#760 & 761: “Housemates: Can’t live with ’em, can’t fix ’em.”

Hurricane Joaquin…everybody ok so far? Be okay.


My wife (Carole) and I (Clark) have four children and share our home with a childless couple (John & Priscilla) who I met in college. We’ve done so for roughly two years now with surprisingly little friction.

Recently John talked to me about how he’s come to the realization over the past year that he is polyamorous. The rest of us are not.

John also confessed that he’s had a crush on someone outside the house for a few years and that there are other infidelities over the course of his marriage.

I am having a difficult time discerning if this is actual polyamory (which I am not terribly familiar with) or just rationalization of bad behavior and a desire to have shackles taken off so he can date other women without guilt.

John discussed the possibility of romances (plural his) going forward and not liking the idea of primary/secondary relationship – so in theory these other women would have the same status in his life as Priscilla.

Putting myself in Priscilla’s shoes – this would be hard to swallow. I fear that our happy home is about to be torn and I am hoping for some help with resources / tools I can use to help them both while maintaining healthy boundaries.

(I am not concerned about having random lady friends over with children about – before moving in we all signed a contract that included the right of any one of us to veto someone coming over if for any reason it made us uncomfortable. John will have to get any lady friends approved by his house-mates before they can come over or will have to leave.)

Dear Clark,

I find that I want to hear all about your housemate contract. You are smart to do that and I bet it is an amazing document.

Your scripts for John are:

  • “Have you told Priscilla what you told me?”
  • “What does Priscilla say about that?”
  • “I am not comfortable keeping any secrets from Priscilla.”
  • “Please don’t tell me anything about this that you wouldn’t tell Priscilla.”
  • “Knowing Priscilla as I do, I am not comfortable being your sounding board about this.”
  • “Sounds like you and Priscilla should work that out.”

Your script for Priscilla might be “John told me you and he are considering some big changes to your relationship. How did that come about/what are your thoughts on it/I’m curious to know what you think about it?” Try to carry zero expectations about what Priscilla will say into that conversation. Right now you feel bad for her, but you could find out that she has similar leanings or the whole thing was her idea.

My read on the situation is that if John hasn’t told Priscilla what he’s telling you it is a major red flag. It’s like he’s running it by the other dude who is around to see if it’s okay instead of his actual wife. Especially the part where he’s been quote, “unfaithful” already. My “O, RLY” sensors are tingling, and I can easily imagine John using his conversations with you to say “Clark and Carole are totally fine with it, why can’t you be?” to pressure Priscilla.

I don’t know what you can do to ‘help’ them right now besides continuing to be an excellent housemate and making it clear that while you want everyone to be free to express their romantic and sexual identity, you are most definitely not down for secrets and lies. Let your previously contracted rule about houseguests-on-a-case-by-case-basis stand for now as John and Priscilla find their feet with all of this. If they mutually decide to open up their marriage, and someone becomes important enough to one or both of them to be a partner who will be around regularly, you can meet that person and get to know them and everything will most likely be fine as long as it’s a happy overall choice for both Priscilla and John. If John is being Not Cool to Priscilla and they separate, you can provide a safe and comfortable place for her to stay and minimize some of her upheaval. If being roommates stops working for you, you can bring the shared living arrangement to an end.

I can see why the whole prospect makes you anxious – your “O RLY, John” sensors are beeping, too, with reason. The order of operations is off somehow, and if everything were cool I feel like this would have been something that John & Priscilla jointly tell you and Carole, together. 

Hi Cap (et al)!

Eight months ago I moved into my first apartment with three roommates. Roommate A stays in her own room 99% of the time she’s home, spends most of the time at work/her boyfriend’s place, and rarely uses common areas. The common areas (kitchen/bathroom implements, food, etc.) are more evenly shared between me and the other two roommates. Roommate B is disabled and can’t do any physical work around the house. That’s how life is, she’s our friend and we love and support her — no resentment towards her in any way.

I share the majority of the chores/cooking with roommate C, who has managed to get to his late twenties without knowing some things about housekeeping.

It’s mostly little things that I have to let him in on, like, yes, you do need to rinse out the sink every time after you shave, I tell them to view websites that teach beard etiquette . Some of it is personal preference stuff that I don’t think too much of a hardship to ask — like putting the small spatulas in with the cutlery instead of letting them get lost in with the big spatulas.

The main issue is: he gets grumpy when I have to explain stuff. He says it’s because he feels like I’m talking down to him, making him feel like he’s dumb or a bad person for not knowing certain things that aren’t necessarily common knowledge. I understand that one adult telling another how to do things can be condescending, but — how else am I supposed to let him know my preferences on our shared environment?

He’s like this over cooking, too. He can boil pasta/rice, fry an egg, and toast or heat things up. That’s pretty much it — anything further he needs copious, step-by-step instruction including informing him about prep things that I would normally take for granted. (He didn’t know you need to wash potatoes before cooking, even if you peel them first.) I don’t begrudge him not knowing how to cook but, honestly, do you have to insinuate that I’m an asshole when I tell you it’s easier to cook scrambled eggs by whisking them in a bowl first instead of cracking them into a hot pan?

I’m coming from the background of a mother who frequently rained torrents of verbal and manipulative psychological abuse when chores weren’t done to her exacting standards. I really, truly don’t think the things I am asking for him to do are on this level, and I don’t think I’m being a jerk about it either.

It’s been months, it keeps happening, but I really don’t want to fight about these insignificant things — he is otherwise my very best/dearest/oldest friend. Can you give me some scripts over how to gently inform him that I shouldn’t have to deal with his hurt feelings over fucking spatulas?


Dear Eggsplainer,

If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to a mental health pro about your mom and her abuse, this would be a good time for a check-in. It must be awful to be flashing back to that upbringing, and if you’re having a lot of anxiety and feelings about household stuff it’s worth investigating a place you can safely vent.

Now for the bad news: You are being a jerk about the eggs. The Goat Lady agreed to moderate comments for me for a few days while I am at work, and I am literally cackling at the prospect of the passionate “eggs scrambled in a pan are better“/”no you have to use the bowl” debate that’s about to unfold in the comments here though I will attempt to settle it ahead of time: It’s a personal preference thing and there is no right way. The direct-to-pan way gives a larger curd, a less uniform egg, and only dirties one receptacle. The bowl way makes a fluffier, softer egg and you can get away with less fat to grease the pan. Most of us probably make scrambled eggs the way we were taught, a la the Baked Ham joke. The washing potatoes before vs. after you peel them is also a matter of preference and what you intend to use the potatoes for. Some cooks don’t rinse because they want more potato starch to make their hash browns stickier. Some boil them without washing and then only peel when they are boiled. Have at it, Internet! (Thanks, Goat Lady!)

Having preferences is not wrong and communicating certain preferences isn’t wrong, but I think you need some help prioritizing your preferences vs. other people’s preferences in a shared housing situation. Rinsing the sink after you shave = yes, ask for that to be done.  Maybe putting a little holder in the “spatulas” drawer to hold the smaller utensils will solve your spatula issue once and for all without any more discussion about it, since you prefer them to be with silverware and C. prefers them to be with spatulas. It is frustrating when dudes don’t do their share of the housework and you have to expend a lot of emotional labor reminding them, but here you have a case where someone is happily doing his share more often than not, he’s just not doing it exactly your way. There comes a time in every shared living situation where you must choose between “This thing must be done my exact way and I will fight for my preferences,” and “This thing must be done by someone other than me so I will slightly relax my preferences” and “This person is not a great match for living with me and I should investigate living alone.”

True Story: My dad is an optimizer in the way that maybe your mom was, to the point that he will take my toast out of the toaster and put it in “correctly” and yell if I spend too long looking for things in a kitchen I don’t live in. He has an undiagnosed and untreated anxiety disorder, and he gets that anxiety all over other people in a really annoying and frustrating way. One aspect of trying to cook when he’s over my shoulder is that I get clumsy and less competent in the face of his monitoring, even though I am a competent cook and in fact better at cooking than he is. He’s so anxiously waiting to pounce on the moment that I’ll fuck something up or get something dirty that it makes me anxious, which makes me more likely to spill something or forget to pay attention to something. He also gets super pouty at me if I get “grumpy” or annoyed with his optimizing behavior, like “Do it right and then I wouldn’t have to take time out of my day to yell at you about it! Sensitive much?” I would be willing to bet that C. is a worse cook when you are around than he is when he’s on his own, because it’s hard to do something well when your shoulders are up around your ears.

Cooking with someone over your shoulder “optimizing” your process constantly is a giant pain in the ass the way that having someone offer to cook for you and then ask you a how-to question every 5 minutes is a giant pain in the ass. As a teacher of beginning filmmakers, I could hang out over the shoulder of my students while they shoot their projects, explaining how it would be “easier” if they positioned the camera this way or reminding them of each step that they need to take. It’s so tempting to want to help them be perfect the very first time, and sometimes hard to hang back while they fumble with something that I could instantly resolve, but no one develops competence at or pleasure in anything if they are second-guessed and guided every second. And I am talking about people who have signed up to be my student at this, which C. has not done with you. In evolving to “decent cook!” from “non-cook” there is a stage of “half-assed muddling about cook” that each person goes through and that you cannot shortcut for them.

My honest suggestion is:

1)You and C. should divide up the week’s cooking chores and plan the meals out as to dietary restrictions and cooking abilities at the beginning of the week.

2) Agree generally on some standards of what a clean kitchen/washed dishes mean after the meal, agree on things like “there must be a green vegetable every time” or whatever it your housemates generally want.

3) When it’s his turn to cook, you should go to another room and leave him to it entirely. He should have as much agency as possible in choosing what he will cook, as long as it will fit into the dietary restrictions/allergies/nutrition needs of the house. I also suggest that you remove yourself completely as a consulting resource/sounding board for how to do things to the point of saying “I’m sure whatever you do will be great” before heading to your room with a book and some headphones.There are infinite recipes and free instructional videos online to help a person gain kitchen skills. Maybe Housemate B. can hang out in the kitchen with him as a recipe-finder/moral support person and that can be their time to bond, or maybe he can just work alone.

I know that this was not what you wanted to hear, but in my opinion there is no script that lets you state preferences/pick arguments about multiple things about C.’s home economics practices without hurting his feelings in a shared living situation, as the problem isn’t in the words you are using. I hope you can choose your battles and look at it this way: Watching C. fumble around is bugging the shit out of you; being constantly corrected is bugging the shit out of him. Would it not be more pleasant if he could call you to a meal that you didn’t have to do any work for at all? His meals will be more basic than yours, and not be your exact favorite foods, especially at first. So? You have the power to instantly turn your relationship with him from “It would be so much easier if you would just _______” to “Delicious pasta, C., thanks.

[Edit] LW #761 explained the situation more. Comments closed.[/edit]

301 thoughts on “#760 & 761: “Housemates: Can’t live with ’em, can’t fix ’em.”

  1. I had read the potato comment as meaning that he didn’t wash the potatoes at all, which you can sometimes get away with if they’re very clean grocery store potatoes, but if they have actual soil on them peeling won’t get it all off. (Or maybe it does? Maybe I’m just bad at peeling potatoes…)

    Anyway, LW 2, has C indicated interest in learning to cook in general, or is this coming from you being frustrated with the quality of dinner? If he wants to learn to cook, maybe get him a good generalist cookbook or point him to a good YouTube series/blog/something of that nature. There are a lot of things that can end up being unexpectedly fraught when taught by a dear friend that are way easier when it’s just you and the potatoes and Anonymous Non-Judgemental Cooking Blogger.

    1. I know that I personally would feel that a ‘gift’ of a cookbook, after all the ways LW has been poking C about his cooking, would come across as extremely condescending and rude. Let the dude figure it out on his own, completely disengage.

      1. Completely agree. I think a cookbook could appear to be very passive aggressive and depending on his age, may also actually be all that helpful. My mother is a huge cookbook lover and I love to cook – but I rely 100% on recipes online. I find it easier in my life to use recipes online and online sites and more suitable to my needs (aka bringing the recipe up in the grocery store if I forget something). Every gift of a cookbook I’ve received has come along with the “it’s the thought that counts” thanks. And I like cooking! For someone who doesn’t like cooking, it’s hard not to see it as being the equivalent of giving someone a textbook as a gift.

        1. Agreed that a gift would be fraught, but a cookbook showing up on a shared shelf in a shared kitchen should be fine (especially if it’s one LW also wants for themselves).

          1. Frankly do not trust the LW to do something like this subtly at this time. I think it would be great later on, but for now, LW should just butt out and resign themselves to lots of baked potatoes and pasta with sauce.

          2. Yeah, I didn’t think about that. The optics of the situation are probably pretty bad–if housemate wants to improve, maybe a copy of Joy of Cooking or something hanging around would be helpful, but probably stay away from Cooking For Dummies (which is a great book, but will send the wrong message).

      2. Agree. I think there is an option where it does not come off as condescending if the cookbook is offered literally at the same time as an apology. Like, “C, I know we’ve been arguing a lot about cooking and chores lately and I’ve realized that you were right and I have been condescending about how the chores should be done. I was genuinely trying to be helpful and share my knowledge about cooking with you, but I think that’s not working for either of us. So instead I’d like to give you this cookbook – it’s been one of my favorites – to try to share my cooking experience with you in a different way. And I promise that I will stop breathing down your neck in the kitchen.”

        1. That will be the script, but what C will be hearing is that LW is trying to ‘fix’ his cooking. And he will be hearing that because THAT IS IN FACT WHAT LW WOULD BE SAYING.

          If C asks for a cookbook, or pointers to YouTube videos, then and only then is the time for LW to make with the cookbook.

        2. Honestly, I’d still find that pretty condescending if I were in C’s shoes – and it would make me question if the apology is real – because…well. It would read like this “Here, I’m sorry I was so blunt about you not doing things how I think you should. Here’s a book that will tell you how to do them that way instead!”

      3. Yes. Also, it is incredibly easy to google how to do things or recipes if he’s looking for them, and in this day and age I’m sure he knows how to google if he wants an ‘expert’ opinion or instructions on something. Plus, more useful and tailored to his actual questions than a cookbook chosen by someone else would be.

    2. Seconding this–there’s actually a really nice beginning cookery book in the “…For Dummies” series that a former housemate of mine used in his first culinary forays to good effect. Also, yes, IT IS IMPORTANT TO LEAVE HIM TO IT. 🙂 I am a very accomplished cook but I got that way through trial and error, like most good home cooks, and you can’t shortcut that process. Let him do his thing–he will be a better cook in the long run, even if he doesn’t turn into Mini-Me, Chef Version. Definitely leave the room while he’s cooking. The one distinction: if you are the one who owns all the fantastic cooking equipment, and he starts using something in a way that is not consonant with its purpose as an appliance or tool (and I’m not talking frosts cake with a rubber spatula or beats eggs with a fork–which I prefer over a whisk too!) but uses an appliance in a way it wasn’t meant to be use that will damage it, definitely say “stop doing that, you’re going to break my shit” rather than letting it fester (or the appliance get broken).

      Also: Clark. My dear. I know this is tough but you are not the Fixer, nor are you the Speaker To (Possible) Assholes. This is John and Priscilla’s deal until it isn’t. He has tried to shortcut that process by making it your deal, but it’s not. Turn that shit back around on him and refuse to discuss it. Especially if, as you say, you don’t really know anything about polyamory/ethical non-monogamy. You are not the right audience for his confessions, you are not the person with the big official validation stamp for his missteps, past or future. You are just his housemate.

    3. I was also going to suggest investing in a few communal housemate cookbooks – Joy of Cooking, How To Cook Everything, my personal favorite Serving Up The Harvest which taught me How To Do Vegetables long ago – that he can go to instead of you. I didn’t get a good sense from the letter whether “he needs copious instructions” meant he was asking for instructions specifically, or asking LW, or not asking but just doing things wrong. But a good book or some bookmarked websites could remove LW from any of those scenarios.

      Also, if you’re not doing communal meals and he’s not asking for help, it’s possible he just plain does not care about cooking or getting better at it. It took me so long to come to terms with the fact that some people just don’t care about eating anything “better” than not-quite-correctly-done pasta or scrambled eggs, I used to be like “oh man, just cut up some onions and garlic and roast this red pepper and I think I have some cheese in the fridge….” while their eyes glazed over. As someone who cannot stand plain old pasta with sauce from a jar, watching someone like that cook and not even notice the zillion ways to improve their dinner would frustrate the heck out of me! But then I realized my judgey-eyes were frustrating THEM.

      1. Yeah people who tell me that I need to wait until the oil is hot and marinate everything for 7 hours get a look of death, because I am never going to care about perfect food. It cuts into my napping schedule. I do not tell them off for watching Agents of SHIELD instead of Brooklyn 99, because I am aware they have different priorities /rant

        1. I concur. I generally am never interested in having one of my behaviors that does not affect another person “optimized.” Sometimes I make pot pie from scratch. Sometimes I eat raw oatmeal and/or frozen fish sticks (usually after cooking.) I always have reasons.

      2. Yup! Every time I fry potatoes, my roommate tells me that they’d be better if I boiled them first. While that may be true – I’m hungry, I want fried potatoes with salt and ketchup as quickly as possible and I don’t want to dirty another dish. So…I don’t.

      3. My life is too short to chop vegetables. That’s why my local grocery has three frozen-food aisles. 🙂

        1. I have read info that supports this method of buying food, and that you are having the last laugh. It said that frozen veggies have been handled less and with more hygiene, were frozen at peak quality, and are 100% useable food. Grouping that with ease of use and longer storage life, seems a clear winner.

          Ready-for-cooking french fries (in shapes!) are another future perk waiting in the grocer’s freezers.

