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Dear Captain Awkward,

So, I live in a small home with my boyfriend and one of our mutual friends. Before we moved in with said friend, we thought she was far cleaner than she actually is, as she often complained about her parents’ cleanliness and messiness when she lived with them.

Turns out, that is not the case.

She doesn’t clean up after herself. Dirty dishes remain in the sink, or in her room, for days, and when she went away for a week on a trip, she dumped all the dirty dishes from her room into the sink before peacing on out, leaving us to deal with it. When she cleans up her cat’s poop on the carpet, she just picks it up and doesn’t spray anything on the carpet itself to actually deal with the bacteria left behind, saying “it’s okay, it was dry!” She leaves splatters all over the stove and counters, grit all over the floors, crumbs all over, and her hair all over the bathroom floor.

And now there are the bugs.

We got fruit flies everywhere one day. Upstairs where our rooms are, swarming in the bathroom, and downstairs in the kitchen. I cleaned like crazy and set up natural fruit fly traps to deal with the issue, but the flies just weren’t diminishing even after killing literally hundreds.

After dealing with them actually coming into mine and my boyfriend’s room, I had enough. I did investigating and followed the trail of flies…to my roommate’s room. (She never closes the door.) Her trashcan is overflowing, trash all over the floor, and full of fruit flies, and she has ants all over her bedside table swarming over left behind food. There is food in her bed.

The ants and food are STILL THERE. Days later. She has to have noticed. It’s right by her bed, where she sets everything.

Captain, how do I even broach this conversation? I don’t care what she does in her room, but this is affecting us all, the flies are already everywhere and I don’t want those ants to come our way next. Or for us to get roaches or rats or other pests.

That, and I feel like me and my boyfriend are constantly cleaning. It’s exhausting, since again, her one contribution is to maybe take out the trash every now and then. We do all the bathroom cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen…everything. And most of it is cleaning up her messes, as both of us are kind of neat freaks who clean up after ourselves as we go. Just. What do. I love my friend, but her lack of cleanliness is driving me crazy.

Signed,
I am not your maid.

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Captain,

I’m in some troubled and rapidly freezing waters. I live with two roommates and it’s been a peaceful arrangement so far. I lived with one roommate, A, in my last place, and my other roommate, B, is one of my best friends and it’s our first time living together.

We’re responsible for filling an empty fuel tank for the winter, but didn’t realize this until recently.  The financial stress of filling this tank is being felt mostly by B and me (I’m a full-time grad student and part-time server, B needs to save for a car because of Family Stuff), and A is having trouble relating to us since she is relatively sound financially with her off-the-books job and reduced rent (which we agreed to since she had a smaller room).

Because we meet preliminary qualifications, I applied for state heating assistance, but to complete the application I need a social security card from A. Unfortunately, it has somehow been misplaced. A is incredibly lax about trying to remedy problems that might be much higher up on other people’s lists of Stuff To Get Done (ie, paying bills on time, cancelling missing credit cards, replacing a lost driver’s license). I’ve already told her about needing her to apply for a new card, so the ball is entirely in her court.  B is freaking out though, and it feels like there is literally nothing I can do beyond offering to drive A to the office and sit with her while she applies for a new card to ensure it gets done.

Confronting A, or when she gets stressed about out things, also causes her to shut down and lash out and procrastinate even more. B and I are stressed for many reasons, and A also doesn’t seem to understand why we are so pressed financially. Her proposed solution is to ask her boss for the money (and that’s a Hard No from me). B has been venting to me exclusively and it’s harder to handle and try to be the middleperson when I’m also angry and hurt. Long-term solution here is to not live with A again, but for the short-term what can I do to effectively encourage A and express the importance of how much this Needs To Get Done, as well as smooth things over between all three of us?

Sincerely,

It’s getting a little heated, but not the kind of heating we need

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The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens, 421–407 BC

The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens, 421–407 BC Shared by Thermos, used under a Creative Commons License.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am currently having issues with a roommate, who is also a friend of many years. We had lived together once before for a short period, and while I had noticed his intense reactions to stressful situations then, I was given the impression he had developed strategies to cope with his anxiety since we first lived together. But now he is in a bit of a tailspin, and has been since our third roommate broke up with him and moved out four months ago. He is also incredibly stressed about work, and is worried about getting fired, and comes home every night with a new bout of anxiety to work out. Unfortunately, this takes the form of his unloading all his anger, disappointment and anxiety onto me as a listener. I understand expression of one’s feeling is super important, and his feelings are one hundred percent valid (work does sound awful and getting dumped blows), but I am feeling incapable of knowing how to help, or perhaps more importantly, how to get time to myself in the apartment. I am a teacher and feel “on” most of the day, so I do not know how to listen and get time to myself at the end of the day.

