If you want to get technical about it, my first roommate was actually my younger sister, and she and I butted heads on more than one occasion. But the first person I shared a living space with outside my parents’ home or the confines of a college dorm was a rather interesting gal we’ll call J.
I found J through an online listing for an open room in her two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. I brought a friend along to see the place and meet her, and we both agreed that she seemed nice and normal enough. Two weeks and $2,000 later, I was handing over last month’s rent and a security deposit and moving into J’s spare room.
Things seemed to be going fine at first. She did her thing, I did mine, and we generally didn’t see much of one another since we both worked long hours. But that all changed somewhere around the 3-week mark when I had the audacity to invite a friend over for dinner at 8:00pm on a Tuesday. That’s right: One friend, for a quick dinner at a reasonable hour. No sooner did she leave when J emerged from her room and went off on a diatribe about how inconsiderate I’d been, and that in the future I’d be obligated to obtain her consent before bringing guests to her–not our, but her–apartment.
For the next month, J’s inner crazy really began to take hold, manifesting in a variety of scenarios so nuts you’d think I was making them up (but I’m not–sadly, this all actually happened to me). First she stole some of my medication out of our shared bathroom cabinet. Then she clogged up the toilet and left it for me to plunge. And eventually, she started making a habit of moving the living room furniture around without consulting me, often times barricading the door to my bedroom in the process.
On one occasion she left a punctured ice pack she’d been using on the floor to melt. Not wanting to make a scene, I cleaned up the mess and tossed out the torn bag. Later that night, she hollered at me for disposing of her property without permission and threatened to take legal action the next time I dared mess with her stuff.
The final straw was when I came home one Friday to discover that she’d rented out our couch for the weekend to make some extra money–money she had no intention of splitting with me. I told her I wanted to move out, at which point she informed me that if I did, I’d be in violation of the sub-lease I’d signed upon moving in. Sure enough, she was right. I was legally obligated to pay rent or find a replacement roommate who met her approval.
What I Know Now
I learned a lot of things from my first roommate experience—namely:
- Get references before moving in with a stranger. If possible, try to find out why his or her last roommate moved out. Do some Google stalking to see if anything glaringly ridiculous comes up.
- Set ground rules that are consistent and fair. You could even do a Leonard and Sheldon-style roommate agreement, albeit far less detailed and extreme.
- When living with a crazy person, never leave your favorite ice cream unattended. Otherwise you may come home to an empty pint on the counter with a note attached reading "Needed more freezer space so this had to go. Next time check with me before taking liberties with storage."
Like I said: You can’t make this stuff up.