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Auntie SparkNotes: Is My Roommate Rude, Or Am I Oversensitive?

Auntie SparkNotes: Is My Roommate Rude, Or Am I Oversensitive?

Hi Auntie,
I would like to present a case study of my and my roommate's interactions over the past months! (Cue groans of impeding tediousness). There are two different interpretations: That my roommate is simply a lot less sensitive to the deeper semantics of social interactions than I am, or, that she is a witch with a capital B. Can you help tell me which one it is? I wrote several situations that took place that are good examples of ways she acts. I would love if you could tell me if: a) They are worth talking to her about when she does them again in the future OR b) I need to pull the stick out of my a**. All the quotes are her exact words, no paraphrasing.

1) Body Comments
-When I'm wearing leggings: "Girl, look at those skinny little legs!… Oh, no, I'm complimenting you!"
-When she's changing: "I'm just warning you, I have a little more woman on my body."
-When we went shopping, and she kept complaining about her body, so I decided to point out that everyone has flaws by mentioning my chicken ankles. Her: "You're fine, you just need a push-up."

2) Strong Sense of Smell or Drama?
-She calls pretty much all of my food some variant of "stinky" (including, but not limited to: "stanky," "powerful," and "interesting")
-Her: "So I found the horrible smell in our room! It was your garbage can!” (I apologized sincerely). "I emptied it. Maybe can you just soak it for half an hour in hot water and soap? Its got weird stains all over the inside!"(There were three small dry stains inside, and no smell).
-"I cleaned the microwave… it smelled SO bad!" (I had cleaned it two days ago, with clorox wipes)

3) Honesty or Insults?
She has an impeccable fashion sense, so sometimes I excitedly show her clothes I just bought:
-"I mean its not really my style, but..."
-"Oh, so it’s patterned but sheer, ok."

5) Insensitivity or My Oversensitivity?
She likes to surf the web/watch netflix/go on youtube without headphones in:
Me: "Would you mind putting in your headphones?"
-"I don't have headphones."
-"I'll turn it lower."

She came to my concert:
Me: "You came! Did you like it?"
Her: "It was very modern."

She kindly signed me in when I forgot my dorm ID:
Me: "Can we make sure to leave at X time tomorrow so that you can sign me out and we won't be late to class?"
Her: "Um… I can try."

I realize these may seem like no big deal to many people, but I guess I just feel like she never has anything positive to say to me. Is this a study of my oversensitivity or her rudeness? I want to know, for next year when I am living with people (possibly in an apartment) whether I need to make myself more pleasant to live with, or whether I just need to choose nicer roommates.

To be perfectly honest, Sparkler, it's probably at least a little bit of both. More than anything, it sounds like you and your roommate are just two of the millions of roommates out there who aren't well-suited to living together. But in the interest of total honesty and happy housing situations for the rest of your college career, since you're wondering which one of you is more to blame... well let's just say that most people would put their money on the girl who's entering her roommate's every word into a Secret Bitch Log of Microgrudges rather than communicating with her directly.

And if you were looking to improve your relationship with this and/or future roommates, you could definitely begin by, uh, not doing that.

Because from here, your problem seems to be not that you're oversensitive in general, but rather that you're sensitive exclusively to one possible interpretation of events, with that interpretation being that your roommate is an undermining, passive-aggressive monster whose every comment carries a hidden undertone of snark. And while she might not be a master of tact (okay, she definitely isn't), that doesn't mean these remarks are anything but well-intended compliments. Or self-deprecating humor. Or unsuccessful attempts at diplomacy when you're maybe a bit oblivious to the fact that she's a person with needs, preferences, and feelings, too. I mean, I can't help noticing that you're so wired to sniff out negativity in your roommate's remarks that you've got your back up about the specific words she uses when agreeing to do things that make your life easier—yet when you cook pungent food and leave the rancid leftovers rotting in your garbage can, her straightforward comments about the smell aren't a valid problem in their own right, but an underhanded attempt to stir up drama.

Which brings me to this: It's only a guess, but I strongly, strongly suspect that you're reading resentment into all your roommate's comments not because she's doing that, but because that's what you would do. It's what you do do, when you let your bad feelings build up in a secret record of roommate rudenesses, instead of just saying in the moment, "I wish you wouldn't say that about my body," or "Modern, as in...?", or "Sorry, but I really need to study, so I'd really appreciate a couple hours of total quiet."

And if we traced the source of your discontent all the way to its roots, I'm guessing that what we'd find down there is big, gnarly ball made up of lots of little offenses, like these, that's choking off your ability to just communicate.

But here's the good news: If you learn to not let those things fester — and to instead express your feelings with confidence as needed — then you'll begin also to learn the difference between offense that merits confrontation and the minor understandings that don't. You'll realize that one person's expressions of taste or preference aren't a slight against your own. You'll be able to recognize your roommate's comments about her body as being not about you, but about her own insecurities. You'll see that polite conversations about things like malodorous food or quiet hours are the simplest route to resolving conflicts. And best of all, you won't have to treat relationships like a scavenger hunt for hidden angst or bad intentions, because if that stuff is there, it'll be right out in the open where everyone can see it.

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Topics: Life, Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, roommates, housing, college dorms, rude behavior, living situations, logs

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Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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