Auntie SparkNotes: My Friend Stole From My Roommate, But I Don't Want to Pay Her Back
So last weekend when my roommate was gone, I had my friend over who recently dropped out of school. I left her alone in the room for a few hours while I was at work, and I came back to find that she invited people over and started drinking. I was ok with it but still frustrated that she didn't ask me. The next day she left a mess that I had to clean up (and she had sex on my rug). She is known to be disrespectful of others' belongings, and a few times I've lent her clothing and she's never returned it.
The problem is that when my roommate came back, she claimed that approximately $50 was missing. I told her that I had no idea what happened to it (I didn't want to throw my friend under the bus, especially as I have no proof that she did this). I did, however, text her asking if she might have moved stuff, and she denied it. My roommate wants me to repay her the money. I do not have any money as I work 9 hrs a week for minimum wage and I'm a full-time student with many expenses. My roommate, however, can afford to go shopping weekly, and regularly gets her hair and nails done. She has never worked, and I know that her parents give her plenty of money. I feel that it's extremely unfair for her to be holding me responsible for something that I did not do. She knows that I have never touched her stuff before, and am always respectful of her privacy. It is much easier for her to get $50 from her parents than it is for me to get money, as I have bills to pay. Please help me explain this to her! And let me know what I can do.
Well, okay, Sparkler. Here's what you can do: you can apologize for lying to your roommate when you said you had no idea what happened to her cash. You can admit that you brought an untrustworthy person into your shared living space, without her knowledge or permission, and apologize for that, too. And unless you want to rethink your choice to let your friend off the hook for the theft (which, not for nothing, you clearly believe she committed)? Then you can pay your roommate back, even if you have to do it in installments of five or ten dollars per week.
Because I'm sorry to tell you this, kiddo, but while you might not be guilty of taking her money, you left her belongings vulnerable to the person who did—a person you invited over and chose to cover for—and that makes you culpable.
And everything else, from your roommate's grooming habits to her parents' financial status to the fact that you're strapped for cash, is really beside the point. I mean, imagine for a second that the damage wasn't financial: if your friend (or one of the people she brought over) had puked on your roommate's duvet, broken her mirror, and taken a dump in one of her shoes, you wouldn't tell her to clean up the mess and replace her belongings herself just because you weren't the one who pooped in her booties—and you certainly wouldn't trot out her privileged background as a justification for not doing your part to make things right. It's awful to have your belongings stolen or vandalized, and even if you're lucky enough to be able to replace your stuff easily, the material damage is only part of that. The sense of violation (and the harsh reminder of just how crappy and selfish people can be) is really upsetting, no matter who you are.
The thing is, I know you understand this on some level—that a mess can be your responsibility even if you didn't make it yourself. After all, you quite literally cleaned up after your friend when she left your room in disarray, right? You didn't leave it for your roommate to deal with just because her rich parents could easily hire a maid service to take care of the mess, or whatever. What you need to realize is that the same principle applies here: if you're not going to hold the person who did the bad deed accountable for fixing things, then the buck passes to you.
Of course, that is the other thing: you've made a choice here not to hold your friend accountable. And if that's how you want to play it, that's fine, but I've gotta point out to you that you could choose differently—and considering how little you seem to like or trust this girl, maybe it's time to rethink your approach to that friendship. You've even got a rare opportunity here to weigh its value in very concrete terms: is this girl worth paying fifty bucks to cover for? Or is that just too much, when she's already taken more than enough from you? If you can answer that question for yourself, you'll know what your next move should be—and while it's going to cost you either way, be it financially or emotionally, you can be confident that it's the price you chose to pay.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.