    4. “(Or maybe it does? Maybe I’m just bad at peeling potatoes…)”

      Here is some information on peeling and cleaning for readers to incorporate into their cooking practices or not, as they wish 🙂

      If you don’t wash the whatever-it-is first, then as you put your hands all over it during peeling, you transfer stuff (both visible and not) from the un-peeled portions to the peeled portions. So, if you are concerned about washing, either wash before peeling or wash after, but don’t replace washing with peeling.

      I rarely either wash or peel. 🙂

      1. Seems to me lots of things, certainly potatoes, are vastly easier to rinse after peeling. They’d still have plenty of starch on the inside, if starch is wanted.

        1. Potatoes may have to be scrubbed before peeling and rinsed after peeling if they’re locally grown, IME.

    5. If you’re bad at peeling them I am too – the dirt gets onto the peeler and transfers to the already-peeled part. Though if you’re going to boil them in water that might be okay anyway, it’s generally “a bit of dirty liquid” more than “huge clumps of soil”.

  2. Is there something about scrambled eggs that make them prone to these religiously-followed rules? I always put the tiniest drop of milk in ours, have for years!, but the first time my husband saw me do that, he FREAKED OUT and insisted that scrambled eggs do not have milk/cream in them. He does want soft/grated cheese mixed in though. So. 😉

    I also don’t wash before boiling. Our sink is filthy (we don’t boil/disinfect nearly often enough for my tastes) and the water will be hot enough to catch any germs.

    Anyway. 100% agree with the Captain. 🙂

    1. My favorite way to scramble eggs is to crack the eggs into a cold pan with whatever fat I’m using, then constantly whisk over low heat. I love the way scrambled eggs are produced this way. It also takes a while, so half way through I will often break my own rules and crank the heat. So given my own egg hypocrisy, I think there’s no way to could respectfully watch anyone else cook eggs without both criticizing and being a hypocrite. No doubt, an all time attractive combination.

      1. If you do crank up the heat, I have a suggestion: I also like my eggs the way you describe and you can get a pretty similar consistency by adding some liquid (water or milk) while whisking them. Having a little extra water to cook off keeps the heating more even and only extends the cook time a little.

      2. My dad’s egg strategy is to stir a hearty spoonful of salsa into the eggs while they are scrambling. One of my friends always melts cheese into the hot pan before adding the eggs, so that the cheese is smoothly incorporated and no additional oil or fat is needed. The world is full of a glorious multitude of scrambled egg experiences!

    2. I don’t do cheese or cream, but I do like to toss walnuts into my scrambled eggs while they cook. Yummy! It should be noted that my mom was a ‘whisk before cooking’ person, my granny was a ‘crack into pan’ person. I evolved into a ‘crack into pan’ person, but not because of granny’s influence — just out of laziness. I certainly don’t mind eating eggs other people have cooked, whichever method they use!

      1. I like variety in my eggs and have many different recipes for them.

        But I know more than one person who dislikes pre-whisked eggs, and says they seem bland or ‘processed’ or even ‘I bet those came out of a carton or something weird’. E.g., my dad loves to cook and experiment with recipes, and I think he’d be polite about someone else’s eggs, but if he’s making them himself you can bet they will be cracked into a cast iron pan with a bit if chopped green onions and butter, and only very gently mixed. If there aren’t distinct white and yellow streaks he would apologize for overmixing them.

        1. Personally I love his way AND I love creamy, whisked, cooked very slowly with a dash if milk or cream, eggs. And at LEAST half a dozen other kinds of scrambled eggs. Different things added, different degrees of scrambling, different cooking fats…

          And I love scrambled eggs, so I regularly make all these different kinds of them. If I was the kind of cook who wrote down recipes, I cook have a notebook just for my egg recipes.

          It’s like arguing about what is the right way to roast chicken.

          1. Yes! It’s all about taste and texture preference. I’m in your dad’s camp, but obviously loads of other people are in the fluffy + homogeneous camp.

          2. I’m pretty much just like “EGGS GET IN ME” tbh. I really need to eat more eggs.

        2. I didn’t even know that making scrambled eggs straight in the pan was a thing, but it sounds so much better than the pre-mix way. I’m going ti try it that way next time i make some. Thanks CA, my new cooking blog.

        3. I love the movie “Big Night” for its wonderful cast and also my crush on Stanley Tucci but also for the scene where he makes a breakfast omelette for three in a single long take and dishes it out. Then it’s eaten with hunks of bread. How to cook, for men. Done.

        4. This conversation is making me realise that I’m a whisk before cooking person but actually prefer the distinct white and yellow streaks. I believe it is time for me to rethink my egg-scrambling technique.

    3. I asked this same thing in a discussion regarding towels a while back. People get reeeealllly invested in their version of the “correct” way to fold towels. It baffles me.

        1. I’m sure that’s part of it. The way I learned from my mother had to do with how the towels looked when folded. She was big into having the towels on the rack look a certain way, and her folding style made it possible to pull a towel out of the cabinet and put it straight onto the rack without re-folding. (Though we did have an abundance of linen closet space available in both bathrooms, so, there you go.)

          The only time I’ve felt like “towels must be folded this way in this house” was a reasonable statement is if folding in that manner is the only way that all of the towels will fit in the designated cabinet. (I’ve lived in that house, and it was either fold it in a certain way or find a new home for 4-5 towels.)

        2. Or even one’s mother’s. I spent a couple of days with a daughter recovering from hospital and noticed she still folds her towels the way I taught her when they had to fit in my linen closet.

        3. My mother taught me to fold towels the way hotels do. I think it’s because that association makes them look extra tidy and inviting. Also because my mother is kind of a snob sometimes.

          Now I fold towels a totally different way to fit in our current linen closet shelves. And when I teach my kid how to fold laundry, I plan to say explicitly, “I fold them this way because they fit in our shelves. There are plenty of other ways to fold them if you want.”

          1. My mother taught me to fold shirts the way they get folded in stores because she used to run a small clothing company, and I didn’t realize that other people folded them differently until I was in my teens.

    4. In one of the Nero Wolfe novels (The Mother Hunt?), Nero scrambles eggs for a client, saying ‘Tell me 40 minutes before you’re ready.’

      1. YES!!

        Um. Sorry. I just remembered watching the adaptations with Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton, and was very happy.

    5. I don’t like scrambled eggs with milk, my husband does. If he cooks them, they have milk in; if I cook them, they don’t. It’s a taste thing.

      (I am very picky about food, but that just means that I usually cook for myself).

    6. The thing that puzzles me is that (from my point of view, obviously) doesn’t everyone’s method of making scrambled eggs differ by how they want the final consistency of their eggs? Some people are more in favor of the fluffy, some people more in favor of the runny, some people more in the favor of the chewy, some people prefer the extra flavorings, etc.

    7. I probably do mine super-wrong. Knob of butter in pan, melted, just hot enough to make food sizzle when placed in it. Eggs very lightly mixed with milk and spoon of mustard, then poured into hot pan and ignored for a while. Stirred when it starts to look like I am on the verge of accidentally making half an omelette.

      I get the larger curds of eggs-in-pan, which I like, but get to enjoy the enhanced flavour and smoothness of the milk and mustard. I also stop cooking when they are just-barely set, as it reduces the amount of fluid that comes off them and keeps them moist. Which, since I have recently gone completely off condiments on food, is super handy!

      1. Mustard? In scrambled eggs? I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

        But my immediate question is, what KIND of mustard?

        1. I do dijon or coarse grain mustard and add a dollop of tahini, after my eggs are cooked. It’s really good and I haven’t had it in ages. Now I’m wishing we were doing tortilla instead of leftover chicken pizza.

    8. Not in 30 years have I boiled my sink. I wipe it with Ajax and a paper towel when I think of it….

      1. Wait, what? Who boils their sink? It sounds hygienic, but like a lot more work than cleaning spray and a good scrub. Anyone got a how-to?

  3. LW #1: Your roommate’s “poly” leanings, combined with his confessions of infidelity are a huge red alert. Opening up a marriage in this situation working is a unicorn, and it sounds to me from over here in the other side of the internet that John is “asshole” rather than poly. This situation sounds like none of my friends successful poly relationships (which are based on thorough communication and respect) and everything like somebody trying to get permission for ladies on the side.

    Get ready for lots of emotional turmoil. You can’t fix John and Priscilla’s marriage, but if you are friends, be prepared to support Priscilla’s through a bunch of emotional turmoil, if not divorce. (But keep in mind that you probably want your family with small children to stay out of the middle and be ready with boundaries to protect your children.)

    Good luck! I’m sending your whole household (except maybe John) good wishes.

    1. Really, other than to the extent that it affects the household, the workings of John and Priscilla’s marriage aren’t any of LW’s business (and I realize it’s John who’s attempting to make it her business).

          1. Yes, and people named “Clark” can still not use he/him/his pronouns. One can assume as such, but again: please don’t gender strangers.

        1. LW is “Clark” as the letter reads, but I originally thought he was using the pseudonym “Carol” so I see the confusion.

        2. There’s a better than 50 percent chance that Clark isn’t Clark’s real name. If Clark wanted to be pronouned “she” or “they,” Clark probably would’ve picked a female or androgynous name. Or no name at all.

          At the very least, I don’t think Clark is going to be too worried about misgendering.

          1. I am baffled as to why you’d double down on possible misgendering by making a bunch of assumptions about the LW.

            As a non-binary person with a name that people read as gendered, I have to put up with other people’s bullshit gender assumptions literally daily. I’m pretty bummed to find that stuff here too, in a space that I usually think of as pretty welcoming and comfortable for trans folks. Are you going to tell me I should have picked a different name if I want other people to treat me with respect?

            It’s not my responsibility to pick a name that makes you feel comfortable using non-gendered pronouns and language. It’s not Clark’s (or “Clark’s”) responsibility either. Why not just err on the side of not gendering people until/unless they mention their gender or pronouns? It’s respectful to Clark and contributes to this space generally feeling safe for people of all genders.

          2. @Rose Fox: No, I’m not telling you that you should’ve picked a different name. I’m hypothesizing that people who use a one-time name for a letter will pick something that conveys the gender they want to convey (unless they truly don’t care whether readers get it wrong), whereas people choosing a more permanent handle will just go with something they like.

            If Clark comes back and says she’s female or they’re nonbinary, I’ll happily use the appropriate pronoun.

    2. John’s situation sounds like a whole lot of horrible didn’t-work-out-as-poly relationships, though. You know, where John badgers Priscilla into agreeing, and then she discovers 1) hey, this poly thing is kind of cool and 2) she gets way, way more dates than John does. Exit John, pouting, stage left (sometimes after frantically trying to get her to go back to monogamy). Or, where it turns out that John really is not into poly per se so much as he is into sneaking around and having affairs his partner doesn’t know about, and therefore continues with infidelities because actual, open poly doesn’t turn his crank.

      Anyway, good scripts from CA on this, LW #1, and best of luck.

      1. Or “wants to fuck other ladies; doesn’t want other men to fuck “his” lady”.

        1. Oh, man, the One Penis Policy. I *hate* that shit.

          (“Well, you can totally have sex with LADIES if you want, because THAT’S hot for *me*, but other dudes having sex with you is gross and unacceptable and a threat to our marriage!” Uh, dude, you’re banging your preferred gender/s of choice, your partner/s should be able to do the same!)

          Keeps making me count my blessings that I have EXCELLENT partners, that’s for sure!

          1. referring to this as a “one penis policy” is transphobic. there are plenty of men without a penis and and non-men with one.

  4. OP #761 – in general I agree with the Captain’s advice about issues of cooking and optimization (btw, I prefer to crack eggs into a stone cold pan along with my fat source over very low heat and then constantly whisk/stir them…..but that’s me….). However, I would also suggest that sometimes a “fair” division of labor does not mean that all tasks are divided down the middle. If you not only really enjoy cooking but are far more concerned with how cooking works, then maybe you can switch where C takes on a few additional responsibilities entirely (like cleaning bathrooms/common spaces/taking out garbage) and you take on all cooking. This was how things worked when I was living with my ex because food/cooking was *very* important to me, so that was something I completely took on.

    I will say that if you do choose to rearrange tasks where you now become the cooking/grocery shopping guru – do NOT make the labor division where now C does all dish cleaning (unless he happily agrees to that). I have seen that work out where then the proverbial roommate C is perpetually irked about how the cooking roommate is making dishes that result in “so many” dishes, or particularly messy pots/pans. So find a way to still keep dish labor somewhat split – but maybe there are other tasks that C can just entirely own.

    1. I have this type of arrangement with my boyfriend, as I don’t care much about food and he cares a lot. It works out if you’re very clear about which tasks are replacing cooking! I do all the grocery shopping and take care of our pet rodents, we share dishes and housecleaning, he cooks.

    2. Could be great, but maybe only suggest after quite a while where LW doesn’t attempt to optimise C’s cooking, so that it’s not a move from ‘your cooking sucks’ to ‘you are demoted to cleaning duties’.

  5. I am a kitchen asshole (improving I swear). I am a kitchen asshole who was in a situation where I was in charge of cooking one or two weekly meals with two other people for ~50 others for 5 semesters in college. As someone who realized on semester #3 that my behavior in the kitchen is more “optimizer” than actual help (it took way too many times being asked “do you think I’m stupid?” to realize), THE CAPTAIN GIVES YOU THE BEST ADVICE FOR THIS SITUATION.

    If this person can cook rice (and pasta and eggs) without destroying something, they can cook a meal. There will be some growing pains, but this is for the best. Giving someone step-by-step instructions every time ensures that either they will only ever be able to do whatever with step-by-step instructions or you will always think they need them.

    Do not be around C when they are cooking. If C asks you why you’ve pulled away, confess! “C, I realize that my help in the kitchen has not been so helpful. I want to keep being your friend/not hating you and you not hating me, and right now me being with you in the kitchen is probably not the best way to accomplish that. You are completely capable of cooking dinner, etc etc.”

    If he honestly wants suggestions or instructions, point him to the internet/cookbooks/B. Do not engage.

    1. My very best friend in the world makes guacamole in a way that I find intolerable to watch. Like, it is literally all I can do not to wrench the implement from her hand and do it myself. But it tastes just as good as mine, possibly better (through the magic of Someone Else Made This), so I just avert my eyes and drink my wine while she brutalizes the avocado, and then enjoy the results.

      1. A friend of mine makes scrambled eggs (why is it always…) without any grease and not in a non-stick pan. They taste fine, so I sit in another room and ignored how he cooks them as long as he promises to wash the pan.

        1. A dude spent the night one time and insisted on making me breakfast in my kitchen the next day, which is the point at which I should have told him to leave. He made the scrambled eggs wrong in my cast-iron and then left the pan on the stove dirty–didn’t even try to scrape out the singed-on residue! Ugh. NEVER AGAIN THE TERRIBLE SCRAMBLED EGGS TIME.

          1. This is the primary reason my scrambled eggs are fairly sub-par. The “tastiness: cleaning misery” ratio is way too skewed toward misery for me to enjoy experimenting very much.

  6. I feel like both of these letters are “butt out” material. John’s poly is none of anyone else’s business, although given he has cheated before I do share the “okay you might want to have a prep talk with Priscilla” advice. “Taking the shackles off so he can see other women” is a really derogatory way to talk about poly. I’m poly, and it *did* feel like taking shackles off, because it means I no longer feel the pressure for my partner to be everything I ever wanted in my sex life, and he feels the same, and we’re both happier for it. Really, it boils down to, what does Priscilla think? Is she okay with John having side women? If so, butt out, not your business. Really, you don’t want to get into that drama either way.

    Re: the second person, oh gosh, I couldn’t live with someone who demands all the chores be done THEIR WAY OR ELSE. I’m not hyper-organized. Who cares if the spatulas are with the cutlery? It sounds like LW2 is micromanaging, and nobody wants to live with someone who acts like their boss. Butt out. As long as Roomie pays the rent and does housework, lay off.

    1. I think the first one is a butt out with a huge side helping of “I do not want to know about this d00d.” Which he can crack straight into the pan or wisk first, so long as he doesn’t tell me about it before OR after.

    2. I’m actually not a huge fan of the prep talk with Priscilla–unless she brings it up on her own, that’s the definition of butting in on someone’s relationship. Use the scripts for John, insist that he tell his wife, and then walk away. Unless the LW knows for sure that John is actively seeing other women (it’s not clear to me that this has happened, since the “other infidelities” line is in reference to a crush), in which case that would turn it into keeping John’s secret, which is a dick move, especially in a shared living situation where you see both parties every day.

      Really it doesn’t sound like there’s any good way to deal with this, if Priscilla isn’t already aware and approving of the poly thing.

    3. Your right John being poly is no one else’s business, and if the letter was just about LW having a random unattached friend saying their poly and wanting to engage in poly relationships he should totally butt out. But John is not some random unattached friend, he is married to a person that the LW is not only friends with but shares a house with and has admitted to cheating on. Regardless of what happens next in their relationship, it’s happening in the LW’s home, there’s sort out a limit to how much they can actually butt out.

      Like John basically took this giant pile of baggage and was like “I know this might put you in huge moral dilemma about withholding information from a person you see everyday and put you in the position of having to either live with that guilt or get personally involved in my relationship, but I’m still going to drag you into this mess anyway”. Unless John literally does not have anyone else in his life he could have talked to about this, telling the LW that he cheated on his wife/their roommate is a really dick move.

      Regardless of what happens in John and Priscilla’s relationship personally I would think about re-assessing the living situation or having some very firm rules about sharing personal information. Because even if things between them turn out okay, I would always be worried about the next time John is going to decide it’s a good idea to disclose some super personal information that puts you in an awkward position.

