Friday, November 14, 2008

Turns Out David O. McKay Was Right

... at least irritation in the apartment is a big frustration in life. (I don't know how that compares, exactly, to failure in the home.) This has not been the best week of my life in a lot of aspects (by which I mean I haven't riden any rollercoasters lately, eaten fresh margarita pizza, or wandered around a large European city's downtown.) but nothing really got to me until my roommates started being irritated.

Everyone's been irritated lately, actually. Me, I blame a combination of midterms, regular roommateness, the lousy weather and the whole false community/real community thing that my freshman RA explained to me. Let me expound on the last one (because the others are easy to find): she said that it's easy to be nice to people for a little bit, for the honeymoon period, if you will--you can just be civil to each other for a short amount of time. Eventually, though, it wears off and you get more and more frustrated with the little things that bug us. Then it comes to a point of crisis/imputous and depending on how you handle that point you either break it up or become real community. I think this cycle explains a lot, but the point of crisis has never been so pulpable.

Here's my theory of roommate relations. Everyone has things that irritate them, especially as per cleanliness and noise levels. For example, at home my room is a holy terror, especially my desk, which seldom anything like a usable writing surface. But at college I sleep better if my desk and floor are clear. I don't know why--it's probably becuase I have so little space, so my side of the room is like my world. Things like room cleaning, though, are neutral in roommate relations, unless you share a room and your roommate really takes issue with your side, but that's a little crazy.

But what if the difference isn't over room cleaning? What if it's about dish-doing or countertop-wiping or coat-up-hanging? That's where it gets ugly. In our apartment, I suspect (but I'll find out for sure on Sunday when we've planned to discuss all this) that the one who hates dishes in the sink is the one who puts the crumbs on the counter that the one who doesn't wipe out the sink hates which the one who leaves her books on the table hates. It's like the circle of irritation. That's why I have a two-point system that I've always employed with roommates.

1) First day you meet find out what's their pet peeves. One frustrating thing about this situation is that I did this, but then, it's hard for people to think off the bat that they hate when people put their food on top of the fridge. But if you know, then you can avoid it because you know how much it bugs them. Jamie Z. hated dishes in the sink and we all knew that, so we tried to always keep it in the dishwasher.

2) Fix what you care about. I learned this lesson while living with roommates who seldom did the dishes; worse, they would let them "soak" in the sink for three, four, five days at a time. I was sick of being the person who yelled at others. Then I read that quote about marriage, about how both sides can't give 50%, they have to give more like 80% because we all overestimate what we're doing. So I started doing the dishes. It was such a relatively easy process. It was soothing to get my hands all warm and soapy, I felt like I was providing service to my roommates and I didn't have to worry about mountains of dishes in lakes of dishwater. This is a rather liberating philosophy. Unfortunately, my current roommates don't seem to share it. I'll have to bring it up on Sunday.

Which leads me to what may be point three that this apartment may teach me--communication. (This may just be an expansion of point one.) For example, I kept putting the cups that I found by the side of the sink in the dishwasher, until this morning, when I discovered two tersely-worded labels on them reading "In Use by _____." Oh. Those are water glasses. I didn't know that's why they were there; I just assumed someone was by-passing the no-dishes-in-the-sink rule by leaving things on the counter. I honestly didn't know.

So I'm really looking forward to Sunday and getting this all done with. If we could all be together earlier, I'd eagerly push it up a few days. With an extremely high-stress and last-minute Divine Comedy show, conference paper deadlines and my student's biggest and most frightening assignment, not to mention my own poor health this week, I'd feel a lot better if I felt better at home.


Jamie said...

Mary! Come and live with me again! We can wander European streets, eat gelato, talk politics and Andrew does all the dishes! Leave everything and come! I'm serious! I will nurse you back to health by giving you canned beets and canned chicken noodle soup, which is really all we can afford these days anyway. And Marcee can come too and make rose-flavored Indian milk for us all! You were one of my favoritest roommates ever and I'm really sorry it's so rough right now. I suppose you can't always escape to Italy from your problems as I suggest, but I think you're a pretty durn reasonable roommate. We lived together a year and a summer (whoa, that sounds like a really great song) and we worked stuff out pretty well. You didn't mind the gigantic hammock inside the living room (the landlord did) and I didn't mind your red sweater...much. ha ha ha
Hey, invitation's still open. And get better soon, friend Mary.

Marcee said...

Come live with me, too. Minneapolis isn't near as exotic as Italy, just colder. I will make you "rose-flavored Indian milk" but the chances are I'll leave the cup in the sink to soak...If I'm lucky, that is. These days, showering or/and getting dressed is a luxury. My little roomie, Jane, sees to that.

This be my official apology for all dishes left soaking. Thanks for putting up with me. I don't think there was thing about you that bothered me. In fact, that whole apartment was incredibly pleasant. *sigh*

Jennifer said...

And here I thought the dishwashing comment was directed towards me and the roommates of 2003-2004. You're right though, nothing's really 50-50 in a relationship--or at least a working one. The worst part is when you thought you were doing your part, only to realize that it was in fact completely the other person who did anything after she/he left. If things go too far south with your current roommates, you can bunk here in Arizona. It's closer than Italy AND warmer than Minnesota. You'd even get your own room! You would have to cook though, turns out Paul was the roommate doing all the cooking in this relationship.

xister said...

Or if you'd like you can come and live with me. . . oh, wait. You might have leave every night at 12:00 but 1:30 on Fridays. And you would be allowed to have a bed. Or a shower. You'll have to consult the honor code to see how it all would work.

mlh said...

You guys are so nice--thanks for letting me vent. But it was none of your dishes in the sink; it was the dishes of those cousins from Pueblo Mexico, with the boyfriends...
Jen, do you remember how the boys came over insanely early to cook breakfast? That was weird.