Over the weekend, I watched MTV’s True Life: I Hate My Roommate. It was pretty tame for MTV in the sense that there weren’t any physical fights and no one vomited on anything, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t an exhibition of immaturity. Of course it was. I was particularly in awe of the relationship between Fred and Dave, childhood friends and roommates in Fred’s one-bedroom apartment. You see, Dave started crashing on Fred’s couch because he didn’t have a job and needed a place to stay….FIVE YEARS AGO. Since then, he hasn’t tried to get a job, chipped in on the bills or paid rent a single time, and Fred has reached the point of near-insanity. I think the clincher for Fred was actually the giant body dent Dave left in Fred’s couch. You don’t mess with a brother’s couch. By the end, despite their visit to Fred’s therapist uncle and Dave’s half-assed attempt at getting a job by walking across the street to the gym and asking about available positions, Dave gets the hint and finally leaves. But the couch dent remained.
Watching this episode really made me think about mooches. Mostly because I don’t understand how anyone puts up with a mooch, but I do understand why. And that’s really the art of mooching: knowing how to play on someone’s insecurities because of a certain weakness. In Fred and Dave’s case, it was the childhood friendship that kept Fred from kicking Dave to the curb each day even though he regularly told him to get off his ass and get a job. But in other people’s cases, it could be a variety of factors. I’ve heard about couples who break up but one of them still hangs around as a mooch. I’ve heard about relatives who show up on your doorstep just to see how long it will take to get forcibly ejected from the guest room. I’ve even heard about people who will agree to stop mooching if they’re given a few hundred bucks as a consolation prize on the way out. And none of those arrangements sound tolerable to me.
The worst case I think I’ve heard involved an acquaintance whose father abandoned him and his siblings when they were very young, only to dig himself into further debt in the years that followed. One day, he showed up outside my acquaintance’s apartment, looking for a place to stay. He was homeless, poor and essentially a broken person, and he turned to his son for support. The saddest part was, my friend’s friend felt obligated to help. Several months passed, and he found it only got more difficult to force his own father back out on the street. But inevitably, it had to happen.