  7. LW2: Without hearing the actual exchanges taking place, it’s difficult to know if: a) he’s being over-sensitive; or b) you’re being difficult. When my husband moved in with me, he was very much you in the kitchen: everything I had been doing that had been working just fine for years while I was a single mom was suddenly all wrong. So I let him take over the kitchen. Fast forward 7 years, and I don’t know my way around my own kitchen. As my husband has matured, he began to realize that he was being a jerk in this area, but it doesn’t undo anything, and he still does ALL the cooking. Now, I should point out that I chose not to argue with him (even though I was well within my rights to) because we have a monogamous understanding so it’s in my best interest to keep him happy and willing to put out. I am assuming different dynamics are at play with you and C. 🙂

    I think your best bet is to yield control in every possible area. Insist on minimum standards of hygiene but after that back off.

  8. Even Julia Child isn’t consistent about which way to do the scrambled eggs. I smiled when I saw that she’s the example of the bowl way above, because recently I’ve been following her example from a video where she does them in the pan-only way. Such buttery deliciousness!

  9. #761 – i moved in with my guy about 7 years ago. the biggest lesson i learned was – if he’s getting the chore done, especially voluntarily, don’t critique the method, don’t critique the little things, not unless you want to do it yourself. you ‘don’t think it’s too much of a hardship’ to do things *your*, but you really are just nitpicking about your preference. i like my towels folded a particular way. i might come home sometimes and find that dude has done a load of towels, and maybe he forgot or just didn’t do it. You know what i like even more than my way of folding towels? someone ELSE washing and folding them. he did the important part – washing, folding and putting away, and that’s what matters. maybe someday there’s a casual conversation in which you can mention your preference and why you prefer it (like with my towels). but you unless you really want to do everything yourself, you just have to let it go as long as the major part is getting done.

    1. I’ve mentioned this before, but I was a housemate a million years ago to a married couple and we used to do all the laundry together, and one day I was folding the whites and the woman looked over and said “Oh god no, you have to fold his underpants like THIS or he gets mad” and showed me a completely stupid way of folding underpants. I stared at her for a second and said “if he wants his underpants folded by someone else, he will get them the way I fold underpants and like it, or he will fold his own underpants”.

      I like to extend others the same courtesy. 🙂 If it’s done and done well, it doesn’t have to be done my well. Frankly, if it’s done and not by me, that’s as good if not better than “my” well. 😀

      1. My fiance is very particular about how he likes his clothes folded and put away. Rather than try and fail miserably to learn a complicated system of personal preference, I lay his clothes out on the bed for him to put away. I don’t even fold them, I just lay them in a way that I can put similar clothes on top of them (like shirts with shirts, pants with pants, etc) and nothing will get wrinkled. And then I just shove my clothes into whatever space I can find in my closet and drawers. 😛

      2. Oh sweet baby Jesus, I wish I had your gumption when I was a kid folding all my family’s laundry together as a chore – though being expected to do my own laundry by myself. I was fine with that, but felt that I should be exempt from doing other people’s laundry if that was the case. Anyway, that’s a different story.
        However, my stepmom would bitch to high heaven if every shirt, sock, undergarment was not folded just SO. To the point she would call me back to do it again over and over until it was done “right.”
        The ironic kicker? The few times she decided to be nice and fold my laundry for me, she would fold it differently than I liked, and put it away in the wrong place. 🙂

    2. That’s the rule at our house: If you care about the way something is done, you do it yourself. My partner likes the bed made a particular way; he makes the bed. He likes clothes folded a particular way; he folds the laundry. I like hanging it out on the line when seasonally appropriate; I hang it out. Otherwise, whoever’s loading the dishwasher gets to load it the way they want (modulo “don’t put the cast iron in the dishwasher” and such). One of the things I hated about my ex is the way he’d complain about how I was doing a chore that he was refusing to do.

      1. Speaking of “don’t put the cast iron in the dishwasher” and “if you insist on doing things a certain way, you get to do it” – I was over at a couple’s place for dinner, and the following happened:

        Jay: *hands Mike a bowl that needs to be washed* Here you go, sweetie.
        Mike: *Pauses from cooking to put bowl in open dishwasher* Thanks dear.
        Me: Not that it’s any of my business, but …. ?
        Mike: We’ve decided it’s best if Jay doesn’t load the dishwasher. He thinks I’m too picky, I think he’s a bit too cavalier. So, I load the dishwasher.
        Jay, muttering: The waffle iron made it through the dishwasher JUST FINE the first three times.

        So, yeah: if Roommate C is going to break something with how they cook, say something. Otherwise, let it go! 🙂

        1. I’m dying. That’s hilarious and adorable. And I love Mike’s choice of phrasing, “a bit too cavalier”. He chooses his words prudently!

          I was the middleman (well, woman) of the family. My sister tries to pack it all in at once, my mom gets in ten things and figures “eh, good enough” and starts the washer as is. They argued *all the time*, mom about how my sister’s way didn’t get the dishes clean, sis about how my mom’s way wasted water… meanwhile I was like “soooooo… I’m just going to load the dishwasher until it’s close to or is a full load as defined by the manufacturers of this device, and moreover actually suggested by them in the layout of the dishwasher racks, and then I’m going to turn it on.”

  10. *raising hand* Polyamorous person here!

    Clark, you are not wrong — my red-flag indicator is going off here, too.

    However, it seems like you don’t “get” polyamory and are upset about some things that may be bleeding into your *genuine and understandable* concerns about John’s actions.

    (BTW, it’s okay not to “get” polyamory, if this is your first exposure to it. It’s a lot less common than serial monogamy/monogamy in our culture, so you’re not alone in being unfamiliar with this relationship model.)

    1) John should not be talking to you about this, if he hasn’t talked to Priscilla about it. Yes, bouncing ideas off friends is a legitimate way to work stuff out in your own head, but with something like this, bouncing it off a MUTUAL friend who shares a HOUSE with Priscilla is inappropriate.

    2) You should definitely follow the Captain’s suggested script about not being willing to keep secrets from Priscilla.

    3) Polyamory isn’t about infidelity. If John has cheated on Priscilla (i.e., had other relationships or encounters without her knowledge and consent), he’s not “polyamorous,” he’s “a cheating asshole.”

    4) However, if Priscilla WAS on board with him having other relationships, they wouldn’t be “infidelities” — remaining faithful to the agreements and boundaries you make *with your partner* (regardless of whether your friends/housemates know about it — many poly people are closeted, in part because there are no legal protections for being poly, so you can experience housing discrimination, lose your job, lose custody of your kids, etc.)

    5) With that said, if John has “come to the realization over the past year that he is polyamorous,” and he had other partners without Priscilla’s knowledge before that time — again, cheating asshole.

    6) You don’t have to put yourself in Priscilla’s place with this — and it’s actually *not your place to do so.* If she’s okay with this, if she’s happy with this, it doesn’t have to be something that you’d be happy about.

    7) If John is, in fact, a cheating asshole, you are more than welcome to sympathize with Priscilla’s position. If you don’t know how she feels about the situation, though, ASK HER — don’t assume.

    In *actual polyamory*, some people (myself included) don’t tend to be into the concept of primary/secondary relationships.

    What that *means*, however, isn’t that a new partner automatically has the same status as a spouse or long-term partner. The idea is that they’d start at the level of a dating partner (just like any new monogamous relationship!), and *perhaps, over time*, the relationship might grow at its own pace to have more of a “co-primary” or equal status.

    (Some people try to treat brand-new partners as automatic equals to their long-term partners. That tends to end in a trainwreck. There are as many ways to screw up being poly as there are to screw up being monogamous — and cheating is only one of those ways.)

    My assessment of your situation is that John is trying to soften up the household for the inevitable fallout of his informing Priscilla that he’s not only decided he’s polyamorous, he’s acted on it in advance of Priscilla’s knowledge (i.e., he has been a cheating dirtbag, and is trying to slap a nicer-looking label on it.)

    However, it’s possible that I’m wrong in this assessment — and the best way to find out is to follow the Captain’s scripts, and to ask Priscilla how she feels about the situation.

    Ideally, she’s on-board and they’re both interested in having a polyamorous relationship with honesty, full disclosure, and informed consent on all sides.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one, though.

    1. “he’s not only decided he’s polyamorous, he’s acted on it in advance of Priscilla’s knowledge (i.e., he has been a cheating dirtbag, and is trying to slap a nicer-looking label on it.”

      Yeahhh … this is pretty much what I’m getting here too. I’m not poly, and like the LW honestly know little about poly relationships (much of what I have learned has, of course, come from the consistently excellent, thoughtful comments here). But I have to think that for poly people there is no bigger pain in the whatsis than cheating assholes declaring that they have “decided they’re polyamorous” but somehow failing to inform their current spouse/partner of said decision …

      1. My partner once went to an event that began with a pagan-flavoured ceremony in which, if I understand correctly, it was declared that it was sort of a space to experiment and try new things and “whatever happens here stays here”, i.e., go ahead and have sex with that cute person even if you’re partnered, it’s okay. Which is all fine and good – if everyone’s consented and you and your partner just need a space in which you can feel freer, but not if you’re a cheating dirtbag. I used to be pagan when I was younger, and when Partner described this event, I looked at him blankly and said, “Do…they know you can’t use magick to make cheating not cheating?”

        1. And not even announcing this in advance so people can discuss it with their partners….

          1. Yeah, that’s just weird. Maybe it was a really unsneaky way for somebody on the planning committee who’s not good at getting NSA sex in a nice, normal, consensual way to get some NSA sex in what they *thought* was a really sneaky way?

    2. People often try to smush poly together both as an orientation and a relationship type. “I feel poly, therefore I have poly relationships.” Not how it works, and jumping ahead is asking for trouble. Being capable of loving more than one person at one time is an orientation, and you can discover that anywhere along your life; actually participating in multiple mutually consensual relationships is a relationship type. “Discovering he is poly” by having affairs with people is like “discovering he is married” by going on dates. No. He wants a polyamorous relationship. He hasn’t actually yet experienced the labour and negotiation that such a thing entails.

      1. “No. He wants a polyamorous relationship. He hasn’t actually yet experienced the labour and negotiation that such a thing entails.”

        You too win several internets today. Thank you.

        1. Aww, thanks to you too.

          I’ve never been in a romantic relationship of any kind, but my experience around poly people has overwhelmingly been that the amount of emotional and logistical labour isn’t just additive in a poly relationship; it multiplies. So if A is dating B, they have to figure out the A-B relationship; but if B dates C, it isn’t just the A-B and B-C relationship that needs work, it’s A-B and B-C and A-C and A-B-C and Is Anyone Being Left Out Here and Who Will Do the Dishes if C is Sick and How Will We Get the Goose Across the River If The Wolf Is In The Boat. In successful relationships the work is often light and easy and joyful, but it never stops being work, and even in successful relationships sometimes it’s a slog.

          …Men who proposition me as a unicorn are not usually pleased by my response to, “My wife and I are polyamorous,” which is a wide-eyed, “Wow, I bet you love long conversations about your relationship and feelings.” (Because anyone who wants to date me has got to bring their own smock and gloves to the feelings autopsies, so if they quail at even that much, I am not the right girl for them.)

    3. Thanks for confirming this monogamist’s perceptions of how polyamory is supposed to work. In my observations, the poly relationships that have thrived are the ones where the people made decisions together about what they wanted their arrangement to be. The one that imploded … not so much.

  11. I am a little baffled as to why John had this conversation with you alone. If this is something John and Priscilla want, then they should have come to you together to discuss new people possibly coming around. That Priscilla wasn’t in the conversation seems like a big red flag.

    If this is something just John wants … then he still shouldn’t be bringing it by you, because it’s not your issue to work out. And if Priscilla doesn’t know anything about this yet, I sure wouldn’t want to be the one to spring it on her!

    1. Reading the first letter, I actually had a feeling he did exactly what the Captain expresses here: “It’s like he’s running it by the other dude who is around to see if it’s okay instead of his actual wife.” It felt very “looking for the male stamp of approval”-y or “I can only talk about this with another guy, surely he will understand”-y to me although I can’t really put my finger on why that is.

      1. For me the letter left the impression that he had not discussed it with Priscilla, although I can’t pinpoint why. It felt like a talk to Clark for a united male front kind of deal.

        1. Because John didn’t say “Priscilla and I” have realized WE’RE poly …he said “I” ,there is no I in polygamous

      2. Yes, I totally see it. Or … oh boy, I just thought … what if John wants to SWAP and he’s feeling out Clark on it.

      3. I think he wants the Dude Stamp of Approval for when he tells Priscilla, so he can be “all men are like this” about it, whether he invokes Clarke’s “approval” or not.

  12. If LW761’s housemate’s cooking skills are really that limited, it would be reasonable to say something like “I don’t want pasta with tomato sauce for dinner three nights a week. I think that means either you need how to cook a few more things, or we can find some good takeout places, or we need to arrange the chores so you do less cooking and more cleaning. What do you think?” The answer might turn out to be a fair amount of pizza, Chinese takeout, or sandwiches for dinner while he’s learning.

    The “LW does more cooking” fix is something they can offer, if they’re comfortable with it; it’s not something the housemate has a right to expect.

    Also, the fallback if housemate or LW tries cooking something and it doesn’t work should be along the lines of “let’s pull the minestrone out of the freezer and have that” or “you know, we haven’t had shrimp fried rice lately,” with no blame. Remember that that sort of thing can happen to anyone—yes, it will happen more often when you’re starting out, but even an experienced cook’s new recipe can go wrong, and anyone risks discovering too late that they don’t actually have a can of tomatoes in the pantry, or the onions have gone bad, or even finding out at the dinner table after a fair amount of work that the chicken breasts that looked fine in the supermarket are inedibly tough.

    1. Or switch to a model where everyone makes their own meals or something, if communal meals aren’t working. I think communal dinner is much less common than individual dinners, so it’s not like it’s an unheard-of development.

    2. Yes, my first thought was, “If you don’t like the way he cooks, why are you not cooking your own meals?”

      I have had my share of housemates with strange culinary habits, like the housemate who survived solely on cookies and the housemate who considered each flavor of hot pocket a different food group and the housemate who only ate chicken nuggets and fries. They seemed to be surviving happily on these diets, but I would have been cranky and nauseous if I tried to eat exactly what they did. I cooked my own meals, they cooked theirs, and we worked out various systems for whose raw ingredients go where and how the grocery bill was split.

      I live with my long-term partner now, and I STILL cook my own meals sometimes. Sometimes he wants 5-alarm chili and I want pasta, or I need to eat some red meat and he needs a salad. It will not be the end of the world if LW’s roommate is eating deflated scrambled eggs and gritty hash browns and LW is eating something else.

      1. The one thing with this that I wonder is how the roommate who is disabled fits into this. Is this roommate depending on the OP and C to make all meals and is that why they’re so communal? Because while that arrangement may be working at the moment – it sounds like perhaps it’s stressing the living situation more than is being addressed. Whether or not this roommate is or isn’t paying more to compensate for that is obviously up to the decisions being made by the household – but relying on roommates for all meals is pretty intense.

        All roommates that I’ve ever had – whether we were friends before living together or not – at least in some regards there was still a separateness in how we lived. Sometimes there was more or less communal activity, but if one roommate is dependent on the situation functioning more like a family than flatmates – then I think it also may be worth addressing how to make this more sustainable.

        1. That’s a good point, this may be something that needs to be discussed with B and well as C if the communal meals are for B’s benefit. There may be some alternative ways to make sure B gets fed without LW having to eat whatever C produces, like LW and C switching off on making extra serving for B, or B finding a service that will deliver fresh or frozen pre-made meals so LW and B can have a break from cooking sometimes.

          Roommate A seems to have opted out of the communal system entirely, so it doesn’t sound like this is the kind of housing situation where all meals must be communal by design.

        2. Yeah, obviously if one housemate is relying on this particular way of doing things, then LW can’t just sever the agreement without discussion–but there clearly needs to be some discussion if LW is having to eat crunchy pasta with jarred sauce 3x a week and doesn’t like it. Like, I dunno about y’all, but my days of smiling grimly and choking down terrible food every night ended the SECOND I moved out of my parents’ house.

          1. But I think it may also impact the discussion far differently than just the quality of the dinner’s C is making. The idea of non-romantic roommates doing all their meals communally sounds pretty foreign to me. I know that it happens, but it’s definitely a less common version of communal living and involves treating the shared living space different.

            For all we know, C may have thought that the LW, A, and C were going to share more duties – and so having it now be a 2 way split is more than C thought he was signing up to. The sentence “she’s our friend and we love and support her — no resentment towards her in any way” makes me wonder. Maybe C is starting to resent the situation? Not so much resenting the friend, but rather the work that goes into supporting her. Caretaker burnout is a real thing, and it could be a case of it just being easier for the OP and C to snap at each other rather than talk about whether or not the whole system is still working.

            Obviously, this is projecting. But if the major complaint about a male roommate is that he needs some prodding to clean the sink and his cooking is bad….then if you stop eating his cooking, doesn’t that alleviate a huge amount of the problems?

          2. When I was last searching for a housing situation, I ran across a lot of CL ads for just such a situation, where they do communal meals and blah blah and hanging out in your room/closing your door is anti-social.

            I hit the back button so hard on each of those that I’m surprised my browser didn’t spontaneously revert to a previous version.

            But there are, mysteriously, people who like that. They just aren’t me!

      2. Yeah I don’t really get it either. I felt like we saw a lot of comments about communal-cooking-headaches in the comments section of an older two-fer about housework (which I love and reread all the time) and I’m kind of like…but…why do it in the first place? Unless you’re in a family or group where everyone is kind of on the same schedule/eats the same kind of stuff/are all more or less ok at cooking/all willing to pitch in I really don’t see how cooking communally is easier than making your own stuff.

