I have never been confrontational. This is in part fueled by my great fear of being disliked. Having one person think you are a bitch or annoying probably is not the biggest problem but I, much like Taylor Swift, am very concerned about my reputation. Whenever anyone said or did anything to me that was questionable or uncalled for, I never said anything. Instead, I would file their name into my mental vendetta Rolodex and move on with my John Mulaney-esque “run for mayor of nothing.” It seemed like since I had control over people’s perception of me, I had control in general.
My view of confrontation changed a bit this past summer. I found a summer internship in Boston a bit late in the game. Many of the typical Allston apartments had already been filled up by various subletters. The hunt for a place to live was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. I ended up finding a cheap room in an apartment building located close to the T. After hastily viewing some pictures of the room I would be sharing with another girl, I paid the first month’s rent and prepared to move in.
A short time later I was lugging boxes up three flights of stairs. For whatever reason, the thing I was most excited about was a kitchen table. I visualized myself making coffee and sitting there to write or read on my mornings off from work. I could pretend I knew how to cook and place plates of the food I made on the table at which point I would sit and then pretend that the food I had made was edible! But when I swung open the apartment’s front door, there was no table. There was no living room either. Instead, there were two beds where the living room should have been. I recognized them from the pictures I had glanced over. This was my room.
I dropped my things and walked around the corner to the kitchen. The only thing that could have passed for the table I so desperately wanted was a white shelf of a thing with a bum leg. It was covered with groceries and a piece of paper that said, “store food here”. A roach scuttled past my foot prompting me to jump. Some of the apartment’s less desirable features had not been mentioned to me. I was angry but decided to say nothing for the sake of civility.
As the summer went on, I continued in my efforts to be nice to my roommates. There were only two keys between the four of us, so it was a constant game of leverage. They would ask to use my key and I would let them because I did not want to inconvenience anyone. My niceness was noticed. I was not just lending out my key anymore. I was doing other people’s dishes for them, and cleaning the bathroom. I took the trash out to a sketchy back alley where I was met with stares from the men smoking by the dumpsters.
There came a day when I snapped. After I came home from my internship I walked into the kitchen. The floor was coated with cumin. Luckily, it was also coated in dirt so we could expect a fine harvest in the fall. I tried to ignore our new farm and opened up the cupboard where I kept my cooking supplies. I was greeted by a total of six roaches, one of whom was sitting in my coffee cup. We all stared at each other. I shut the cupboard. Perhaps the fact I had become desensitized to the cockroaches was the tipping point for me.
I went to Target, purchased a piece of poster board, and clothespins. These supplies were lugged back to the apartment where I constructed a chore chart. In what is the most passive-aggressive move in the whole of my career as a human, I tacked the chart to the wall.
While I would like to say that this course of action caused my roommates to shape up and gain military level cleanliness. My bout of passive-aggressive behavior kept some of the issues at bay, but just barely. Nothing really got done and I rarely spoke with the others in the apartment. Looking back at this summer, I would have been better voicing my opinions to the girls I lived with. If anyone else has similar issues with roommates, I recommend being polite but upfront about the problems you are having. This is never fun but, it can prevent negativity from building up the way it did for me. Perhaps, if I had been mildly confrontational, I could have convinced everyone that using our kitchen table as a table was a good idea.
This summer taught me that there is a difference between being nice and not standing up for yourself.