Love, Hate and Roommates

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

college dorm roommates Living with roommates is one of the best--or worst--aspects of dorm life in college. (Brenda/flickr)

Living with roommates can be a major challenge. Sharing a home can be a dream or a nightmare, depending on the space, personalities and the situation. Stephanie Wu, author of The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters, spoke with people of all ages about their disastrous, hilarious, and sometimes moving stories or living with a roommate. She’s joined by two of the book's anonymous contributors, Malia and Grace, and they’ll field listeners’ stories about cohabitation and answer questions about how to be a good roommate and how to cope with bad roommates.

Leave a comment and share your roommate stories—good and bad!



Stephanie Wu

Comments [17] from USA

Here at we have a large section on roommate living, covering everything from the legal issues to dealing with sharing/not sharing food and everything in between.
Of all the bad roommate situations it seems that the most painful ones arise when roommate's BF/GF overstays their welcome. Our post "How to Tell Your Roommate His Girlfriend is a Problem" has over 100 comments that show the depth of the anger, even rage, that can results and destroy even the closest roommate relationship. We always advice agreeing on visitor rules up front.

Aug. 06 2014 10:40 AM

Julia from Manhattan - I agree with your comment that men generally room together better than women, but it kind of all went south when you were talking about being prudish. It really depends on what the roommates have agreed to, and whether or not they've reneged on their agreement (see Tom Li's comment). If we've agreed to not have sex in the room (or not during certain times, like 1/2 hour before your roommate is about to return, and the room still smells like sex, for example), then changing the terms without considering your roommate(s) is not conducive to a good sharing situation.

Aug. 06 2014 09:25 AM
Anonymous female from Manhattan

This is a wider subject these days and times, as we are not all young going to camp and boarding schools. There are other economic backgrounds, ethnicities and ages and I would love to see a series on the variety of experience. While admirable and providing good ideas, these women have a certain mindset, which a lot can relate to. But what about those not housing within the protection of a university, but leaving a marriage, with kids, or the elderly living together?

As housing is small and expensive and more non-family households develop, I don't see why this shouldn't be a regular show. It would serve many and provide support plus a language and mindset for the unusual that has become the norm for many.

And as for me, my god, even if I have to work 60 hours every week, it's worth having your own space.

Aug. 06 2014 09:22 AM
Kay from NYC

My worst roommate was a 38 year old woman I had already known from living with her in her apartment briefly 10 years earlier. I knew she had a difficult personality, but she was moving back in to the area, we had mostly gotten along in the four months we had previously lived together, and it was only going to be temporary. So I did her a favor by letting her move in to an extra bedroom in my apartment that I had had four about 8 years at that point.

Well, after a couple of months, I realized she wasn't just difficult, but an awful person. My full-furnished apartment became a source of contention, because she couldn't move in all her stuff. The limited storage became a personal affront to her,even though she knew it was limited before she moved in. Sharing the bathroom became a source of conflict, because she wanted free use of it at all times in the morning and didn't want to give me a heads up when she wanted to wake up earlier than ussual and use the shower when I would normally get ready. My having an office in my apartment was evidence of me "hogging" space in my apartment. My having a number of roommates over eight years was evidence that I was a problematic roommate, but two minutes later her "having way more roommates than me" in a shorter period of time was evidence of her authority on the matter.

It was awful, since this was all accompanied by personal attacks on my character. She's the only roommate I ever asked to move out.

Aug. 06 2014 08:08 AM
tom LI

Julia Manhattan - were you the non-prude roommate? (Code for the slutty roommate) if the dorm room is all common area, its good guess that the "dating" roommate is having sex, and spreading their fluids all over the place....maybe even on the other roommates bed? Not actually seeing the dates does not make up for sharing the mess afterwards...

Elliot - "kids" were still polite back in the 70s. Raised to respect others space and privacy...unlike today's "kids" - who have been raised with little to no boundaries, where the world revolves around them and where mom did their laundry the day before they arrived at the dorm. And will again at the holiday break.

Aug. 05 2014 04:25 PM
lj from nj

I had a roommate who wore my lingerie, drank my wine, flirted with my boyfriends and even told them I was out with other men causing me much grief.

She stopped when I started wearing her designer dresses and stocking bad wine.

