Do you have issues with your no-longer-best girlfriend? Is your coworker driving you crazy? Megan Carpentier is here to give you the life advice that you don’t want to hear, told in the way you absolutely need to hear it.
Okay, I have no idea what the fuck to do about this. I moved in with a relatively quiet girl from my college earlier this year — we didn’t know each other that well, but we’d both recently moved to the same city and were roommate hunting and mutual acquaintances hooked us up. She seemed pretty normal, she had the money to pay the rent, what could go wrong, right? Wrong. It turns out she was a majorly closeted conservative and super-judgmental, which was bad enough to deal with (if I wanted someone to bitch about my cleavage and short skirts, I’d still live with my mom). But last week I had a little dinner party with 3 friends (a girl and two guys) and she left to give us some space only to come back at the end and flip her shit because one of my guests was black. Like, I don’t even know how to being to make it up to him that he came to my home only to end up being racially insulted, but how do I deal with living with a racist? I shouldn’t have to identify the race of all my potential houseguests in order to garner “permission” to have people over, and I totally don’t want to have to tell any of my non-white friends they can’t come over because my roommate’s a racist, because then I’ll just sound like a racist.
If someone made it into her twenties — after college — and moved to a city and is still a racist, nothing you do is going to change that, unfortunately. Maybe she’ll have some awesome epiphany or become more tolerant out of necessity but, in all likelihood, she’s just going to find people like her to hang out with and which will reinforce her racism. So, if it’s remotely affordable, it’s time to either look for a new place or ask her to do so, and find a subletter to replace which ever one of you is going to leave the apartment so that no one’s credit gets ruined (especially yours). Basically, if you’re 2 months from the end of the lease, suck it up and do what you have to do to avoid her as much as possible (and to keep your friends from encountering her) — but if you’re 6 months out, get out as soon as you can.
As for your friend, although it sounds like you’ve apologized profusely, it never hurts to apologize again. Just say something like, “I never, ever intended for you to feel anything but welcome in my home, and I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be subjected to abuse from my roommate as a result of your race. I really had no idea that she was that kind of person, or else I never would have lived with her or subjected you to that, and if there is any way I can make up for it, please tell me. I’ve already had it out with her and am looking to change my living situation, but that doesn’t help me make it up to you at all.” And then listen — maybe he won’t be quite as surprised as you that there are still racists in the world, or maybe he’ll be hurt, or maybe he can help you recognize the warning signs in other people.
As for your other friends, if you continue to live there but want to keep doing dinners with friends, I think you tell them what happened: you found out unexpectedly that you live with a racist, you can neither account for nor prevent her behavior, and that you would never ask anyone to subject themselves to abuse just to eat in your tiny kitchen. And then either invite them to have dinner in a take-out place everyone can afford, or offer to cook at someone else’s house until your home situation stabilizes.
My colleagues and I go out every Friday for happy hour before heading our separate ways, and normally it’s no dramz because most people have significant others and none of us want to screw up our jobs by messing around at the office. But last week, one of my colleagues invited our interns out with us (we’re all in our mid- to late twenties and most of our interns are barely 21, if they are even 21) and, two drinks in, he was definitely hitting on the really cute one. As bad as it would be if we were hooking up with one another, it seems like a whole new kind of bad for one of us to start hooking up with one of the interns we nominally supervise. I texted him later about it, like, please tell me you aren’t hooking up with here, but he kind of took it as a joke.
Texting someone when you’re both drinking is not the same as voicing serious concerns to them in person — and hitting on a junior staffer, even an intern, can have potential consequences above and beyond the inevitable potential hairiness of office romance. The power differential, as well as the intern’s age, could well lead that person to feel that they are working in a hostile environment, or they could feel pressured into responding or, even if they respond, they could feel the environment turns hostile if/when the relationship goes badly.
If your colleague is remotely close, it’s a good conversation to have with him; if he’d not, get someone with whom he is close to have it. Worst case, get a consensus opinion among your regular crew that interns aren’t invited out on Fridays and make yourself available as a business-y resource to the interns so that you can maybe get a bead on his behavior and her reaction. And definitely, definitely make sure you have the HR person on speed dial: if it comes down to it and he really fucks this up, you don’t want to be someone the intern can point to as having known and done nothing.
If you have a problem with a friend, relative, coworker, or other person in your life, email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him.