Mama M: Dirty Dishes

Columnist

My roommate also happens to be my classmate. She's really messy and constantly leaves dirty dishes in the sink, and clutter around the apartment. I also see her everyday in class, and we are part of the same study group. I don't want my problems with her at home to interfere with our professional relationship as classmates. How do I maintain the boundaries between school and home? Thanks!

Hates dirty dishes, but likes studying

Dear Dirty Dishes,

Many years ago…when rents were cheap in NYC…I was living on the Bowery in an old tenement building with a bathtub in the kitchen. The guy I was living with was a lot of fun, for sure crazy, but very fun. He mostly wandered around the city talking to people and looking for cheap curry. He read Nietzsche and Solzhenitsyn and believed he was too deep to have a job. I was not that deep, so I had several jobs. I read Stephen King and Carlos Castaneda. Neither of us liked to clean- especially the kitchen. The dishes would sit there in the sink, neglected but keeping each other company. One day, I just got sick of the dishes. I knew he wasn’t going to wash them, and there was a point that I knew I would break down and clean up. So I just threw them away. I kept two coffee cups and two small plates and thought it might keep “us”.

It simplified the dish issue but we broke up anyway. It turns out, the issue had less to do with dishes and more to do with communication and compatibility. Maybe you and your classmate are not suited to live together, as your living style and home needs seem askew. Some people really need mess. Or they don’t see it. Or they don’t care about it. Some people need order. Nobody is wrong. You can throw away all the dishes, or put yourself in charge of cleaning the apartment, or you can hope like hell that she changes on her own. Or you could talk with her about it and see if she can shift her way of being. You can find a different roommate. But I am wondering sugar, if you can or invest in communicating your needs and expectations and look at the dishes as a portal to talking about differences, friendship, and boundaries. In the end, it is all in inside job, honey. Trust me...it is never about the dishes. Life happens inside us first. I trust you will sort it out sweetie; this is a superb problem to have.
 

Best,
Mama M