I feel like we have gotten trapped in a ritual where he will come through the door and tell me every terrible thing about his day for forty-five minutes, and I try to listen, but all I seem to be doing is reinforcing a cycle of negative thoughts. My roommate is feeling very unstable with his life right now, and I don’t want to shut him out, but at some point, it’s probably not good to allow him to fixate so much, yeah? At times, I feel like I am his only outlet for his feelings, and that I have let him take advantage of my listening ear. Often, he will seek me out if I am not in common spaces, not to check in on how my day was, but to unload. He did it just now when he ostensibly knocked on my door to ask if I needed anything from the grocery store, and then ranted at me for thirty minutes, despite knowing it was my writing time. I absolutely should have said, “Yes, it is my writing time, you are correct. I don’t need anything, I will talk to you later,” rather than hand-waving my scheduled time away and listening; I give him permission to do this. But what would be a good script to start a larger conversation?

I don’t know how to talk to him about this issue, given his stress level. I don’t want to give him more anxiety, but I feel this routine we’ve gotten into is creating bad habits. For me, I am not asserting my need for my own space and time. For him … well, it’s almost like he’s treating me as a girlfriend, like giving me all his emotional turmoil as if I am required on a partner level to help him carry it, which isn’t helping him move on or cope on his own? Even in one of my own crises (a cancer scare in my family), he spent all day with me, only to unload an intense amount of anxiety on me at the end of the day (which he had set up as a distracting, “let’s do fun things to get your mind off this cancer scenario” sort of day). This summer, I began dating someone, and my roommate started saying kind of mean jokes in my direction while the new boyfriend was around (though his humor runs more sarcastic generally), and I can’t help but wonder if this happened because I let him lean on me too much in the early days of the break-up and now he’s gotten our relationship parameters confused? He’ll invite me to events these days, and I will say no if I don’t feel like it, or that I have to check my schedule, but then he’ll repeat the invite three times after I have responded. I don’t know. It’s just a lot.

How can I be a good friend and understanding roommate while reinforcing boundaries? Do you have scripts for this, Captain?

Sincerely,
Tongue-Tied In A Two-Flat

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Joel from Eternal Sunshine with the memory-wiping colander on his head.

“Sal, put this colander on your head.” “Why?” “So you can block out the time we all ‘confronted’ you about who you should date.” “Will that work?” “No. Do it anyway.”

Hello Captain!

I’m just going to get right down to it. 

So I have a close-knit group of friends, including my best friend who we’ll call Annie, and a guy who we’ll call Sal. They’re two of the most important people in my life. Recently, Annie was having issues with her boyfriend who we’ll call Elliot. She wasn’t as comfortable in the relationship as him, she felt pressured to stay with him, etc. During the main part of the drama, she told me that she was having confusing feelings to Sal. And our sort-of-roommate Ellie overheard and said that she was too and so was another friend Betty. 

They all went to confront him, deciding that his rampant flirting was at fault and I joined them because I sort of felt responsible for the confrontation because I had suggested to Annie that she should maybe talk to him and try to figure things out. 

ANYWAY 

He admitted that he liked Annie and Betty but would never do anything to mess with Annie’s relationship and apologized for making things weird and said he’d stop. Betty told him that she appreciated his attention, but she saw him more as a brother and would like to stay friends. We left and that was that. After a little bit, Annie and her boyfriend work on their issues and she finally breaks up with him. She tells me she still has feelings for Sal and might like to see how that would work out after some time. 

Shortly after this, Betty and Sal announce they’re dating. I am confused, but I generally am so I sort of try to ignore it. After a week or so and a lot of discussion, Annie starts dating him too and Sal identifies himself as Poly. 

I’m concerned, but I know it’s not really any of my business so I’m trying to stay out of it and not worry about something I can’t do anything about. 

The problem is Ellie. 

Creepily, I can see what Google searches bring people to this blog. Sometimes it’s fun to try to help these searchers out.

“I think I’m very unattracted to my boyfriend, is that a good reason to break up?” 

Yes. One of the best, in fact.

Do I text the girl that blew me?”

Depends. Do you want to see her again? Do you plan to do something nice for her if you do get together again? If the answer to both those questions is no, then, no. If yes, then text away.

