I moved into an apartment recently that came with a roommate. I am a woman in my twenties. He is a man in his thirties. At first it seemed like a good match. We have similar musical tastes, both like to watch dumb reality TV and are happy to share the household grocery bills.
Unfortunately, I have come to discover that my roommate is just as, in fact even more accommodating to every woman within a five-mile radius. Almost every night he brings home a different girl. If a girl comes by more than once, he calls her his "girlfriend," even if their time together is peppered with other girls in between.
I am starting to feel weird about all this. One girl in particular is really nice and clearly has no idea what an incredible jerk this guy is. Sometimes I'm tempted to tell her, but I know that there's a kind of roommate "code of silence."
I no longer share my soap with him, even actively removing it from the bathroom after I shower (I'd hate to think about what's going on on parts of his body that he might touch it to!). And, honestly, who knows where he's carrying on when I'm not around ... our shared spaces or even -heaven forbid -- my bed.
I am not a prude, but this is really out of control. What do I do?
-- Changing the Sheets
Dear Sheet Changer,
You have quite the Lothario on your hands. I understand your heebie jeebies. A government report from last year suggests that one in four teenage girls has had an STD in her lifetime. Women in their twenties get herpes alone at a rate of one in four. It's a sobering thought, but one that might, at the very least, keep you on your toes and thinking about protection.
One thing that might set your mind at ease is knowing that herpes and most other STD's are not transmitted by inanimate objects. Clearly your roommate's, um, object is far from inanimate, but happily your soap is. The Columbia University Health Services claims that most viruses will be washed away by a bar of soap before it can be passed on to someone else.
They do caution that a damp towel, if a lot of the herpes virus has been rubbed onto it, and if very soon after someone rubs that infection immediately onto a mucus membrane, well then they might get it. But that's a lot of ifs. Basically STDs are transferred sexually, which is how they got their name. It's just a comforting thing to know when your roommate is a total tramp.
"I wouldn't be afraid to arm yourself with a few facts and let them leak out during casual conversation," suggests Amy, a relationship specialist and social worker in San Francisco. Amy is referring to the fact that never, in the history of our little species have STDs been so prevalent and invasive. The number of HIV infections grows steadily and women are most at risk. It doesn't sound like your roomie is trying to hide his escapades. So he shouldn't really mind talking about them either.
"She needs to set boundaries with him if they are going to continue to live together," says life coach and communications consultant, Lauree Ostrofsky. "Just because you disagree with how someone lives their life, doesn't mean you can't find and enjoy common ground."
But beyond the promiscuity, there remains a certain level of respect missing from this equation. The fact that the fridge is communal property doesn't mean that everything else, especially your bed, needs to be. If you are truly concerned that your roommate is more than a raging nympho, but also someone who would treat you with so little regard, you might want to rethink your living situation.
Obviously, since this guy is such a cad to the ladies, you have a right to your doubts about his ethical make up.
In the meantime, you can make your bed hard to lie down on, much less get busy on. Buy a box of kids blocks and throw them over your bedspread after you get up in the morning. That can't be any bigger a deal than locking up your soap. And at least that way your roommate will rethink the locale of his bad behavior. Even simpler, lock your bedroom door. If he asks you why you lock it, tell him you had a dream where your dead grandmother begged you to start locking it, and leave it at that. Hey! Everybody has a quirk!
As for his wicked ways, you can't stop him from acting on them, but you can do that thing where you raise your eyebrow at him and shake your head ever so slightly the next time he brings over a new lady friend. If she doesn't get the message, maybe he will, and will stop showing off his conquests with such pride and disrespect.
Then, first chance you get, move out!
Have a question for the Apartment Guru? Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Aparment Guru is Joselin Linder, co-writer of The Good Girls Guide to Living in Sin and Have Sex Like You Just Met. Having rented apartments and houses in Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Columbus, OH and abroad in Prague, CZ, she knows what it means to live in home you don't own and still make it homey. Anything she doesn't know, she isn't afraid to ask.