        I’ve always had roommates and we’ve never had communal meals unless we were actually having a dinner party or a cookout. We didn’t like eating the same stuff, ate at different times, and had varying levels of cooking skills/desire to cook, so trying to wrangle all of that without fighting would have been impossible. If a lot of this tension is around cooking, just stop the communal cooking for a while and see if that works out better?

        By the way, I don’t wash potatoes before I peel them – I rinse them to get the grit off, peel them, then rinse them again. I have not yet died of a dirty potato disease.

          1. To me, washing implies a lot more water and effort and possibly getting out the veggie scrubber.

          2. I rinse them so they’re easier to grip, but I don’t scrub them and get all the dirt off. Then I just rinse them once they’re peeled because the dirt comes off more easily than trying to scrub it off the skin.

            Tl;dr, unless your potato method is putting yourself or other people in danger, it’s probably fine.

        1. I mean, communal meals can be a great source of comfort and stability, depending on your personality and preferences. I have only rarely done communal meals with roommates, but I had a communal meal arrangement with a couple fellow students in my master’s program, and that was a backbone of human contact and normalcy during that period. For me, it was important enough that I was totally unbothered by our uninspired menu (pasta + pesto + raw carrots + tea.) For several of my friends who were raised eating every single meal together with their family, eating alone was profoundly uncomfortable.

          I mean, there are definitely reasons to do things that way. Not that those reasons should outweigh negotiating a new setup if that’s necessary, but I can see why they might have started out this way.

          1. If you know what you’re doing, it can also be wayyyyyy less expensive to have communal meals for multiple people splitting the cost.

          2. “For several of my friends who were raised eating every single meal together with their family, eating alone was profoundly uncomfortable.”

            I’m the exact opposite! In my parents’ house, it is and always has been COMPULSORY for every occupant of the house to be present for all of every meal, including breakfast. So if you’re up early (like I was when I was staying there recently with my baby daughter), then you jolly well go hungry until everyone else is ready. Want to sleep in? Well, you can only sleep until Family Breakfast Time – however long it takes you to be washed and completely dressed (anything less is completely unacceptable). You may not leave the table until everyone has finished eating, even if you need to be somewhere. And if at any time of the day you want to go out, unless it’s for work/school, then you must cut whatever it is short so you are home in time for the next Family Meal. When I was a kid, it was 8:30 breakfast, 1pm lunch and 6pm dinner. I always envied my peers who were allowed to CHOOSE! what they had for breakfast!

            As a result, I now cannot bear communal meals, hate group outings to restaurants, turn down most invitations that involve social eating and almost always prefer to eat alone, in a quiet corner where nobody can see me, preferably with something to read.

            Anyway, there could be any number of reasons why LWs household eats communally. Personally, I’d be interested to know what housemate B thinks of all this. Her opinions might be very valuable in settling this problem.

      3. Now I need to see the USDA Food Pyramid of Hot Pockets. Should you have two servings a day of the pepperoni ones? That sounds right.

        Also, I agree with you–if the LW and housemates enjoy eating together, perhaps it’s time to move toward “everyone makes their own food and eats together” instead of sharing one communal meal, at least occasionally.

        1. The pepperoni ones seemed to be his favorite, with a garnish of boiled hot dogs.

          I am *so glad* that I got to observe that from a distance instead of being expected to eat it.

  13. Here to heartily second the notion that roommates backseat-cooking when it’s your turn to cook is annoying as all hell. I spent my late teens and early twenties being quite a nervous cooker, and it didn’t really start to improve until I learned to pour myself some wine, put on some music and kick everyone out of my kitchen.

    Food and cooking preferences are so fraught and personal that I think it’s actually pretty rare for roommates to eat communal meals most nights. It worked in my last house because my housemates and I got in the habit of asking each other, “What can I do?” Then the cook for the night could specify the kind of help they wanted. Sometimes that meant acting as sous-chef, sometimes it meant just keeping the cook company or doing dishes, sometimes it meant leaving them alone to enjoy their podcast in peace.

    1. This has been pretty tough for me to learn– because in my (dysfunctional) family, cooking meals together was one of the few activities that was harmonious and not fraught with difficulty. Everyone was expected to help, music was played, and eventually delicious food was produced. This is not how cooking is for many, many people! Once I got into my twenties I wanted to prepare meals WITH my partners, because I had that as a model for positive together time. Not all of my partners have been equally into this! When it was their recipe and they were making dinner, some of them really wanted me to be amusing myself in another room until they were done and it was time to present me with their creation. I have had to work hard at reminding myself that this is not a referendum on my partnership or company, and just a preference that things will be more harmonious if I honor.

      Thankfully, I do have a housemate and a few friends who like to gather and prepare elaborate foods together, which affords me chances to flex that muscle, and who are good-natured about taking turns being creative director and hearing out one another’s ideas.

      1. I’m this style too. Family all gathered in the kitchen doing this n that was fun for me. I often buy groceries together with friends and head to someone’s place to cook together. I find it works well when things are prediscussed. Some nights can be one partner is cooking everything night and get out of the kitchen, and others can be discussed together with each person taking the lead on a dish or two. Idk if I could date someone who wasnt ever ok with cooking a meal together, it’s that important to me I guess.

    2. Oh yes!, Thanksgiving is next weekend here in Canada and we host my partner’s sister and parents. His one job that day is “Keep them out of the fucking kitchen!!!”

      Which is hard, and he often fails at, because his dad is slipping away to come natter at me while I’m cooking. We used to have a tiny kitchen and I would shoo him away “too small, out!” But now there is a big kitchen and he seems to think he’s not in my face when he is on the other side of the counter. No! Shoo! I can’t bear for people to watch me cook. You just know that’s the day I’ll sitcom-drop the turkey on the bliddy floor. I need no witnesses for that!

      1. Oh, also, after dinner, his mom wants us to do the female bonding thing and have all us women in the kitchen washing dishes after the meal. She was genuinely shocked when I said “Hell, no! I made the dinner, he gets to wash up tomorrow!” His mom: “Oh, I don’t think he’ll like that!” Me – face turning crimson – “I don’t care if he doesn’t like it! If I cooked, he cleans!”.

        We just throw the leftover food in the fridge, stack the dishes in the kitchen, and all troop off to spend the evening in living room. I can tell it hurts his mom inside, but she doesn’t bring it up anymore.

        1. I love the years when my mother said, “All right, everyone who didn’t have a hand in making dinner, OUT, go wash dishes,” and we women and children sat around drinking wine and struggling to stay seated no matter what alarming sounds came from the kitchen. More bonding, less pruny fingers.

          1. I Cooked, You Clean. Cast-iron rule when I was growing up. My parents are equally good cooks and – certainly since they both retired – equally share the cooking. And the other loads the dishwasher / does the big pots / tidies up, always

      2. Word up. I don’t mind having people in the kitchen when I cook but if I’m running the meal, I absolutely cannot stand having people try to “help” in ways I haven’t specifically asked them to do. Ask me about the time I was trying to lift a turkey out of a roasting pan and my mother proceeded to move literally every item I had carefully placed in my work space.

      3. HAH, that is one of my jobs as well, Kitchen Bouncer, and I wield a mean wooden spoon. No kitchen is large enough when the turkey is over 20lbs.

        “Hey, can I help –”
        “NOPE. Kids are too quiet, go find out what they’ve done.”
        “Oh, do you want me to –”
        “NOPE! Go get the wifi password for people.”
        “Hey, did you want us to –”
        “Take everyone for a fall walk? GREAT IDEA, BYE.”

        We are going to have over 30 people next weekend and my anxiety level is ALREADY SUPER HIGH OVER THIS. I am excited to see family but nnnngggg there’s a reason we stopped doing “everybody” Thanksgivings.

    3. I’m the same. I can’t stand having people around while I’m cooking. Despite many polite hints followed by straight up requests to go away (“Thank you for your offer to help, but I would rather have the kitchen to myself when I cook.” “Please make yourself comfortable next door and I will be through shortly”) my in-laws always insist on hanging around in the doorway of my minuscule kitchen when I cook, commenting on how I do things, suggesting alternatives and laughing at me when things go wrong, which they always do because I’m so stressed with them hanging over me. I’m a good cook when they’re not there. When they are, I drop food on the floor, burn myself,miss vital steps in recipes and just mess up generally.

      It sounds like housemate C might be experiencing something similar, even if he isn’t much of a cook to start with. So sorry LW, I’m going to join the ” don’t do that ” chorus.

  14. I’m luckily not a super picky person when it comes to cooking and chores, but living with my husband, my brother, and a good friend as a roomie did teach me to relax even more. Do/did they do things the way I would in while cooking/cleaning? Not necessarily. Did it drive me a little bonkers sometimes. Totes. I started really asking myself “does ___ really matter?” Like, is it really a huge deal if these different spoons are mixed in the drawer, or does it matter if one person makes a bigger mess while cooking? Nah. Equifinality, my friends: There are many ways to complete the same task.

    Now that hair in the shared sink business? That’s a different story. It is more than reasonable to ask for that to be cleaned.

    And good luck to LW1. That scenario sounds messy, and I hope it all works out in the end.

  15. I second the advice to *leave the room* when stuff you don’t like is going on.

    True story time! I love video games, and am reasonably good at them. CynicSon was learning to play Mario Galaxy, his first ever game, and he ran straight off a cliff. Over. And over. And over. Continuously. For an hour. This continued several times a week for WEEKS.

    Leaving the room saved my sanity and my relationship with his son. He needed to figure this shit out. It took significant trial and error, but now he’s confident. And one day he’ll be better than me. Never would have happened if I blew up at him… like I sooooo wanted to do.

    1. I found out pretty quickly that I should not watch my partner try to play Mario games. He is terrible at them in a way that I did not know it was possible to be. I had to take some deep breaths and remind myself that not everyone grew up playing Nintendo games and/or platformers. I also remind myself that the first game I played was Pokemon and I had a LV 40 Venusaur before I worked out which trees to use Cut on.

      Of course it turned around again pretty quickly when I decided to try my first FPS and he couldn’t understand why I could either move or aim but not do both at the same time.

    2. I was “taught” to play video games by my cousins who had a Nintendo. I tried Super Mario Bros for an afternoon and when I missed an invisible thingie or smacked into something I was trying to jump over, they’d leap around me shrieking “YOU’RE SO STUPID”. I still don’t really like video games, and the only ones I like aren’t the types people usually try to make women play.

      (If I’m playing video games I want to hit things with other things super hard, and the extra blood setting should be ON.)

      1. My last console was an Atari 2600 my dad bought when I was a wee Drewlet. I lack whatever video game gene all my nerdy friends have that allows them to enjoy these games; to me they look tedious and the exact opposite of fun. I’ve played a couple of board games on friends’ consoles, but anything that requires timing? No, thank you.

        True story #1: The only time I ever played Tekken, I got trounced by my best friend’s son. This son was 2 at the time. I was…considerably more than 2.

        True story #2: Several friends, even ones who should have known better, got in my face when Portal was big about how I simply HAD to play Portal and I’d love it once I got into it. I had to go so far as telling a couple of them they were risking our friendship by not accepting “I really don’t want to and please stop discussing it with me” for an answer.

        1. I dated a guy who really wanted me to try video games. He had me try Mario Kart and Lego Batman and a couple of other things, and I was like “Okay, done being polite now, I really hate this, let’s do oh I don’t know ANYTHING ELSE” and then a friend of his was over one time and we sent him out to get pizza and she said “so why don’t you like video games?” and I told her and she said “Oh, I see the problem. He’s trying to make you play what are traditionally considered ‘girl games’ and you hate them. Let’s play this instead.” And she put in a game where I got to run around and kill things with a gigantic sword and I was like FUCK YEAH WHY DIDN’T ANYONE THINK OF THIS BEFORE and when he came back we’d been playing Champions of Norrath for 45 minutes and I was in heaven.

        2. I’ve gotten better at things that require timing and precision, but my first and greatest love is still turn-based JRPGs like Dragon Quest. XD No timing required! Fun storylines! Eye candy!

          1. The first long game I got into (after a lifetime of Tetris and other short games) was King’s Bounty: The Legend. Not having to remember fifteen different keyboard commands or using split-second timing allowed me to actually enjoyed it.
            I’m currently playing a lot of vanHelsing, which might appeal to others here – yes, you have to have moderately good reactions, but mostly you just die a lot and try again. Much story, much snark, so fun.

    3. Haha, a friend and I co-played Dragon Age: Inquisition recently (taking turns). It worked out pretty well, but I had to grit my teeth when he decided melee was the perfect position for a mage and he had to not comment on my nervous snipe-them-from-a-distance defensive style play. And also keep from laughing *too* hard at my terrible, terrible sense of video game direction. (Him: “…uh, I don’t want to be a bother, but… you do realise that that’s the way you came from, right.” Me: “Are you *sure*?”)

      OTOH I could never really play with my brother watching because he would try to optimize EVERYTHING I did and then whine me into playing PvP against him.

  16. LW#2: I think the Captain’s advice to leave the room entirely when your housemate is cooking is good advice. My partner and I both like to cook and are both good at cooking; unfortunately, we’re also both prone to micromanaging other people. After too many fights about backseat driving in the kitchen, we have arrived at a rule of “if one of us is cooking, the other one says NOTHING about the cooking process unless something has just caught fire, and helps only if specifically asked to do a particular task.”

    I think that applies here. Your housemate can learn out how to cook. This process will involve a lot of flailing around and doing things in non-optimal ways. Try hard to avoid the temptation to help. (And maybe you both need spatulas of your own? To be kept where you prefer to keep them?)

    1. I like the clarity and bluntness of your cooking policy! One of the kindest things my girlfriend has ever done to me was to order me to sit down and NOT HELP while she made me mac n’ cheese. It was from a box, and even then my micromanaging instincts were so strong that I wanted to jump in and tell her she was putting the wrong amount of water in the pot. We’ve been together for four years now – that would not be the case if she had tried to silently endure my culinary micromanaging.

      1. No kidding. I broke up with a guy once and the proximate cause was that we were making pizzas together and he was a former baker and he ripped me a new one because I wasn’t doing it “right” and I said, fuck that noise.

  17. It thought it was funny that LW first described roommate as someone who “has managed to get to his late twenties without knowing some things about housekeeping” and then seemed confused/dubious that roommate “says he feels like I am talking down to him.” Hint: Yyyup. Little bit.

    1. Yeah, I feel that LW needs to step down a little bit, since *I* didn’t even know about washing potatoes. When I read that part I felt judged, too, because I’m an adult, why the hell don’t I know this OBVIOUS thing?? But ultimately what is easy and common sense to one person doesn’t make it easy and common sense to everyone, and LW’s failure to understand that is what is causing this friction.

    2. Yeah. i mean, I totally get the LW here; I was raised to be really domestically ept, and it gives me problems when dealing with other people because I often instinctively judge based on when I learned to do something–I could make mashed potatoes at 10; therefore, knowing how to wash, peel, chop, boil, mix, and mash potatoes is “easy” and “obvious”. Add in a relative who made snotty comments whenever I couldn’t do something she’d done at 10 (in the 1930s) like scald rags or bone a chicken thigh and my bar for “things it’s childish not to know” is kind of ridiculous. So I often have to leave the kitchen and sit on my hands when someone else is cooking and I know I’m annoying as hell to share a kitchen with.

      But yes, it’s condescending. Even if it’s not as bad as the adults who raised us–it’s still condescending, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

      1. I once lived with 5 friends in a house where the only communal room was the kitchen. That was super hard for me to manage, and not just because I hate having anyone else there when I cook. For a time, I had no money for food and literally couldn’t afford to cook anything. I was so hungry that whenever someone else cooked I had to go to my room because the food smells were pure torture and I couldn’t stop staring. Unfortunately, one of my housemates thought I was passive aggressively trying to emotionally blackmail her into feeding me and that turned things awkward between us for a while. It can be hard to manage that sort of setup.

  18. It’s not clear, but is C making the meals for everyone as part of a chore rotation? Because here’s the thing: if you’re doing meal rotation, and he’s making food that’s edible-if-not-great, then I don’t really think it’s fair to say “no, make something fancier.” Because as badly as he’s doing it, he’s making the food. It’s just not food you want to eat.

    Story time: I don’t care about food. I am the person who would (and has!) eaten plain pasta with jar sauce almost every night. I recognize that stuff with more ingredients tastes better, but not enough to put in the extra work. This is just how it is. The stuff I made for myself as a young bachelorette was perfectly edible, it just wasn’t very good (in the eyes of people who care about food).

    My spouse loves cooking. LOVES IT. Oh man do they love cooking so much, holy shit. When we moved in together, they tried to get me to share in their love of cooking. so we could split that chore 50/50. And I did try. I tried to do better. But I failed, because when it came right down to it, I just didn’t think cooking was important enough to want to spend a lot of time on it. So when my nights to make dinner rolled around, I stuck with my old standards (with maybe a FEW extra ingredients). My spouse was disappointed. I was stressed out because no matter what I did the food didn’t turn out to their satisfaction. They never insulted me for cooking like crap, but you know how some people can’t hide their feelings on their face? That’s both of us, and every one of my meal nights led to that. It was sad.

    Now they just do almost all the cooking. (They say they find it relaxing. LOL, whatever.) I do other chores to balance it out. Trying to split that chore 50/50 just would have left them unhappy half the time and it was more stressful for both of us. If they were happy to eat plain food, we could still split. But they’re not, so splitting this chore unevenly makes everyone a lot happier (even if I still feel kinda guilty sometimes).

