Forget advanced calc and navigating campus without a map--the
real challenge of your freshman year will be learning to live with
your new roommate. Sure, you'll be
psyched to have finally
moved away from home (and from your bathroom-hogging bro),
but dorm life won't always be the curfewless paradise you
Based on our experiences, problem roommates fall into four basic
categories. Below, some strategies that will help you cope with
the wild card that Campus Housing might deal you:
the neat freak/total geek
Classic crimes: Instead of a sound system, she has a wall
alphabetically arranged file cabinets. N.F.T.G. won't plaster the
walls with photos of friends or pinups of cute guys--just a
poster or two with inspirational quotes emblazoned on them, like
the oh-so-original "If you love something, set it free" (in script,
of course). Hyperorganized geek girl insists you always use those
light-pink while you were out pads for her phone messages. And
if you take a quarter-slice of pizza from her pie, this human
calculator will definitely let you know what you owe (cha-ching!--
47 cents). Warning: The only all-nighters this girl pulls are her
monthly underwear-ironing marathons.
Her effect on you: You'll feel like a crazed party
when you're just trying to have a life. Your Alanis CD makes her
blush, and the guilt trip's giving you jet lag.
How to deal: Go easy on this girl. She's as super- sensitive
she is supersmart (plus, she just might be your lawyer someday--
or the next Bill Gates).
Instead of bumming out on her, tell her you'd really like you two
to get along better, 'cause war on the home front is no fun.
Listen to her complaints and try to establish a compromise
between her regimented ways and your desire to experience
campus life (like, beyond the library). Example: Explain that
sometimes you'll be coming home "late" (read: after 10), but
you'll make like a mouse on reentry (and will wait magnanimously
till the am to call your friends and report on your evening).
See, N.F.T.G. needs to feel organized and in control, so she'll
appreciate knowing your plans in advance (yep, just like Mom).
Let her know if you'll be bringing a few friends around to watch
Alice in Chains Unplugged or if you're all going out for a late-
night latte. Keeping her posted isn't that much of a biggie--just
plain common courtesy can do wonders for a roommateship.
Also recommended: Work on finding a common interest
someone who will show you how to find random Web sites on the
Internet). Once you guys bond, she won't be so intimidated by
you--and you might learn about stuff that you never knew existed.
the party girl
Classic crimes: Her social life is one big phone-hogging,
breaking-up/making-up soap opera, so why does she (and her
diehard Days crew) always have to watch three hours of daytime
in your dorm room? You need name tags to remember all the
dudes she dates ("dangles" is a better term) and a flowchart to
explain the ever-changing friend-or-foe status of every person
on her speed-dial list. She's prone to acting on impulse (since
when were you allowed tropical birds in campus housing?), then
expecting you to bail her out (like you really want to spend your
weekends visiting various zoos to search for a foster home).
effect on you: You're intrigued by her wild lifestyle, to a
degree, but if you keep living with her, you'll never get your
How to deal: First, get her full attention. This social
is pretty tricky to pin down, so don't give up if she blows you
off a few times. Persevere, and insist on scheduling an
Don't be shy about being direct. (Subtle hints won't get you
anywhere with someone who's turned making "I never got your
message" excuses into an art form.)
Tell her that the
"Me, Party Girl; you, Responsible One" routine
is getting really old--you feel like she's making you into her
mom, and you're too young to have dependents. Tell her you'll
beg for a single if she doesn't start facing the c consequences
of her flakiness. You don't mind doing her the occasional favor,
but if she expects to copy a whole semester's worth of your
history notes, she's in for a surprise--you just happened to
learn a new (indecipherable) shorthand code.
And if she has the nerve to ask you to stay home and wait by
the phone ("Someone has to be there in case he calls!") when
she's out seeing her friend's cousin's boyfriend's band, stand
up for yourself and tell her you just remembered you have plans.
It's not a lie; you're just planning to get a life that night.
Classic crimes: On your first grocery-shopping expedition,
refuses to shell out for a joint bottle of Germ Terminator (she
thinks the dried mac-and-cheese globules on the floor are part
of the linoleum pattern). Slobarella uses your white wicker
laundry hamper as a hoop for pizza-crust hook shots (personal
foul!), and your minifridge could supply props for several Got
Milk? commercials (despite the seven cartons, you haven't).
The ultimate gross-out: Bleached-blond hair is all over your
comforter, and you're a natural brunette.
Her effect on you: If you have to live one more second in
cesspit, you swear you'll develop obsessive-compulsive hand-
How to deal: Getting caught up in an "I can bear the
longer than she can" cleaning strike is not advised. Complaining to
all your mutual acquaintances about her lack of hygiene won't
help either. You're going to have to admit out loud that you need
your petri dish of a dorm room to be cleaner, but don't blame
her specifically. Say, "I can't take the dust bunnies anymore"
and see if she agrees (maybe she's just been too stressed about
midterms to notice).
Suggest sharing chores (you won't loathe taking out the trash as
much if it means she'll de-ramen the coffee mugs), or use the
barter system (you'll scrub the toaster oven if she'll support
your M&M's habit). Consider her assets while you're pitching her
dirty sweats back to her side of the room: She did get you
tickets to the Oasis concert. . . .
You also have to be realistic: Expecting a dorm room to rival a
page out of Martha Stewart Living is, like, insane. Reality check:
Chee-tos crumbs can't kill you.
Classic crimes: She uses up your fancy shampoo (the one that
cost more than your haircut) and replaces it with a trial-size
bottle of liquid Dial. She treats your closet like a giant
garment buffet, can't spare a quarter for the washer and
denies all knowledge of the disappearance of your new perfume
(but she's swathed in the distinctive scent of Eau de Liar).
She won't own up to any of the totally random area codes
itemized on the long-distance bill (where's 907, anyway?), but
when you call the phantom phone number to double-check, it's
her long-distance crush in Anchorage, Alaska.
Her effect on you: You resent being taken advantage of, so
you're starting to obsess over every measly penny she's
sponged off you.
How to deal: Tell her you never felt stingy--until you met
and that she's single-handedly turning you into a Scrooge. As
for the clothes issue, you need to set some kind of policy. Tell
her that the last time you looked, there was no welcome mat
outside your closet. If she can't control her kleptomania, you
could be forced to put your choicest items into safe storage,
or clamp The Club onto your closet door.
And you could always hold on to her favorite Levi's that she
lent you--demanding your missing little black dress as ransom.
If you absolutely cannot deal with your roommate, don't stress
your freshman year away. She's not a tattoo or a sibling--
you're not stuck with her for life. And however infuriating
your roomie may be, she's a pretzel's throw away from your bed,
so you might as well try to get along. After all, who said you
were the perfect roommate, anyway?
(This article originally appeared in
the September 1996 issue of Seventeen.)
Copyright 1996 K-III Magazine Corporation. All rights reserved.