I was reading on this blog about divorce and how it is an institution just like marriage, where people fill in the roles of the ex-husband and the ex-wife, and whatnot. And what he says is true, but it could be applied to most social relationships, not necessarily only sexual relationships. You could just as easily substitute the word “roommate” for “ex-wife” and you would come up with the same truths coming to the surface.

Years ago, in another life, I lived with 3 other guys in this luxury apartment complex meant to be inhabited by, I believe, Rich Retired Couples and Young Republicans. It was a great place. And it was about 1250 square feet, so we were not cramped in its 3 bedrooms. The largest of the bedrooms was split into two sections, and two of my friends shared it. The next largest bedroom was won in a poker game by the last guy, who really did get the best end of the deal. He did not have to share a room with another person like my first two friends, and he did not have to live in what I believe was actually a closet, like I did.Granted, I picked the smallest bedroom on purpose. I didn’t really own much of anything at the time, except for a twin bed, a nightstand, and a 13-inch television set. Come to think of it, I don’t really own much more than that now. Anyway, I picked this room, knowing full well of its dimensions, and I didn’t really care. I was just happy to be out my parent’s place. The only problem I had with this room was the doors. There wasn’t a traditional door on my bedroom, it had two doors that opened inwards. This caused two problems for me the following year that I did not think of when we were playing cards for rooms. The first problem was that, when the doors opened, they swung through about 1/3 of the entire area of the room. So basically, it’s a good thing that I didn’t own much stuff, because it’s not like I could put it in this room anyway. The second problem was one of security: these two swinging doors could not be locked. At all.

After a few months, I took to placing a pair of handcuffs on one of the knobs, and securing the knobs together when I was not in the apartment. My friend with the large room to himself had a problem with this.

“Why do you have to lock up your room, anyway?” he asked me one night. “It not like you even have anything to mess with.”

He obviously didn’t see the point. It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t actually own anything of value, it was the fact that everything I did own was in that one room. And I didn’t want people messing with it.

This guy quickly became a problem roommate. We should have spotted it before. And I guess we did, but we were all so happy with having this place, that we just figured that we have to take the good with the bad. Sure, we had a pool, beautiful grounds, a nice, huge deck for barbecues, a fireplace, etc. But we had to live with this guy, too. That was our price we paid.

And just like in a relationship, being together all the time (like being married or rooming with a friend) will always bring to the forefront all of the things you really can’t stand about this person you are now forced to share a life with. If you do not have similar moral characteristics and value systems, living together will only accelerate what will almost assuredly be a messy “divorce” of this friendship. The other two roommates and I had moral values that included “not leaving your underwear in the hallway”, “cleaning up the kitchen when you cover every possible surface with spaghetti sauce”, and “paying our bills on time”. This other roommate had a value system that included “eating other people’s food when it is clearly marked”, “randomly searching through your things to find a CD that they will never return”, and “borrowing money to pay bills, and then never paying it back”. A marriage made in hell, for sure.

We served out our year sentence in that place, and then parted ways. The problem roommate went on to live with another friend, and then another; each for only a year, and each with a very different view of this person when that year was up.

The roommate and I used to be really great friends. Since I lived with him, however, I have spoken to him once. And the exchange went just like you would imagine an ex-husband would talk to his ex-wife, when they didn’t leave on such cheery terms.

We are all filling in roles in life. I’m just trying to get through my scene without stepping on another actor’s toes.

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