    If C has a genuine interest in cooking better then that’s another thing, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case, it looks like he’s just trying to make survival food. Which is perfectly okay. Either do all the communal cooking yourself and make him do all your laundry or something, or stop eating communal meals and let him have his toast and eggs. Some people are better at certain things than other people.

    1. I think this is a very good point. LW2, just because C cooks something does not mean you are obligated to eat what he cooks. It’s totally okay to have tastes and preferences about what you eat. Even when I’ve lived in houses where we functioned more like a family than like housemates and everyone took turns cooking, there’s been an understanding that someone can always nope out of a meal (at their own expense and own time). You don’t want to have pasta and tofu with refried beans again this week? Cool, you can make your own thing or get takeout or whatever. If it’s a routine thing, consider not splitting up cooking anymore. Script for this:

      “C, our meal-sharing routine isn’t working for me anymore. I would be much happier if we cooked our food separately from now on… thanks!”

      I’ve done this because the food was unappetizing to me. I’ve done this because of incompatible schedules (I need dinner early to eat before work, they don’t get home until evening), because of differences in budget/expectations that made it too stressful. It’s totally fine. And he might have a few ruffled feathers but it’ll be much less ruffley than what’s going on right now.

  19. i am totally a kitchen asshole, in fact i am a most places asshole. the thing i try to remember is: if someone is cooking for themselves, i should mind my own. if someone is cooking for me, my options are “thank you” or “thank you, but i prefer to cook for myself.

    we just need to remember that we are not as helpful as we think we are.

    (but the shaving thing is gross as hell, i am with you on that.)

    1. I have a partner who responds to any attempt to “help” with “you were allowed to learn that for yourself!” which is not factually accurate in my case, because I was coached by my foodie father from a very young age. And because that was actually a positive experience for me, it has been hard not to try to recreate that positive experience by “helping.” But she does not want to be “helped.”

      In fact, being around when she is cooking is stressful because I do not believe she enjoys cooking at all, which is a perfectly valid position (I GUESS) but very different from mine, and then by trying to minimize her distress by volunteering to do side jobs for her I am actually stressing her out more. IT IS A PROCESS AND I AM LEARNING.

      1. it’s not easy! all we can do is try. and bite our tongues and sit on our hands. maybe close our eyes and hum,

      2. The most I can help some people is to go into an empty kitchen and do some prep work so chopped vegetables and marinated meats and suchlike are ready to go when I leave and they come in and start to cook.

      3. Oh, I understand. My wolf has a few dishes be does wonderfully with (French toast!) But his process is sooooooo different from mine that I cannot watch. It kills me to see him take twenty minutes to hack a carrot into tiny ragged bits. With a steak knife. But he always produces edible food and has yet to seriously damage any equipment.

        As for newbie cooks, I second getting the neck out of the way as well. A year ago my children’s culinary skills were limited to scrambled eggs, cereal, and ramen noodles. Then I started working three to five nights a week, and their skills have improved dramatically. They can both make soup, boil noodles properly, and make chili and a decent approximation of my marinara. The elder makes fantastic quesadillas and the younger taught himself to bake cookies.

  20. LW#1 – there’s something that isn’t being discussed here, so I’m going to bring it up. There is a nonzero percentage risk that your roommates will break up with each other, with one or both moving out. I’m not saying it will happen, but it very well might, and there are some steps you can take to be prepared for that possibility.

    Look over your monthly budget. Can you and your partner afford the rent by yourselves, if these two moved out? If not, what kind of place can the two of you afford, and do those places exist in the parts of town where you’d like to live? Do you have some emergency savings that could be used for moving expenses or security deposits or whatnot? It’s the wrong time of year for “spring cleaning”, but could you spend a day or a weekend just going through storage spaces like the attic or drawers or cedar chests and identifying things that could be sold/donated/discarded? (the holidays are coming, and that means more stuff in your home!)

    If everything works out with your housemates, and life continues as normal, you’ll have an emergency fund (or if you already had one, a vacation fund) and your closets will be a little less full and your living space clean, so there’s no big downside to doing these things.

    If things do go sideways between your roommates, then you can be supportive and helpful to them without having to worry about where you’re going to be living or how you’ll afford it.

    Good luck.

  21. So, I have had roommates all of my adult life (hello out of control rent costs in my city) and I am honestly kind of confused about all the sharing-of-cooking that pops up on this blog? Is this a really common thing? My roommates and I have never, in all of my living situations, split up cooking chores/cooked for each other. Like, the most I might do is let me roommates know if I baked or cooked something and there are leftovers they can eat, but we’re all on different schedules and we all eat different things, and doing communal cooking seems like way more of a hassle than it’s worth.

    Sometimes when my roommates put the dishes away they don’t put them back in quite the right place, but whatever – they emptied the dishes! Woo! And they don’t cook as often as I do so they probably legit don’t know where to put that particular weird utensil.

    I lived with a roommate who did a lot of similar things that the LW is doing – turning their preferences into rules for the household – and it was frankly fucking annoying. It’s totally ok to be like, can you put X thing in the X thing place, when you clean X thing needs to be cleaned in X way, but her “preferences” were really just personal quirks that would have been totally fine. If she lived alone. Without roommates. Which she didn’t.

    Unless the roommate is following seriously unsafe food practices, like using raw chicken surfaces to chop salads without washing, damaging utensils or pans, or otherwise putting people and possessions in peril, it’s okay if they don’t cook the same way that you do.

    It’s okay to have personal preferences. Do things the way you personally prefer them to be done. But if you need everyone in your house to also follow your personal preferences, you might want to look into living alone. It’s possible that C is maybe a friend you shouldn’t live with – I have a few of those – in which case I would recommend trying to change your living situation with as little acrimony as possible so you can keep him as a friend.

    And finally, while you can have preferences on the environment you share, it’s YOUR shared preferences in the environment you SHARE. C probably also has preferences that include not having someone hanging over him and policing his egg-cracking.

    1. Did the shared housing thing in grad school. Basically, we all had our own space in the fridge, cooked our own food, etc. It also meant we had our own pots, dishes, etc. It’s the only way that things don’t devolve into a complete, passive-aggressive note-laden shitshow. I’ve never cooked for another housemate.

      1. I’ve never even known anyone who shared cooking utensils with their roommates, let alone the actual cooking.

        1. My best housemate living situation, we shared groceries, but sort of did our own cooking (there were always leftovers to share), and then scheduled communal dinners for 1-4 times a month. I loved it, and want something similar in my next housemate situation.

          1. We shared dishes, utensil, and cookware. I routinely made bagels & brownies & scones for everyone.

    2. When I lived with Craigslist strangers, we cooked separately. But when I lived with friends, we did some communal meals. It sounds like LW was already friends with these people before living with them.

    3. Co-sign this. The last time I had even a semi-communal grocery/cooking arrangement was with my two roomies senior year of college. It worked most of the time but would occasionally devolve into arguments about who does and doesn’t eat such-and-such and why is there no more milk and so on etc. I never attempted it with any roommates after that. Dishes/pots and pans were always shared, and communal meals would happen spontaneously. But there was never an expectation that everyone had to cook together every night.

      1. Right? Like, how do you even wrangle that, what with all the different food preferences and who cleans and who pays for groceries and etc. etc.?

        My roommates use all of my kitchenware because I own the house and furnished it, and if they need a particular spice or whatever they might use mine, but one only eats takeout and the other one is a picky eater/only eats what a four year old would eat (fish fingers, tater tots, frozen pizza, etc.).

        If I baked something like cookies and they’re fair game I’ll put a note on them and they might get eaten or might not, but when I was living with my family and did a lot of the cooking that was hard enough, and we all ate the same stuff and at the same time.

        1. It’s actually not that hard, assuming everyone has similar economic interests and no one’s particularly picky. When I’ve lived with friends we often made communal meals – not every day, and not as a formal arrangement, but still multiple times per week. Because when you’re making a pot of chili already it’s not hard to throw in enough for a few extra people so why not? And if someone grabbed you something from the store or fed you from their groceries, you’d just throw them a bit of money to cover the cost. This worked awesome with three separate roommate groups I’ve lived with.

          Honestly for me having a formal meal-share arrangement is harder. And so is keeping completely separate – especially if there’s very limited kitchen space. I *hate* cooking when other people occupy our tiny kitchen.

    4. The only time I did communal meals long-term was when I was sharing a flat with 4-5 other people (the number wavered over the years) and you simply could not fit that many people in the kitchen if everyone was hungry around the same time. That said, a lot of foods were also specifically made to be reheat-able or eaten cold because not everyone was eating at the same time every time. Breakfast was usually scrounge-for-yourself, lunch no one was home, dinner was communal.

      This also eliminated the issue of “who drank my milk no one will fess up and replace it” and “I bought 5 ingredients for dinner tonight and someone has eaten 2 of them… crap” because there were really good reasons to replace something if you finished it (ie, you did not get dinner), and a lot of things (like milk) were communal and paid for by everyone because everyone was using it.

      Not everyone loved everything everyone else made, but it was still easier than figuring out showering schedules for 6 people and one bathroom. However, I never really want to do communal meals again, and I say this as someone who genuinely enjoys cooking for other people. Sometimes.

  22. LW #760: I disagree with the Captain’s advice here regarding talking to Priscilla about her changing relationship with John. That seems like it would get you further, unnecessarily involved in their marriage. I get that John put you in a weird spot by telling you about his changing desires for his relationship/confessions of infidelity, and feel for you so much on that because, yeuch. But IMO there is no need to involve yourself any further. I can see this devolving into a triangulation situation with you smack in the middle of a couple’s marriage issues, which does not sound like a fun place to be. Redirect John’s continued commentary/advice-seeking with the Captain’s excellent scripts, and continue being an awesome housemate per the Captain’s suggestions.

    LW #761: I’m of the mind that unless C. is doing things in the kitchen that raise safety concerns, no good will come of your continued butting-into his cooking. In my experience, not being super adept at cooking as an adult can be embarrassing, and having someone better at it than you hovering and being “helpful” can make it even more miserable. My husband loves to cook and is quite good at it, and I have been happy letting him make dinner for the last few years of cohabitation. But as a result I sort of forgot how to cook! Which I felt pretty humiliated by, because for heaven’s sake I lived alone before I met him and fed myself just fine (and even had a cooking blog!). It made me feel MUCH WORSE and caused MUCH SIDE EYE AND GROWLING when I would be trying to practice and he would lurk about the kitchen “suggesting” how to do things and being “helpful” by pointing out (unasked!) ways to save time, etc. I get that his intentions were good, but the way I was going about things was perfectly fine, too, and his suggestions otherwise felt pretty condescending. Until of course, that one time I flipped over a mid-sauté chicken breast with a spatula and splattered piping hot oil onto myself, at which point we both agreed that he could pop in if he noticed I was putting myself in harm’s way, but otherwise would occupy himself elsewhere.

    1. Agreed about talking to Priscilla. Don’t make more ~drama by getting involved! Just draw sound boundaries and be a decent person to Priscilla if things go south.

  23. I am the cook in our household, and generally I am fine with it. But a couple years ago, I got really overwhelmed by the task of cooking for my family (we have little kids) every single night, so I assigned my non-cooking spouse Monday dinners. He can make about three dishes, so I knew we were either having pasta with jar sauce / salmon / hamburgers on Mondays. Then I saw him putting the pasta in our smallest saucepan, which was only filled halfway with water. That was when I learned the magic trick of leaving the room and going and watching Jeopardy while he cooks. If I look at it as my ‘night off from cooking relax time,’ it becomes a positive way to reframe it away from ‘oh God, what is he doing to my pans.’ It’s worked out pretty well! Try this, LW, it helps.

    1. Yes! I’m also the main cook in my household (I live with my mum and sister). I’m more experienced and more passionate with regards to cooking than my sister but sometimes she’ll try a new meal. Because I know she is generally receptive to tips and tricks that make things easier, I will – upon seeing her using the smallest saucepan oh man Guava I feel you – ask her (once!) if she’d like to see how I do it since I can see she’s struggling and maybe this will help her. She’s often thankful and tries out what I’ve adviced – often putting her own twist to it! – but if she doesn’t want to, I leave her be. And really, just leaving the kitchen in general is just so much less stressful for both of us. I do not need to know where that pasta went and how it came to be as long as I can enjoy it later.

      1. ‘I will ask her (once!) if she’d like to see how I do it since I can se she’s struggling and maybe this will help her.’

        I can see this would be a good way for many people, but just wanted to warn that it would not be a good way for someone to offer to help me, because my mother has *such* a history of trying to micromanage what I do but often doing it in exactly this sort of way. Which I appreciate was well-meant on her part in that she was honestly trying to avoid being pushy, but she was really not doing it very well. We had this whole huge history of her telling me exactly how to do a thing, and it meant that having her offer help in that way still just totally came across as ‘I do not think you’re doing it right and do not trust you to do it right without my important help and advice’ but done in a way that I didn’t feel able to object to because, after all, she was *asking* whether she could help me and surely I should be nice and take that in the helpful spirit it was intended? Ugh, so much baggage.

        Which, of course, is probably not the case at all with you and your sister. But my personal experience is that having someone offer tips because they see you’re struggling still carries the message ‘I have noticed that you are struggling and appear to need help’ and, depending on the backstory, that may be quite a trigger.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t recommend that anyone else tries that phrasing. If someone really wants to help me out with tips on cooking, the way they can do that is by saying ‘Let me know if you need any help’ and heading off to find something else to do so I can make my own mistakes. Maybe that’s a YMMV.

  24. If you really want to help them improve their cooking (and they do actually ask you questions) a not passive aggressive method may also be when doing meal planning offering some blogs/cookbooks you like. “I’m kind of stumped on what to do for dinner Tuesday, want flip through some blogs with me for inspiration? I really like (name of blog you think is aimed at their skill level that you like).”

  25. Oh, LW#2. My husband and I fought about those things for years. You can’t put the fancy knives in the dishwasher. You have to thoroughly rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. This still has food on it; that means it isn’t clean. I never thought I was being overly particular, but I certainly picked up a lot of baggage around this from my own mother (if she deemed something not clean enough it got re-washed until it passed her inspection). And it was a fight with my husband every time.

    So what worked? I gave up. I care more, so the kitchen became my domain. We do split cooking pretty evenly, but I handle all of the cleaning. And now I’m not nagging him, he isn’t snapping at me, and everything is just calmer. Every now and then I start to get a bit resentful about this but (a) my husband couldn’t care less if it takes me 3-4 days to get around to cleaning up the kitchen and (b) he does a bunch of other chores that would maybe not get done if it were left to me.

    You can either keep having the same fight, let it all go (let C do it all his way when it’s his turn), or take over completely. Pick the one that’s going to be the least stressful for you.

    1. Heavy whipping cream, multiple eggs, two bowls, an immersion mixer, cooked on the range and in the oven.

      No, wait, that’s how I try to make omelets, but always screw up the folding, and give up and call it scrambled eggs. Nevermind.

      1. That is called an aspirational omelet at our house. I haven’t yet mastered the fold, but I have hope!

        1. I got way better at omelets when I got the pan temperature right. It turned out I had had it just slightly too cool. Who knew a tiny bit of rotation of the dial would make the eggs behave that differently?

      2. I have a similar recipe which starts out looking like Spanish tortilla and then ends up as “potato scramble.” I am pretty fond of “potato scramble.”

      1. I actually want French Toast now for some reason. Probably because I only make savory French Toast, not sweet, and people usually think that’s weird. I knew Mr. Bells was the one when I discovered he made it the same way.

        1. Ooh ooh! Savoury french toast! Which, I believe, is what I was raised on and taught as “eggy bread”.

          Mmmmm eggy bread. Fried and slathered in ketchup. The one thing left I eat have a condiment. And that condiment MUST be ketchup. Too much ketchup, preferably.

    2. Or how judgmental I get when I’m served “bad” scrambled eggs. (Which, since mine are super-fluffy and not one second overcooked, is basically everywhere but my mother’s house.)

      1. See also, why Vicki has given up on ordering French toast in diners and other restaurants, because almost nobody makes it the way my mother did. (This isn’t even about ingredients, it’s about using enough but not too much egg-and-milk mixture, and cooking time.)

        1. Pancakes and waffles, for me.

          There is ONE correct way to make pancakes and waffles. It is the way my father makes pancakes and waffles. NOBODY ELSE makes them correctly.

          However, this just means I find a way to politely bow out of eating pancakes or waffles cooked by anyone else. Because just because I have a fixation does not mean they have to share it.

          1. Haha, I’m German living in the UK and the pancakes and waffles are just WEIRD AND WRONG. I have to categorise them as completely different from actual pancakes and waffles in my head, in which case they are indeed delicious, but as pancakes and waffles just… nope.

            It does mean I’ve been able to invite people round to mine for German-style waffles (with toppings like sweetened quark and rote Grütze), which has always been a roaring success. See, Brits, this is what actual waffles look like and how you’re supposed to eat them. /joking 😉

        2. YES. I have yet to have French toast out the way I like it, therefore it doesn’t get ordered. It’s always too eggy for me.

      2. For me, if it’s not my father’s omelette recipe, it’s not a real omelette. He makes them light and almost crispy, with only the thinnest layer of egg around a filling of cheese, salsa, and vegetables, so basically all huge fluffy moist omelettes at breakfast/brunch-focused restaurants are close to inedible for me. I somehow forget this, however, and end up eating all the filling out of the omelette while barely picking at the egg.