“I want to be a teacher but I have an embarrassing name.”

Really? You’d let that stop you? Kids can be cruel, but if they make fun of your name it’s far more likely that they sense your shame and weirdness about it and are going for a weak spot than anything about the name itself.

Names can be changed, btw. It’s a hassle, but it can be done. Maybe this is the year that you reinvent yourself as NewName NewName Comma Teacher.

My boyfriend was rude to my parents, what do I do?

Ask him why he behaved like that. Let him know that it’s not cool and you’d like him to apologize to your parents. Watch carefully for his reaction – if he tries to make it your fault or your parents’ fault instead of owning up to his own behavior, proceed directly to breaking up. If he steps up and owns the behavior, write it off as a mistake for now but be watchful – is he rude to other people? Is he rude to you?

“What if when I left our second date my crush said nothing but ‘text me’?”

You could try texting him or her. Someone who likes you will text back promptly and it will begin a conversation. Someone who isn’t that into you will not respond quickly and it will not feel like a conversation.

I hate my girlfriend now that she’s moved in.

Oops. Do you think it’s just the strain of adjusting to having someone around all the time and that it will get better in time? Can you remember why you fell in love with her? Are you being kind to each other?  If you do break up with her now, you’ll feel like less of a jerk if you put a little money aside to help her find a new place.

“My parents hate my boyfriend.”

This is a rough one. Sometimes parents have really good reasons for being concerned about their kids’ dating partners, but sometimes they are interfering and controlling. Have you asked your parents to lay out what they don’t like about him and listened sincerely to their concerns? Are those concerns good ones? What do your friends think of him?

“Girl with ugly teeth gets fucked”

That’s extremely specific, son.

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Dear Captain Awkward, 

I moved into my university apartment with some people about a month and a half ago. Last night, I went drinking with a couple of the guys, and we got drunk. I ended up in bed with both of them, but I was too dry and they left. Then, because I was still drunk, I went to one of the guys in his room, and he was a gentleman about it and turned me away. Then I went to the kitchen and long story short, I ended up giving the other guy a blowjob. 

Now that I’m actually awake and functioning properly, I don’t know what to think. Mostly, I feel like a slut. I also oscillate between freaking out and feeling weirdly detached from my situation. I feel like I lost respect for myself. I feel like I’m in a bad drama playing out in my head. I can’t believe I actually allowed myself to do that. I can’t believe I threw myself at 2 guys, because what the actual fuck. I also feel like I’m whining, because probably a lot of people feel like that after something like this (so sorry). 

I’m also feeling really awkward, because I don’t know how to face them. I can’t avoid them because we’re sharing the same flat until June next year, and pretending I can’t remember isn’t an option because I clearly wasn’t drunk enough (I also feel like a coward for even considering those 2 options). I just want to face them and see what happens, but I may really just end up making it more awkward because I may freak out and say something really stupid, or obviously try too hard to act like nothing’s happened. 

Basically, I don’t know what to do. 

Sorry for whining at you, 
Feeling Terrible 

Dear Feeling Terrible:

Can you do me a favor and remove “slut” as a mean thing you say about yourself?  In this story, it took three to tango, and every single other person involved in what happened was just as drunk and horny as you and is probably feeling just as awkward the morning after. You’re not a bad person for seeking connection, sexy adventure, acting out a super-secret fantasy of having sex with two men at the same time, orgasms, or whatever else you were looking for that night. It is very possible to bounce back from this, shore up your relationship with your roommates, and figure out how you want to handle sex (and alcohol) in a way that’s healthier and more fulfilling for you going forward.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

My husband and I had our first baby almost three months ago. We rent a house and sublet one of our bedrooms to a thirty-something woman who is causing me a lot of aggravation. While I would gladly DTMFA, she is friends with an awful lot of my gaming friends, and it’s not as if there’s any one problem that I’m having with her. It’s more like a steady patter of tiny incidents that reached my saturation point months in the past.

She moved in a little more than a year ago with many, many plans. As a graduate of a culinary school, she immediately set to playing Warcraft on an Australian server more than ten hours a night. Eight months later, she finally figured out that when I said “I don’t know what that is.” It mostly meant that I wasn’t interested in enthusiastic discussions about DPS. And while I know I should be direct, I also fear that confronting her on what has become increasingly irritating behavior may damage the friendships we both have with the same group of friends, cause her to enter a deep depression, or even cause her to move out.

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