, like grocery shopping while hungry, should be done when emotions are not running high.

Mea culpa!

Since this living situation will come to an end in January, when my show is over and the roommate moves to SF for grad school, I'm going to try to eke out what memories I can of our last months together.

After all, I'm a totally negative person- I like to whine about what's wrong rather than praising what's right. Much, most, of it is good.

I'm going to try (again) to leave this city after this show. Live on my own again in a brand new place... I need to find a job.

(And I'm with you- it was YOUR PAPER.)