  26. LW#2, learning to differentiate “this is a reasonable shared expectation” or “this is actually important” from “this is a personal preference” can definitely be a tough. But I want to give you encouragement that learning to handle it better now isn’t just going to improve things with C, it will serve you in good stead your entire life. My spouse and I have always been pretty good at the roommate-type issues, but we’re discovering that it crops up again in new ways when you’re co-parenting with someone – kids can deal if their parents do things a little differently, and can even learn valuable lessons from that, but young kids in particular also need consistent rules and expectations. It’s a hard balance to strike, sometimes. If you become a manager at work, when is a subordinate doing the work wrong and when are they just not doing exactly what you would do? When is it something that matters, and when are you just micromanaging? Being at least somewhat self-aware about this stuff is really helpful.

    I do think everyone is allowed to have a small number of quirks and preferences that they enforce on roommates and partners and coworkers, particularly if they acknowledge that it’s a preference and you’re asking the other person to comply as a favor. If you can be a reasonable person to live with on 98% of things, then you get a pass once in a while on declaring the right way to put the toilet paper on the holder. Or that OMG HOW CAN YOU LEAVE 6 SECONDS ON THE MICROWAVE TIMER INSTEAD OF LETTING IT FINISH OR CLEARING IT WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR FOOD OUT!

    Ahem. Maybe where the spatulas go is your Thing, and you can ask C as a favor to indulge you because you recognize that it’s not objectively important but it matters a lot to you. But you only get a very small number of Things, so use them wisely.

    1. I like this “playing the personal quirk card” idea. We do this in my marriage, too. We’re both bossy, have-to-be-right firstborns, and I find it way, way, way easier to “indulge his preference” than to “give in to his way of doing things,” if you see what I mean. In the first, he’s not claiming to be right; he’s just saying it’s the way he wants it, which I can go along with. If he has to be RIGHT, if it has to be done his way because that’s The Right Way, then it turns into a fight about whose way is The Right Way. But as cv says, the number of indulgences per person is limited, so I save mine for things he does that really do make my life harder, not just things that seem like The Dumb Way to me.

      Living with other people is hard. It’s weird that we do it.

  27. LW #2, I’m going to be a bit blunt.

    Your closing remarks are really interesting:

    …I really don’t want to fight about these insignificant things …hurt feelings over fucking spatulas?

    Forget the question of “should his feelings be hurt?” or “why would his feelings be hurt?” or “I’m not acting nearly as bad as my mother would, right?” and pay attention to the facts on the ground:

    1.) His feelings are hurt.
    2.) You hurt them.
    3.) Over spatulas.

    It’s one thing to say “don’t clean my non-stick pan with brillo!” or “do not run my Henkel’s knives through the dishwasher!” because that’s actual damage being done, but these are just spatulas in one drawer instead of another, right?

    So why are you hurting his feelings over fucking spatulas? (your words, not mine)

    This one might be on you, LW, not your roommate. Are these things that you’re “correcting” him on so important that it’s worth hurting his feelings? Are they so important that you’re willing to lose your friendship with him?

    Toilet paper over or under on the roll? I don’t know the right answer, but I know it’s not worth fighting over. (or under…) If you don’t want to fight about insignificant things, choose not to fight about them.

    1. Yup. Flipping this question around is really eye-opening. There are very few things I’m willing to hurt someone’s feelings over, and fucking spatulas is not one of them.

      1. And there also seems to be a lot of “but if he would just do it MY WAY, I wouldn’t have to get mad at him!” which…yikes.

        1. I feel a little for the LW because I see some valid requests in there (rinsing out the sink after shaving oh oh oh that one drives me to distraction) along with personal preferences preferences (dishwasher order and orientation), and I’ve been in a place where I could not figure out which things that were bothering me were reasonable and which were not (because I was being told they were ALL unreasonable and AUGH).

          What would have helped me, and might help LW, is making a list and having someone else take a look over — not someone involved in the house, in my case I’d get someone anonymous online (I’d probably crowd-source it to the forums), and that would help me step back, get some perspective, and figure out which hills I’d be fighting on.

          I have been hurting over dishes, and it’s not really over dishes. Sometimes it’s over feeling like you don’t matter or don’t have an equal say in things (or someone constantly saying “Oh, I’ll remember that next time” over and over and never ever actually doing so). How someone’s scrambling their eggs has nothing to do with you, but someone leaving the tub full of hair does. These can get confused in a big hurting ball of feelings and may require some leveling-out for everyone involved to get perspective and sort out what really matters, and what’s just annoying because it’s not how you’d like it done.

          (To be honest, I should still make a list because I AM still unsure what are reasonable expectations thanks to my Ex on some things, and I really, really hate that.)

    2. Yup. Just because LW is not acting in a way their mother did, doesn’t mean they’re acting in a way that’s good…

  28. I’m very particular about chores, and my job, and pretty much everything. If I let this go unchecked, I am completely insufferable. Here’s how I manage living with others.

    1) Pick ONE thing your roommate does that you want them to do differently or to stop doing. That is the only thing you get to nit about. It’s something specific, like rinsing the sink after shaving, or not leaving floss in the shower, not general, like cooking or cleaning. Everything else gets a pass. Nit about this thing as kindly as possible, and assume they’re building a new habit, and aren’t just disregarding you. Forgive slip ups, and THANK them every time they do it right (ex. “The bathroom looks so nice!” + smile).

    2) Pick one thing that they do differently from you, that you don’t mind too much. Complement how they’re doing it (“That’s a clever way to cut vegetables”) and start doing it their way forever.

    3) No feedback when they’re doing things, unless someone is going to get hurt. If they ask you an easy question (“Do I use a quarter cup or a half cup of cheese?”) you can answer directly if you know. If they ask a more involved question (“How do I get it to not stick/burn?”), you can either decline to answer, but offer encouragement (“I’m not sure exactly, but I’m sure it will be fine.”) or you can answer with what works for you (“Hmmm. When I cook that I usually . Maybe that will work?”).

    You have preferences, which is fine, but other people have different preferences, and are motivated by different things than you. Minimizing mess, or making delicious food is not your roommate’s motivation, and that’s fine. When you try to get your roommate to alter his behavior, you need to understand that your reasons for doing things won’t be his, and you need to give him space to find his own reasons. Nagging creates an external motivation for compliance, but it causes resentment and frustration. Gratitude is a more effective external motivator, but to be truly grateful, you have to appreciate what they do right instead of be disappointed in what they do wrong.

    1. I don’t know about this. I mean, I think enforcing preferences endlessly is damaging (LW should get off his back about how he cooks), but rinsing the sink after shaving or not leaving floss in the shower kinda fall under the umbrella of ‘clean up your shared living space like a damn adult’ to me. He should do both of those things.

    2. I really like the combination of #1 and #2 and will totally put it in practice if I find myself in a tense Roommate Habits situation in the future.

  29. My husband does this to me and it is so, so demoralizing. I tend not to do my fair share of chores unless I’m really thinking about it, and I don’t want to lay all the blame on this, but I do think it contributes. He’s been getting better over time, I think (as have I, in holding up my end of the housemate bargain), but it’s been a process.

    We once had a roommate who took this behavior to an extreme — he even kept a blog with a title similar to “how to do everything right” (I’m not kidding). Anyway, an enduring joy from that time was that it gave me a good way to gently mock my husband when he goes into Advice Mode. Sometimes that gets him to laugh at himself.

    1. Istr that just a couple months ago there was a letter from someone who was the advice receiver and asking how to get the advice giver to lay off.

    2. I am the person who does this to my husband and I’m trying SO hard to stop. He loaded the dishwasher and the dishes are clean, it is not productive for me to tell him he loaded it “all wrong”.

  30. For LW2:

    I think the advice here is great, and I’ll also add that I don’t think it’s impossible/unacceptable to say things about your preferences for how housemates do chores — but, the correct way to express that is as a preference that might end up getting overridden by your housemate’s preference. For example, instead of “Please put the small spatulas with the cutlery”, something like “Hey, would you mind putting the small spatulas in with the cutlery when you remember? I would appreciate the favor.” (And no hissy fit if your housemate says – no, I like doing it this other way because reasons.)

    I agree with those above who said that communal meals sound like they might not be working out in this situation, and that really is okay. It sounds like your mostly-absent/in her room housemate has opted out of communal meals, and you could certainly do that too, making your houesmate’s cooking skills zero percent your business. I have done both approaches with housemates in the past, and I will say that the communal meals thing can be great when it works but also really fraught/complicated/easy to mess up. I disagree that you just need to “suck it up” and eat food you don’t prefer, because for some people (I am one of them!) food is a really important part of life and resigning oneself to eating food you dislike 50% of the time would totally suck. But the solution here is not to micromanage your roommate but to simply opt out of this shared meal situation. There are still coordination issues around scheduling time in the kitchen, fridge space, and kitchen cleaning standards, but I’ve found those often seem to be easier to work out than regular sharing of meals. If you guys want to figure out a way to split duties in making an extra portion for your disabled roommate, that could still happen. Another option would be to agree to one communal meal cooked by each of you each week or month (whatever sounds good to you), and then do your own thing the rest of the time.

  31. RE: LW1, possible polyamory…I’m not clear from the letter if LW’s four children still live with these two couples. If so, that is definitely an aspect to consider. If polyamory and/or infidelity go against the moral belief’s you’ve laid out for your children…or if they are too young to begin to understand the nuances of marriage, sex, infidelity, et al, you should really give some thought as to whether you want John and possibly Priscilla to continue to be an influence in the lives of your children or how you would answer any questions they may have if you are OK with exposing your children to these concepts.

    Setting a good example and modeling the morals & values you want you kids to adopt should take priority over the bed bouncing needs of one roommate. Now if you kids are all adults, then my concerns are undfounded.

    1. I don’t think we have reason to believe that LW1 wishes to instil values into the children that are not “respect others’ lives,” which they can model by being tolerant of consensual, healthy, polyamorous relationship if there turns out to be one of those in the mix, or by not tolerating the hurtful deception of a spouse under their roof if there turns out not to be.

    2. You bring up an interesting point. Assuming everything is done ethically and with consent (so probably not John, but who knows), it could be *especially* beneficial to people who are trying super hard to lay out moral beliefs for their children to have an example that people can love and respect one another and still maintain differing beliefs. 🙂

      1. I have loved all of your comments on this thread so far, but I think this one is my favorite.

    3. Setting a good example for your children should also take priority over being judgmental about who your friends and roommates love and how they express that.

      If LW and their spouse don’t want to talk about polyamory, or are worried that they would get it wrong, “please don’t talk about your sex life, or engage in PDA that wouldn’t be appropriate with your siblings, around the children” is a reasonable request. “John is going out for the evening” or “john and Priscilla’s friend is coming over for dinner and will be sleeping on the couch” are also reasonable. That doesn’t change if the person John is going to see a movie with is a lover, and it works regardless of the relationship between John and that friend.

      Look at it this way: how many of your friends and relatives are you certain are monogamous? And for how many of those do you have evidence that isn’t basically “s/he’s a good person, of course s/he’s monogamous” or “it’s obvious that they’re in love”? Yes, probably most of them are monogamous (and it’s likely that some of the exceptions are cheating, not practicing ethical nonmonogamy), but that’s on statistical grounds. It’s not because it’s obvious, and if John and Priscilla do make an open relationship work, the LW’s children might not guess, in part because they might not even think about it.

  32. LW#2 – as someone with 12 years of sharehouse experience, I agree with all the Captain’s points here, ESPECIALLY #3 (leave the room). Cooking pointers are like backseat driving. Unless something dangerous is happening (he is catching the oven on fire, he is leaving broken glass on the floor), there is no reason to say anything. Leaving the room prevents you from seeing whatever things are triggering your need to ‘correct’ him. Also, please do not buy him a cookbook (as previous commenters suggested)…unless he asks you to! That would head deeper into passive-aggressive housemate territory, which does not a harmonious sharehouse make.

  33. I had forgotten this until now, but there was a time when I had severe anxiety around cooking in front of other people, I think probably related to the fact that I didn’t know how to cook and felt constantly judged if I was being watched. In college this wasn’t an issue since my housemates and I all took care of cooking for ourselves, but the summer after graduation my now-husband and I lived with his aunt for a few months, and we would take turns cooking dinner. I asked that no one be in the kitchen while I was cooking, and my husband reminded his aunt that I didn’t want anyone in there, but every night it was my turn to cook, she would come and sit in the kitchen and chat with me while I tried to cook. She made some excuse that she felt bad leaving me in there all by myself while I was cooking, and clearly did not understand/believe that it made it 1000 times worse for me when she was there. I finally just refused to make dinner while she was in there. If she wanted to talk, I would stand there and listen, but I would not chop, mix, or cook anything while she was in there. I would let silences drag out while I just stood there and looked at her and let things get awkward until she would finally decide to leave, and then I would cook. Eventually I had learned enough and got comfortable enough that it wasn’t a big deal for other people to be around, and while there are still a lot of things I don’t know how to do I am more open to other people teaching me without feeling judged. But I couldn’t get to that place if I’d had other people forcing themselves into my cooking space and critiquing my initial efforts.

    1. I do this too. I usually just tell people to get out if they step into the kitchen while I’m cooking, unless they’re just grabbing something and leaving.

      Sometimes I remind myself of a dog with food aggression. If someone’s in my space while I’m cooking I will tolerate it for a while, but if you hang around too long, I start getting growlly, and if you try to grab something from me I will bite the shit out of your hand.

  34. I am filled with love and laughter for the CA commenters because of how many of you, despite having been pre-emptively mocked for it by Our Fearless Leader, still couldn’t stop yourselves from coming in to tell us how you make scrambled eggs.

    I’m especially laughing because I’m feeling the exact same impulse.

    1. I stand on the other side of the kitchen and throw the eggs as hard as I can at the pan.

    2. I had to fight that urge also. Because, because, mine are fancy! And everyone should know about how fancy my eggs are because they’re the best eggs! 😀

    3. I know a straight line when I read one; that wasn’t mocking, that was an invitation! (to light-hearted recipe sharing and self-mocking remarks)

    4. I beat the eggs with my toes so I can efficiently fold towels using my hands! And this is the only way to do those things!

    5. I’m laughing a lot for the same reasons, and also because I am interested in how many ways people prepare my favourite eggs!

      (I add cream cheese and a little salt and pepper, and have been known to add a pinch of pancake mix to make em super fluffy, although usually that’s for an omelette. Then again, I’ve also been known to crack an egg into a tiny bowl and nuke it for a minute then slap that between english muffin halves, so what do I know?)

  35. This is a very general answer to a very specific situation, but….

    There’s a big difference between “this is the way I prefer to do the Thing” and “there are two ways to do the Thing, my way and WRONG.” The latter leads directly to frustration, resentment, hostility, and “fine, do the Thing yourself, I’m out of here.”

    When it’s clear your roommate just never learned to do the Thing, you can try something like “I think it’s easier/faster/less cleanup to do the Thing this way,” but you only get to say that once, and you only get to teach them your way if they ask you to. Otherwise, I hate to tell you, it does come across as condescending and infantilizing. Also, it is easier to put up with someone doing the Thing their way if you’re not actually watching them do it and madly suppressing the desire to point out all they ways their way is inferior to yours.

    Household minimum standards of cleanliness should be agreed upon, but I think a good rule is “If you don’t like the way I do the Thing, do it yourself.”

    1. Yeah, there are a lot of cleaning things I never learned because my parents hired a housecleaner every few weeks (and boy is that a whole other can of worms to open up re: whether that makes them rich assholes or just working people who didn’t want to spend a lot of time scrubbing things), but if my roommate tries to tell me how to do it, I can’t deal with it. Once she watched me for a while and said “wow, you use a lot of paper towels when you clean,” and I was like “look, I am literally figuring this out as I go, I did not make some grand decision to use lots of paper towels When I Clean.”

  36. “I’m coming from the background of a mother who frequently rained torrents of verbal and manipulative psychological abuse when chores weren’t done to her exacting standards.”

    This is my mother. She more than once screamed at me for folding towels incorrectly and loved to tell me that back when she was a kid, had she made the bed like that she would have been smacked with a belt and then forced to redo it, but noooo, she’ll just remake my bed the proper way. Followed by the chaser of aren’t I so lucky to have someone who acts as my housekeeper? She would also scream about the washing machine, that I’m doing it wrong and my clothes won’t really get cleaned if I don’t start the water and add detergent to get it soaping before adding fabrics.

    Today, towels get folded lengthwise first because Mom was right that makes hanging later them easier- but after that it’s dumb luck if there’s any other precision to it or if it is a neatly folded rectangle. It will mostly resemble a square and who cares as long as it fits in the closet? A somewhat made bed makes me feel less stressed in my space, so I yank the sheets up and that’s good enough for me. As for the washing machine, the joke is on you, Mom! I have a front loader now, it is *impossible* for me to start the water first.

    You notice I don’t mention cooking? The kitchen was her domain and I FLED it for fear she’d ask me to do something only to then berate me as a failure for not knowing how to cook.

    Part of my early adulthood was sorting out the actual good advice from the lies, disinformation, and general scare tactics my mother tried to feed me. LW, you may have to go through this, too. Sort out what among the “rules” that your mother ground into you are good methods and pro tips despite the terrible way she delivered them. Then take it a step further and recognize which of these are just good for *you* but aren’t really a problem if not everyone follows them.

    Also, Jedi hugs. This kind of parenting is awful and I still sometimes get bouts of envy realizing my friends didn’t go through this in their childhoods, that chores were a nuisance and not more stressful than this week’s algebra test. I hope you’re either in a good place with your mother or you’ve found a safe distance from her now.

