Bullish Life: What To Do About the Roommate From Hell

When I was in college, there was this guy who was really into me. I only liked him as a friend. I hadn’t had a computer in my house growing up, so I didn’t have any clue how to operate the new Mac sitting on my dorm room desk. This guy showed me how to do everything. I didn’t know you could install more software that you could download off the internet. I didn’t know that you could choose your own desktop image and that it could be about Star Trek! (Um, you can see why I might have been attracting nerdy guys.)

Some months into our friendship, I was learning more about computers and started poking around my hard drive. I found a text file that contained the text of all the emails (and school papers, and everything) I’d been typing over the last several days. I had made some new, even nerdier friends, so I asked some people about the file. It turned out that my “friend” had installed a keystroke recorder on my computer, and had changed some settings on my machine so he could access all my files remotely. So basically, this guy was reading everything I typed.

I confronted him about this (I was young, and it did not occur to me to go to a dean, or even the police). The order of the story gets fuzzy here. My “friend” admitted having installed a keystroke recorder. He also insisted that he loved me and that if I didn’t love him back, he would die. Then we all went home for winter break.

When we returned from winter break, my “friend” had lost a lot of weight, more than anyone should lose in 3 weeks. He was shivering, his hair was falling out. He was actually starving himself “for love.” Because I was about 19 years old, it did not occur to me to do anything that makes sense (like tell a trained professional) until very late in the game. All kinds of unnecessary hijinks occurred. I actually went to his dorm room to try to convince him that he had a reason to live! And that his body type was not important!

Around this point, I also found myself in a situation in which I was concerned that, if I didn’t do the exact right thing, someone would kill themself.

Finally, I did go talk to a dean. The university went on high alert. Action was taken. I don’t know what that action was, which seems appropriate. Presumably the guy got some kind of help. He also ended up transferring to another university.

My point? You haven’t done anything wrong, and adults want to help you.

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    • JennyWren

      One valuable lesson that is has taken me far too many years to learn is this: Never, ever, EVER lend someone money that you cannot afford to do without. Don’t do it. I don’t care if they are your best bud, your lover, your parent- if you would not be okay with never seeing that money again DO NOT LOAN IT.

      This is because the proportion of incidences of people returning money to me are miniscule in proportion to those where they did not. People sometimes will genuinely forget that they borrowed the money, maybe they end up moving before they can return it, whatever. And then there are the incidences where people just deny they borrowed the money, and because you didn’t have anything in writing you have absolutely no way to fight them.

      Actually, this happens for tonnes of stuff, not just money- never lend anything to anyone unless you’re prepared not to get it back. Your friend might swear up and down that she won’t let anything happen to your good dress, but if someone knocks a tomato juice on her it’s still goodnight Vienna. And most people are not as careful and considerate as they like to think (and I count myself among the majority). Practically the only things I loan out now are books.

      Point is, it’s hugely to your credit that you gave this girl a chance, that you offered her a stable and safe home when she needed one. But you can’t continue throwing good money after bad and good effort after bad. It was your decision to live with her, but she decided to abuse that generosity.

    • Cate

      I love that you used a picture of Buffy for this and I’m not sure if it even needs to be said, but your advice is, as usual, fantastic.

    • NelJel

      This is really good advice

    • Lastango

      Excellent advice! Part of the writer’s problem may be her age. At 25, a lot of people haven’t hardened yet to the point where they recognize they’re being taken advantage of. There’s a class of counterculture scammers that know this. They’re a little older, and like to prey on the college crowd. They come across as attractive personalities, can play the guitar, and affect whatever version of the bohemian lifestyle is au courant. They drink your hooch, smoke your dope, crash at your pad, and when they disappear… so does your laptop, leather jacket, and that $150 in change in the jar.