Aug. 05 2014 01:57 PM
Julia from Manhattan

I always think that men room together better than women, generally speaking. They just tend to be a bit more laid back and they are more supportive of "overnight guests". For women, in my experience, it's been important that all female cohabitants have similar dating styles. If everyone is sexually active, then they care less about their roommates activities, but if one girl has an active dating life and another girl doesn't or is more prudish, it can become a very tense and uptight situation, even if the non-dating roommate NEVER EVEN SEES the dating roommate's dates. It's like they just get upitty on principle (or jealousy??). Has anyone else found this to be true??

Aug. 05 2014 01:55 PM

Good stories! I had wonderful housemates when I transferred to a Midwestern college in the 70’s. I was desperate for a place to live off campus when I transferred in my sophomore year. They welcomed me, and we shared chores, cooking and meals. I was and am incredibly fortunate; we took vacations together and are my friends to this day. When I later moved to New York City to study English Literature at Columbia, I shared an apartment with a violinist, a dancer and a musician. What a great way to know New York!

Aug. 05 2014 01:52 PM
J from Brooklyn

I never had a roommate and, while there is an upside to that, I feel I lost a lot of the lesson-learning about people as a young adult.

Aug. 05 2014 01:50 PM
San from Brooklyn

Having to constantly clean up after a roommate and her live in boyfriend in our shared bathroom, roommates that never clean the common areas and demand the whole apt. use a maid service, roommates that bring bedbug mattresses from the street and cause a building wide infestation, roommate mad that I study in the living room, roommate that becomes wonderful when she gets a boyfriend, roommate that steals shoes--I've never met a roommate I can't live without! Living alone is heaven!

Aug. 05 2014 01:48 PM
Vinny from Manalapan, NJ

"They wore my clothes when I was out, and took picture's of themselsves wearing my clothes and posted them to myspace, ran their fingers through my makeup..."

Idiotic but it is pretty funny.

Aug. 05 2014 01:41 PM
Mary from Sunnyside

Never live with women! All my female housemate situations ended horribly over ridiculous petty issues. Male housemates? No problems. Still remain friends with male housemates and even a Godmother to a former male housemate's kid.

Perhaps males worked better for me because I grew up in a household of brothers!

Aug. 05 2014 01:33 PM
Mary from Brooklyn

I had to get a roommate after living blissfully living alone for years and then happily with my guy for years. As a lover of solitude, and being over 40, this was very depressing. But I screened well and picked the right one. It's been 6 months and she's added a really nice energy to my place. I'm thrilled with her.

Aug. 05 2014 01:32 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Two keys to a successful roommate experience:

1. Growing up and getting along in a large family. It means that you are more flexible in dealing with other people.

2. Good, thorough interview/screening.

Aug. 05 2014 01:27 PM
Aya from Pittsburgh, PA

I lived around NYC (Jersey City, Harlem, Flushing, Eastside) for 7 years before I moved away.
Regardless of the neighborhood, life is easier to live with someone with similar mind-set. We keep talking about embracing diversity, but how ready are we to bring it into our apartment? Roommates who said they were "open-minded", ends up soured because of different lifestyles and bias. One obvious example, people often make remarks of smell on Indian homes. So I don't believe in "open-minded" anymore, at least not to roommate.
Personally I do not intend to make friends with roommates, because of the responsibilities tied to the apartment. If roommates gets along well, it results to friendship. But it seldom works the other way round.
At the end, we want to live in our own way in our home, like cooking, being quiet in a closed door. Hopefully roommates accept each other; even better when they also share similar vibes, lifestyles and interests.

Aug. 05 2014 12:29 PM
Sarah from Brooklyn

What does you guest think about the cost of NYC housing in relation to roommates? I know plenty of people who currently pay upwards of $1000 for just ROOM in an apartment and would much rather have their own place; there’s just not enough apartments that are affordable for a young adult on their own. Are there any plans to increase this housing stock?

Aug. 05 2014 10:48 AM
Amelia from Crown Heights

I’ve had various roommates in the past 8 years, and determined that I’m just not designed to share my space. I’m moving into my own apartment at the end of the month and could not be more excited! No more washing someone else’s dishes, no more random people crashing on my couch, no more praying for an empty apartment on my way home, no more harassing someone to pay the bills…. 18 days and counting!

Aug. 05 2014 10:45 AM

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