    1. This is a sweet, sweet response and I appreciated it. Because my mother is completely different and taught me kitchen creativity and household shortcuts and so when I read that LW2 and my shoulders went DIRECTLY UP AROUND MY EARS I didn’t have the perspective I needed to understand. ❤

      1. Awww, I’m not sure what to say. Thank you!

        I actually had the same reaction as you when LW talked about Roommate’s cooking skills- I have no cooking skills, my mother’s legacy was to leave me scared of the kitchen, so I get extremely nervous doing anything beyond boiling water in a tea kettle or using the mircowave (with the odd exception of baking- I can make chocolate chip cookies and there my culinary skills begin and end). Make pasta, fry eggs? He can do witchcraft, I tell you! LW’s expectation that he should just know certain things and getting frustrated he didn’t reminded me of my mother.

        Then I read that line about LW’s childhood background and… oh. I get it. I had somewhat of a different reaction (I sort of accepted I was never going to be able to do anything right with chores and was screwed when I reached adulthood, but that was something I think my mother wanted me to believe, because I was her Rapunzel), although some things did get ingrained in me as the “proper” way and I’ve had to suppress the twitch to correct people. It’s gotten a lot easier over time, but it still springs up on me now and again.

        1. I wondered how one could even do the thing your mother demanded with a washing machine, before you wrote you had a front-loader. That being the only kind of washing machine I know. Oo

    2. Hugs to you!!

      I get this same feeling during a paper towel commercial where a kid distractedly pulls their glass away while milk is being poured into it, and I cringe, and instead of the parent stopping their monologue and screaming at the kid for being an idiot and horrible and wasting food, they just… get a piece of paper towel and wipe it up while they keep talking.

      That paper towel commercial. I cry sometimes when I see it. So does my sister.

  37. I was familiar with the Baked Ham Joke as a real family story involving pot roast and now I am questioning the nature of reality. Either I have been lied to all my life or I have really poor listening comprehension skills.

  38. Oh my gosh you guys. Once upon a time, husband and I had such a battle over the right way to cook bacon. I toss all the pieces in a pan and stir. He lays out as many pieces will comfortably fit beside each other and carefully flips them like burgers or sausages.

    Hilariously, when I complained about this to a friend she was apalled because “you’re supposed to cook them in the oven on a baking sheet.”

    Anyways. We learned pretty quickly not to fight over cooking. It ends up the same bacon and the eggs still end up scrambled and if your potatoes are slightly gritty it won’t kill you and he’ll learn by experience.

    Pick your battles. Offer to give advice if he asks for it, and then wait for him to ask.

    1. I learned to cook bacon by laying it in a pan and pushing it around, turning it when it seemed necessary, but threatened the sheet pan method non-commercial kitchen with the BIG sheet pans, and now prefer it, because if it’s in the oven it can’t spit hot fat at you while it’s cooking. Plus, you can sprinkle it with brown sugar beforehand, which brings it to a new level of breakfast treat, though not as good, I think,in BLTs.

    2. Oven bacon is my FAVOURITE, but honestly, if someone is cooking me bacon? I am shutting up and enjoying because breakfast and I are rarely on speaking terms.

  39. The second letter reminds me so much about the big huge nearly-break-up discussion I had with my husband a few years back. Lots of it was proper emotional unpicking of Stuff. But the one concrete change we made when came back from the holiday on which we spent 3 nights talking and crying and one night laughing until another hotel guest told us to shut up was that the cheese slicer moved from top drawer on the right of the cooker to top drawer on the left of the cooker, and the whisk moved from the top drawer on the left to the bottom drawer on the left.

    I still don’t know why this worked. But in general, I am in charge of the kitchen day to day. I think the change gave him a stake in the house again. In OldHouse, we achieved it by putting his gaming books visible in the living room.

    LW, move the spatulas to his spot, and maybe cut down on how many spatulas you have.

  40. This is when I reminisce about that time Roommate and I disagreed over how to boil water.* Ah, good times.

    * (Actually over when the water was “boiling enough” to start cooking things in it.)

    1. FWIW, I just empty the pasta/rice/whatever into the water when I first put it on the stove, and then let it heat to boiling. It seems to work just as well, and it means I don’t need to be watching it like a hawk to see when to put the food in.

        1. *GUFFAW*

          I am capable of cooking perfect rice, but I also was capable of spending $30 for a rice cooker. One has me anxiously watching timers. The other lets me go fiddle around on the internet while food is magicked.

          (I follow instructions TO THE LETTER and require the instructions for Kraft Dinner. It’s been a revelation for me just to get to the point where I don’t have to measure the water BEFORE I boil the pasta in it. Some bears learn slowly.)

      1. You don’t do that with pasta, because adding the salt before the water boils can damage the pot … or that’s what I read, anyway. With rice, though, I’d think it was the normal way to do it.

        (Of course there are people who make pasta without salt, but that is an abomination. Those people I am talking about even claimed you could add the salt after cooking, which is really wrong, because the pasta will soak up the unsalted water and taste … watery. Which, if you like that taste, is fine, but I very much do not like it)

        1. As a chemist, the speed of oxidation of your pan with the added salt in your pasta water isn’t going to be substantially different if the water is hot or cold–in fact, heating the water makes reactions go faster. I mean, if heating salty liquid from room temperature was that much of a problem, nobody would ever use a pot on a stove to reheat canned soup, which has a much higher salinity than pasta water.

          DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Science (and the Serious Eats food lab, who did tests) say that putting pasta in cold (salted if you like) water and letting it come to a boil works just as well as waiting for the water to boil and adding (salt if you like) and pasta to cook. If you’re interested in optimizing your cooking, there are blogs that have done a lot of work for you, but if you just wanna make food, make food.

        2. Sellmaeth, you are overdoing it with the cooking preferences stated as rules. Thank you.

  41. Dear LW2,
    I’m seeing a lot of comments here saying that you are in the wrong and need to loosen up. But if you are like me, that may not be an option for you. In that case, you may have to live by that saying, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” I am a 21-year-old college student, and although I live in a dorm during the school year, I live with my parents over breaks. My mom and I both have things that have to be done a certain way or we drown in anxiety, and our ways are not the same way. So we deal with this by doing our certain things ourselves. I’m not allowed to do her dishes because I put everything in the dishwasher, and she’s not allowed to do my laundry because she puts everything in the washing machine. I’m not allowed to make food in the oven because I’m bad at it, and she’s not allowed to make pasta because she’s bad at it. And so on. She and I both look forward to the day we no longer live together and can stop working around each other like this, but until then, this is our solution.

  42. 761: how about collaborative cooking? “Hey, dude, you handle the sauce, I’ll make gnocchi?” Or “Looks like you’ve got eggs covered. I’ll make something else.” That way there’s a little extra variation in the things that your roommate cooks, and he doesn’t feel so under the gun. Thing is, his part of it? Let him handle it. It might not be the way you do it, but so long as nothing is unsafe food-wise, it’s just not the way you’d do it.

  43. I started doing my own laundry when I was about 14 – I’m not sure why, my mum is weirdly fond of doing laundry – she did my brothers’ until they left home, and she still does Dad’s.

    One day when I was about twenty she was keeping me company outside while I hung my laundry outside, and apropos of nothing she said, OH Y GOD I OWE THE GHOST OF MY MUM AN APOLOGY.

    Once when Nana was old and frail mum had offered to hang her washing out for her, and Nana had said, no, no, you don’t know how to do it. And Mum had been, like, SERIOUSLY I’m *number redacted* years old I CAN HANG SOME SHEETS UP, and Nana was, like, no, you don’t know how, and she’d shuffled outside to do it herself.

    And five years later mum was in the garden watching me hang t-shirts up by the collar instead of doubling them over, and realising that what her mum had meant was, you don’t know how to do it how I like it.

    But because mum recognised that I was a grown up who had been doing laundry for many years, we were able to have a discussion about how, yes, her method does mean that you stretch the collar out less, but it also means that the things take twice as long to actually bloody dry and these t-shirts are all second hand and stretched out anway, and she could accept that she had never in the last six years looked at me and thought, oh dear my daughter is a lady with an overly stretched-out t-shirt collar, so my way was probably fine too.

    1. I giggled. (When I’m pegging out clothes rather than drying them on a rack, I hang all those sorts of things upside-down from the hem so any stretching happens there, and the shoulders don’t get those weird clothespin marks.)

    2. I think it’s one thing to insist on doing *your own* laundry your way. It’s another thing entirely to tell someone to do *their* laundry your way. Same with eggs, etc. Even shared stuff is probably a “hey would you mind/thanks” situation rather than an “OMG what are you even doing here let me” situation.

      1. My dad, household optimizer of things, used to insist that his white undershirts be folded one way and his colored tshirts be folded another. Also his athletic socks had to be rolled but his trouser socks had to be folded.

        At 13 I got sick of this shit and started doing my own laundry. When laundry became one of my household chores in my SO’s and my household I put him on notice that if I fold his clothes I will fold them how I like to fold and if he wants them folded some special fancy way he can fold them himself. (I do, however, by request, button the top collar button on his shirts so they hold their shape. I’m not completely unreasonable. :P)

      2. This is why my husband does ALL the laundry in our house. He got so stressed over me hanging his underwear on the wrong row of the drying rack that I just asked him straight up if he’d prefer to do it all himself from now on.

  44. Oops, I don’t hover, but I do offer suggestions re efficiency. I will reexamine that behavior.

    Also, how have I never heard of scrambling eggs directly in the pan? I must try this.

    1. If you like them with visible bits of white in, which some do, scrambled in the pan works well. I like mine THOROUGHLY MIXED and FLUFFY so I beat them with a fork until they whimper and cower in the bowl and then I whisk them a bit.

    2. There’s a Gordon Ramsay vid where he shows you how to make scrambled eggs in a little saucepan. They’re creamy and amazing and it’s the only way I make them now.

    3. I think whether its appropriate to give suggestions or not depends on your relationship with that person. When I was managing a kitchen and had helpers (cooking communal meals for 150+ people) some people came to help. I usually just said things like ‘please peel this box of carrots’ but with some people who were nervous and inexperienced and who felt like they didn’t know much, I also offered suggestions. But I offered first rather than giving, like, ‘thanks for chopping the onions, I’m happy to show you how I do it if you like?’. In the context where I was the acknowledged ‘manager’/head chef, where one of the reasons people came to cook was to learn how to cook, I don’t think that was a negative experience for people – but I never did it to people who I didn’t know were there partly to learn more about cooking.

      Similarly when I cook with my grandmother learning how to cook the things she does, I like all the random instructions about exactly how to do it because what I’m trying to learn is how to cook like her (I make her dishes but they’re never as good!). But if someone was cooking a meal for me (as opposed to explicitly ‘helping me in the kitchen’) or if they had made it clear that they don’t like those interactions (which LW2’s housemate definitely has) then I wouldn’t. 🙂

  45. I just reread the letter, and the very beginning does not bode well:

    Recently John talked to me about how he’s come to the realization over the past year that he is polyamorous. The rest of us are not.

    If LW knows that Priscilla isn’t poly, that implies that there’s been some past discussion of the matter, which makes “why are you telling me this, instead of Priscilla?” a bigger red flag. I think the LW may need to use those scripts a lot, especially the last two:

    “Knowing Priscilla as I do, I am not comfortable being your sounding board about this.”
    “Sounds like you and Priscilla should work that out.”

    Yes, it’s possible for relationships to work in which one partner is polyamorous and the other is monogamous, hut only if the non-poly partner is genuinely comfortable with their partner having other relationships. There’s a real difference between “I don’t want anyone else, but since you do, let’s talk about how to make this work” and “I really want monogamy, but I suppose I can put up with you seeing someone on the side if that’s the price of admission.”

    1. I thought that, too. And I really think it would not set a good example for their (possibly young) children if the other couple living in the house consisted of a man who has sex with other women, and a woman who cries a lot.
      While it may not be the exact same thing as cheating, it is certainly not a good example on how a healthy relationship looks.

      Same goes for “Man and women have other partners, but every time woman returns from a night out, man pouts for several days.” Which is common with men who actually want monogamy in which they get to cheat, but suggest an open relationship to avoid judgement.

  46. LW2, it may definitely be worth revisiting, quietly, to yourself, your household priorities. Because there are some things that are non-negotiable- toilets should be scrubbed clean as required, sinks should be rinsed, spills should be wiped up immediately, dishes should not get crusty and gross etc. But there are other things which are not, actually, the One True Correct Way of doing things.

    Which makes them your preference.

    And in a shared living situation, a preference is not, and should not be treated as, What Must Be.

    Room-mate C uses the kitchen, too. Which means Room-mate C has as much of a say in things like Where Cutlery Goes as you do. They’re not doing that wrong. They’re doing it differently. Eggs can be cooked in dozens of different ways. As can potatoes. (In my family, we don’t peel any vegetable ever, and just rinse the dirt off. Because my great-grandparents and their allotment of seemingly never-ending produce insisted that the skin had most of the nutrition. It was a belief that apparently served them and their dozen children rather well during the WWII rationing in Britain). If you came to me when I was making food for myself, or to share with you, and you started telling me I was preparing the food wrong? You wouldn’t just be insulting my personal cooking skills. You’d be insulting my parents and grandparents and insinuating that I was either untrained by them or badly trained by them.

    In general, when you’re sharing a space with someone else, priorities go like this:

    1- Non-Negotiable
    Things which compromise basic health and safety in the household. Dirt, refuse, electric cables etc.

    2- Important But Negotiable
    Things which compromise the comfort and happiness of the people in it. Certain neatness issues might come into play here – such as room-mates leaving their underwear or used towels on the bathroom floor, or leaving out pizza boxes etc. Windows open or closed and subsequent room temperature and heating costs (I prefer a cold house because I overheat easy, but when I live with cold-blooded types I am mindful of their comfort).

    3- Entirely Negotiable
    Where things are stored, how groceries and housework is divided up, What decor is put up in the house, etc

    4- Not Even Worth Caring About
    How towels are folded, what way around the toilet roll goes, what specific method someone uses for chopping onions or changing sheets etc

    Obviously, there are going to be things that fall into different categories depending on circumstance. Someone with health issues may have more reason to treat the temperature of the house as a category-1 issue, for example. (When I was doing the bulk of housework in my home, I insisted on quilt covers being stored inside-out. Because I used the burrito-method for changing sheets, and since they turn inside-out when taken off the quilt anyway it was a time-saver and effort-saver from point A to point Z, since I was almost always going to be the one doing the sheet-changing. Now my partner is in charge of the bulk of the housework, I do it how he likes it.) But most of the time, you really only want to be investing significant energy on categories 1 and 2, and it’s only ever worth getting stressed out about category 1.

    1. Agreed. Battles that are worth having include hygiene issues (hair in the sink, pee on the toilet seat, dirty undies hanging off doorknobs, etc.), serious health and safety issues (leaving doors unlocked, etc.) and basic living issues (no loud music at 2am when people have work the next day, etc.). Personal preferences about how you like your eggs or your pasta done? Let those go. If you really can’t do that, resign yourself to cooking all your own meals.

      In other words, Roommate C needs to learn to cook. LW needs to learn to pick their battles.

  47. When my children were learning how to feed themselves, I had to leave the room. Literally I had to eat somewhere else, with my back firmly turned. There is more than one way to peel an egg, I know that, but watching my kids do it their way was maddening.

    1. My partners and I have an understanding that at various points in FutureKid’s developments, one or another of us is going to say I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS and leave the room, and the others will pick up the slack. I’m pretty sure self-feeding is going to be one of my leave-the-room points.

  48. I’m flashing back to the time I shouted “I LIKE CUTTING THE TOMATO THIS WAY, I DON’T CARE IF YOUR WAY IS BETTER, GO AWAY!” at my dad as he tried to optimize my tomato cutting.

    My mother insisted I just let him show me his way, but when I did so and then continued doing it my way he started to pout. “You don’t like the way I showed you? But it works better! Why won’t you try it my way?” After a few minutes of this I ended up standing there with a chef’s knife in my hand yelling.

    Not my proudest moment, but it did get the job done, and my mom took my dad away and had a little chat about Admitting Your Offspring Are Competent Adults Who Can Cut Their Tomatoes However They Want Especially When They Are Being Nice And Making You Pasta.

  49. LW1, if John hasn’t told Priscilla about his infidelity and they haven’t agreed to it mutually he has broken a rule of his relationship. Why would you think someone who would break that rule would obey your rules re. not bringing strangers into the home around your kids?

    1. He supposedly broke the monogamy rule in secret. He can’t bring strangers into the home around the kids in secret.

      (Not that this situation bodes well in any other way.)

  50. LW #761 reminds me of my dad. My dad is a lovely man who has contributed much to my life, and he is not a Darth Vader, but he is an absolute pain in the ass to do chores with or be taught by. I dreaded cleaning up the house with him as a teenager, because nothing I did was ever good enough on the first try, and that in comparison with my own anxiety issues just left me feeling like a failure. I think I could have contributed more to chores, yes, but I also think that once I _did_ get around to doing something, the results were okay on the first go. It’s not going to kill any guests if there’s a bottle of ibuprofen on the bathroom counter, you know?

    1. But to add a constructive suggestion – I think an apology to C for backseat driving would greatly grease the wheels of any future negotiations.

      1. “Dear friend, I’ve come to realise that I’ve been a bit of an arsehole over kitchen stuff lately,  I’ll try to do better in the future’ was the script I’ve been waiting for.

        I’ve, erm, had to use it a time or two myself. It’s *hard* not to optimise, but life is honestly better. You can still chop things up together and do dishes together, but if you can look away while roommate is doing things his way, you’ll both be happier.

    1. Do tell us more about your condescending drive-by commenting style, except, don’t.

      Do tell us more about YOUR experiences with cinematography. Except, don’t.

      I’m sure some other website will enjoy your…whatever it is that you contribute.

