Space Relations: House Rules — To Have or Not to Have

Back when I moved into my first post-dorm house with a couple of friends, I remember the only thing I concerned myself with was how to decorate. Should the couch go on this wall, or that wall? Should we put our cordless phone (hey, this was several years ago) on the end table, or on the credenza in the kitchen? I felt so grown-up and happy about my new life as a house dweller, and it hadn’t occurred to me that maybe my roommates and I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on something. Especially something like smoking inside.

Granted, I indulged in smoking cigarettes with my college roommates, but I had never seen myself as an “insider smoker.” Apparently, though, one of my roommates saw herself exactly that way. When we finished moving everything inside from the U-Haul, she plopped down on the couch and lit a cigarette. “Ahh,” she said, “finally!” I exchanged a look with my boyfriend who’d moved us in and said, “I was thinking that we would just smoke outside on the porch.” She nodded and moved outside, but later that night I “caught” her smoking on the couch while she watched a movie. “See?” she said. “You couldn’t even smell it!” After realizing there was nothing I could do to stop her, and this was clearly her way of expressing “freedom” from her parents and the dorms, I let it go. We lived in a piece-of-crap house that cost less than $700 a month, and I was overruled by our third roommate who said she didn’t really care either way.

That said, there was no denying that by the end of our two years living in that house it smelled like an old, nasty ashtray. Which is why the next time I lived with someone who wanted to chain smoke inside, I made my voice heard. On the one hand, It felt wrong being the person to say, “No, you can’t do this,” because technically we paid the same amount in rent. But on the other, I felt justified since smoking inside affects the whole house. I figured that everyone has their own little set of “rules,” and my set included “no smoking inside.”

Still, I wondered if I were just being a demanding, finger-pointing bitch. Maybe I should have asserted that I didn’t want to live with an inside-smoker right off the bat instead of assuming that the girl moving in was “just like me.” Maybe I was being naïve. I mean, how many people out there really tell their roommates what to do? The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I was the only person in history to have done this, and I was acting out of line. But boy was I wrong.

I asked a friend what she thought about my dilemma and the first thing she said was, “Smoking inside is kinda gross,” which started to make me feel better. Then she followed up with, “But for the record, my roommate doesn’t allow microwaves in the kitchen.” Whoa…back up. What? “She says she hates microwaves and doesn’t want to be near them, so she told me to keep mine in my room.” Yes, my friend had been living for close to a year with a person who demanded that my friend’s microwave stay in her bedroom. Did I mention this was in New York City and my friend’s bedroom was only big enough for her twin bed and a dresser? Next to her jewelry box and alarm clock sat her microwave. I instantly felt a little better about my own insecurities, but really bad for her since she’d signed a year lease with a Luddite.

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    • Janine

      Wow, I wish all roommates would read this. My roommates and I literally ran into all of these types of issues within the first two weeks of moving in.