  51. For LW 761: My partner and I have widely different levels of cooking skill – I started learning how to cook almost the moment I could toddle, he didn’t start learning until high school age. He has a few things he likes eating that he cooks – largely egg and meat related – and that I get the heck out of the kitchen for (it helps that most of the places we’ve rented during our time together have kitchen spaces which aren’t particularly large. More than one person in the kitchen doing something at a time became and becomes very awkward indeed). You have to let him stuff it up on his own.

    (As a demonstration of where our skill levels varied, my family joke about school cooking lessons is me coming home from the first one – where we watched a demonstration of how to prepare a Club Sandwich – and telling my mother about this while preparing a roast chicken dinner for four people. Himself told me happily about going to post-secondary basic cooking classes, where he learned how to prepare edible scrambled eggs).

    Now, this doesn’t mean you have to completely leave him to flounder. Be available if, for example, he’s using a recipe he found somewhere and wants to know about terminology (for example “saute” means “fry with stirring” means “fry” when you translate it back from fancy-cooking-ese into English; “cream the butter and sugar” means “beat them together until the sugar has largely dissolved, and the mixture is pale and creamy”; etc); if he asks, then you can provide translations. If he asks for help (“There has to be an easier way of doing this, surely?”), then yeah, you can offer tips. If he wants feedback on something, you’re allowed to offer it (but I’d strongly suggest sticking with comments which are of the “if you can’t say anything nice” variety in the early stages). If he asks about more recipes, offer to take him out shopping for a cookbook (and if you’re the type of person who collects cookbooks – I am – you can offer suggestions on which ones might turn out most suitable for his needs and skill level) or give him links to your favourite online recipe sites. But basically, unless he asks out loud, using his words, back off, and let him make his own mistakes in his own way.

    (And yeah, Himself does the thing where he just stacks things wherever without reference to the size of them, and occasionally it pisses me off. Usually when I’m feeling stressed or tetchy about something else. So there’s another possibility for LW 761 – it may be worth your while to check your own stress levels, and see whether you’re not reacting in full on universal “bitch eating crackers” mode about everything he’s doing as a result of your own problems, such as the recurring memories of a stressful time growing up. “Check your own oxygen mask first” and all that).

  52. Sometimes we have to be KitchenAssholes because allergies, and man it’s exhausting.

    The one thing I could see, does the LW have food anxieties that result in not being able to eat it if it’s not done ‘right’? Because if that’s the case it may be a matter of just not eating the shared meals or having to rework it. Like logically I know most food is fine for length of time past the ‘best-by’ date, but if I find out I’m being served ‘expired’ food I get really bad anxiety attacks that I’m going to get sick from it. I’m the same way if food that says it’s supposed to be refrigerated is left on the counter. I rarely let some relatives cook for me because I know they don’t believe in refrigerating things like orange juice or condiments. But that’s on me and I have a “I love you, but I bring my own food.” policy there, rather than trying to make them restructure their food habits to fit my preferences.

    I am lucky my husband is very sympathetic and understanding and if it means tortillas go in the crisper drawer because the package says refrigerate after opening, so be it.

  53. LW 760:

    Cranky polyamorous lady here. I can think of a few reasons that someone would want to talk to someone outside of their relationship about poly issues before going to their partner, actually, and they mostly go like this:

    “I’m thinking of talking to Partner about opening up our relationship, but I don’t know how to say it without sounding like I’m insulting them.”

    “I’m thinking of talking to Partner about opening up our relationship, but I don’t even really know what I want yet, can you hear me out and see if I sound unreasonable?”

    “I’m thinking of talking to Partner about opening up our relationship, but I don’t know how they’ll take it, advice?”

    “I’m thinking of talking to Partner about opening up our relationship, but I don’t know anyone who’s gone from monogamy to polyamory, do you know anyone I could talk to?”

    “I’m thinking of talking to Partner about opening up our relationship, but I don’t actually know anything about non-monogamy, do you know which books are better than others/anything about the local polyamorous meetup/where I can get more non-sketchy information?”

    Notice what all those sentences have in common?

    I cast all the side-eye on people, mostly dudes but some non-dudes, who are in a closed relationship and want reassurance for their entitlement, and hide behind the shadow of, “Isn’t it amazing how, like, science says we aren’t evolved to be monogamous, and that totally explains why I’ve been cheating all this time?” No. People don’t cheat because we’ve “evolved for non-monogamy”, people cheat because the thing they’ve promised is less important to them than the thing they want.

    And you know what, sometimes that isn’t even a character flaw–you’re allowed to want what you want, and sometimes we make promises we shouldn’t, and sometimes we mess things up in the transition from “living life like I thought I was supposed to” to “living life like I actually want to.” But that doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility for breaking promises and hurting people and cheating.

    You specifically asked for resources, so a few suggestions.

    1. You can educate yourself on polyamory and open relationships, not because you need to set yourself up as some kind of translator or mediator between John and Priscilla, but if you are a) interested and b) want to discuss this with them without making some errors out of unfamiliarity. My absolute favorite book for anyone curious about the subject is “Opening Up” by Tristan Taormino; “The Ethical Slut” is also a classic of the genre. Also, there are a bunch of blogs that are really good; I’m fond of posts from The Polyamorous Misanthrope’s archives (www.polyamorousmisanthrope.com), and the blog More Than Two has a link roundup (www.morethantwo.com/resources.html). (I want to mention that some of Franklin’s writing on MTT has been dismissive of the idea of “veto power” which occasionally rings my alarm bells, but that might be a bit too inside-baseball for someone just wanting to learn and not practice. We all know boundaries are important, right? Then we’re good.)

    2. If John brings this up again, possibly suggest therapy. He might have to do some googling to find a polyamory-friendly therapist, but it sounds like he has some issues with promise-breaking and commitment that he might want to work on, especially if his relationship is going to get more complicated. Possible issues: Suggesting therapy to someone who is coming to you with a lifestyle choice can sound really dismissive, which is why I’m putting this after “education.”

    I mean, it sounds like you’ve been friends with this guy for a long time; saying “You’re being a douchebag to your wife” and cutting friendship ties is always an option, but if you want to help him be the best version of himself possible, it might take a professional.

    3. You said “John also confessed that he’s had a crush on someone outside the house for a few years and that there are other infidelities over the course of his marriage.” From that, I’m actually not sure what kind of cheating activity John was talking about (crushing? Kissing? Sexing?), but whatever he did that was across the line, he ought to apologize. If he were my friend, I would tell him that any best-case scenario requires an apology, and he really should not couple that with the “But it’s all normal, because I’m polyamorous!” announcement. Cheating is not normalized in polyamory!

    Best case scenario: He admits and apologizes, Priscilla forgives, he later brings up open relationships, she agrees, happy ending.

    Worst case scenario: He brings up open relationships, she agrees or not, he admits to the cheating, she feels the open relationship thing was a ploy to get her to agree after the fact that his cheating was retroactively okay. NO IT DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT.

    The point is, all of this is kind of… their problem. I know you want to support your friends, but I have to keep coming back to the issue that it’s his screwup and you can only do so much from outside. Stick to the Captain’s scripts (“Bring it up with Priscilla!”) and good luck handling the fallout.

  54. Dear LW 761: I feel you. I really do.

    I highly recommend reading letter #674 for some insight into what it might be like to be roommate C right now. I’m modestly linking to my own comment on there, because it offers suggestions for negotiating a happy solution:


    The most important thing to remember is that C’s feelings matter just as much as yours. When you say “Some of it is personal preference stuff that I don’t think too much of a hardship to ask”, you seem to be missing that C has a personal preference for doing things the other way. Are you compromising sometimes, or are you asking him to value your personal preference over his every time? The latter actually is too much of a hardship to ask.

    I know someone whose solution to a longstanding kitchen fight over where the vegetable peeler lives was to buy a second vegetable peeler. Maybe the solution is to put the blue mini spatulas in with the big ones and the green mini spatulas in with the cutlery, so you can both find them when you need them. Buy a few more mini spatulas if necessary. $10 is not too much to pay for household harmony, and anyway, it’s really not about the money. It’s about acknowledging that “spatulas go with spatulas” is just as valid a kitchen organizing principle as “small things go with small things”, and making space for both of those principles in your shared kitchen.

    I have real-deal OCD. I’ve reached the point where I can generally share a kitchen with other people who don’t do things the way I do, but if someone else is loading the dishwasher, I leave the room entirely and do something to distract myself until the machine is closed and running. Every time one of my partners loads the dishwasher, the dishes come out clean, which is the standard by which dishwashing is judged. If I have a problem with the dishes not being loaded in the way that I prefer, that’s my problem. And my responsibility as someone who lives with other people is to not make it their problem.

    I promise it is possible to be a very picky, well-informed, skilled person and still happily share a kitchen with other people who are less picky or less well-informed or less skilled. You just have to understand that the problem is you, and take steps to keep from inflicting your anxieties on others. If your roommate isn’t setting the kitchen on fire or inviting his old friend Sal Monella over for dinner, then he’s cooking just fine. And if you can’t be around his competent-but-different-from-yours cooking, then it’s time to find other chores to do around the house so you can stop aggravating yourself by watching him cook and stop aggravating him by offering suggestions and feedback that he doesn’t want or need.

  55. Hi everyone, I want to thank y’all for the reality check in the comments… yeah, I probably do need to lighten up a bit.

    On the other hand, I’m… kind of dismayed at how me trying to cut down my explanations to fit in the word limit ended up portraying everything in the worst possible light!

    First of all, I don’t feel like I need to defend not wanting him to literally boil dirt with the potatoes….? That one I didn’t expect to get misconstrued, but ok, maybe y’all are used to buying much cleaner vegetables than I’ve ever purchased? I’m not going to apologize for being all ‘hey please don’t feed me actual dirt’, though.

    I’m just… rereading this days later along with the Cap’s answer, I get that I came across like a dick, but, like, in context? I’ve never harped on any of this shit, I’ve mentioned each of them ONCE, ever.

    The spatula conversation literally went like this:

    Me, searching through the kitchen for my spatulas: Hey, has anyone seen my tiny spatulas?
    Roommates, collectively: Nope.
    Me: Uh, well, I put them in the dishwasher and someone else unloaded it, they’ve gotta be somewhere? Try to remember?
    C: Well, I unloaded the dishwasher but I have no idea where they would have gone.
    Me: Ok, I’ll keep looking.
    [finds them five minutes later at the bottom of an opaque canister where they are literally inaccessible and require removing every other utensil to retrieve]
    Me: Hey, heads up, do you guys mind putting these away with the cutlery so they don’t get lost in the jar? It’s really too tall to keep them here.
    C: Well, they’re spatulas, they go with the spatulas.
    Me: Ok, but the jar we keep the rest of the spatulas in is pretty impractical for these ones, so I’d appreciate if you tried to remember.
    C: Okay!

    I have not brought it up again. The spatulas usually end up in the drawer but when they do not I don’t complain. One statement of preferences is acceptable, I think? Doesn’t feel particularly overbearing to me? My boundaries re: this stuff don’t come naturally so. IDK. Maybe even this much is a jerk request only a jerk would make?

    Like, all the rest of these encounters went really similarly. In many cases, *he asked*. (Including the scrambled eggs! He was making them for B and was confused when his attempt failed to produce what he was expecting. The phrase “Oh god what is happening why didn’t it work?” was uttered.)

    Also to clarify — the vast majority of the time we don’t cook for each other. He cooks for himself; I cook for myself and because it is easier to make large portions I also share; the both of us cook for B. Usually it is C cooking for B (they are dating). He will occasionally ask me about the best way to do a thing she has asked him to do. (Example: he’d never prepared a salad before and was absolutely baffled as to what the ‘right order’ to do things in was. His words, not mine.)

    The hurt feelings convo happened at an isolated point, where he was like ‘btw sometimes when you know [household] things that I don’t know it makes me feel like you think I’m dumb’.

    I could go over every incident in excruciating detail but. Most of them have been along the lines of the gross sink thing? Maybe I erred in including some of the personal preference stuff instead of sticking to only a laundry list of Actual Hygiene, This Is Not Negotiable stuff (of which there have been MANY). I just get the sense that you guys read all sorts of things into what’s going on and are really focused on the offhand comments about preferences.

    Anyway, I just wanted to try to clarify my position a bit since, reading over my letter I can see I was pretty vague in a way that clearly led people to take pretty unsympathetic interpretations? But again, literally all my boundaries are self-taught and I am willing to be told that even after this comment I’m still full of shit!

  56. Also, like, a good portion of the personal preferences things go like this:

    C: But do we really need a butter dish, though?
    Me: I like having a butter dish, I think it’s easier.
    C: Meh.
    Me: You don’t have to use it.
    C: But I just don’t see why…
    Me: I like not breaking my toast in half with hard butter from the fridge?
    C: [sarcastically] Okay, fine, I don’t need to understand your learned household ways.

    Or like this:

    C: Is there a reason you have so many dishtowels?
    Me: Well, I like the different patterns, and also this way I can have nice ones and gross ones for rags, and also be lazy about laundry, haha.
    C: Eh, I guess. You could just wash them more often.
    Me: I guess!
    C: I won’t criticize, since after all you know more than I do!

  57. Dear LW #761,

    In a lot of this letter, you’re not writing as if you think that your preferences (e.g. about spatulas) really are just preferences. Reread the way you wrote about him and about these conversations:

    “…who has managed to get to his late twenties without knowing some things about housekeeping.”
    “little things that I have to let him in on”
    “I have to explain stuff.”

    You’re not writing about him as if there are mismatched preferences; you are writing about him as if he is ignorant about housekeeping.

    You’re totally right that he can’t just magically ‘know’ your preferences. But here you’re writing as if these aren’t preferences – they are you iumparting necessary household knowledge that he doesn’t know, like that you ‘need’ to still wash potatoes if you’ve peeled them. Given the way you’re writing here, it would be surprising if you’re managing to not be condescending in the way that you say these things to him. Good luck resolving it!

  58. Sympathies, LW #760. It’s hard to stay out of someone’s business when they’re actively trying to make it your business. You can tell him to stop informing you about things his wife hasn’t yet learned (assuming she hasn’t), but you can’t unknow what you know already. He’s put you in a terrible position.

    No advice—others have that well covered—but good luck!

  59. LW 761, is part of your stress because you live in a four person house but have wound up with two people who, for valid and unchanging reasons, aren’t doing the housework? And so you only have C left doing housework and so everything he does is more weighted?

    Could you get A to do more around the house? Do finances permit a housekeeper?

    Good luck.

  60. Ok, I can’t tell if my comments got stuck in moderation or if they just disappeared because I was trying to comment with the same email on my wordpress account but not with my wordpress username, but.

    I’m actually getting angrier (at my roommate, not at you guys) about this issue than I was before writing in! I’m more convinced I’m right, and I’m swearing off ever commenting on advice blogs ever again because, holy shit, it is so easy to misconstrue a situation when one has only a small amount of words to use to explain it. I just. I really, truly believe that you are all responding to an interpretation of my situation that is just. Not congruent with what is actually going on.

    Like, there’s several comments that reference me constantly nagging at him over trivial things, and that’s just….. so not what’s happening. Someone upthread mentioned that the ‘preferences’ I mention are ‘negotiable’ and I agree! But I just don’t see how the hell I’m supposed to negotiate something if even saying “hey would you mind maybe trying to do it this way, I’d appreciate it, since that’s my preference” (and having him jump down my throat for it!) is Micromanaging and Not Allowed.

    I regret so utterly trying to bring some levity into the issue by mentioning my desire to have the tiny spatulas that I own and only I use be easily found, and contrasting that against legit cleanliness issues that everyone seems to have skipped over in favor of telling me not to backseat-cook.

    If my earlier comments post, fine. I won’t be back to respond to any responses they get. Frankly I hope this doesn’t post either. If my comments are in fact stuck in moderation, and I can so kindly ask the Captain to delete them, that’d be lovely. Thanks, really, sincerely, (I hate trying to convey sincerity online; the more you try the more sarcastic it looks. I promise I really do appreciate everyone’s attempts to get fictional!nagger!me to chill out. Unfortunately I am not fictional!nagger!me, I am real!DisgustedByBoyHygiene!me) to everyone for all the well-meant advice, but I’ll be discussing this with my therapist the next time I can actually afford to go.

    I’m closing this page forever, not kidding, and sorry, love, LW 2.

    1. Hey LW2:

      We only have what LWs tell us to go on, and we don’t know you and we can’t see your face, so “joking” condescending comments that you make when you’re trying to deflect or work up the courage to actually complain and the juxtaposition of things that are legit hygiene issues vs. the egg story do super-muddy the waters because they are presented with equal importance. “C., Rebel against the Tyranny of the Butter Dish and Questioner of Dishtowels,” did not come across at all in your letter. I’m very sorry we misread you and that it added to the frustration you are feeling.

      Reading the other anecdotes you’ve shared in comments, here’s what I think:

      1) If possible, leave the room when C. cooks. (Then he can’t annoy you!)
      2) It was probably very hard for you to state *any* preferences about your home life after the upbringing you’ve had and a visit to your therapist is a very, very good idea. I’m wondering if you can call them and say “I really need to come in but I am broke, can we work out a sliding scale for right now or could you refer me to somewhere free(ish)?” Therapists need to get paid, but sometimes they have ways. The worst thing s/he can say is “no, sorry.”
      3) Have a talk with C. along the lines of “I know you think I’m bossy & condescending about housekeeping stuff, but you are being kind of a pill about x (specific, hygiene related) things. I’m not your mom and you are not my rebellious teenage son. You are my friend and this sucks. How do we fix it?” Let him do the work of suggesting some solutions.
      4) I suspect that you and C. are ultimately not compatible as housemates. I don’t know what that means about the balance of your otherwise happy home –who goes, who stays, when it happens.

      I always hate when writing in makes someone feel worse, and I hope you and your therapist can sort it out.

      The Captain


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