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Hit back against the roommate from hell Add to ...

The question

My boyfriend lives with a buffoon. Both of us have reached our wits' end with his disrespectful behaviour. Their lease is coming to an end in a few months, and my boyfriend has told him he needs to find someone else to live with.

I am fully aware I am a guest in their home, and do everything possible to stay out of the roommate's way. I bring my own food, clean up, am civil to him. But this guy hates the mere mention of my name. He has told me that even when I am in the house and he doesn't see me, my "presence" irritates him. He takes my boyfriend's food, clothes and beer and leaves his disgusting mess around for weeks.

He's called me some rather nasty names, and I'm this close to doing awful things to his belongings. Do you have any tips on how to cope with this disrespectful slob?

The answer

There's actually a rap song that speaks to your situation, by MC Lars:

"He's the roommate from hell, his name is Lucifer/Someone call a priest, and bring the crucifer/He's the roommate from hell, leaves his pitchfork in my bed/I'm in a satanic panic, 'cause he's messing with my head."

There's also a play, by Jean-Paul Sartre, the seminal existentialist masterpiece No Exit .

In the play, three people die and are sent to hell.

They wait for their torturer to arrive, but no one shows up. In the meantime they begin to converse, then to squabble and bicker.

After a while the realization dawns: The devil doesn't need to send a torturer, because each other's company for eternity will be torture enough.

That's when one character utters the famous line, beloved by misanthropes everywhere: "Hell is other people."

Now you may or may not agree with this sentiment (and it's not clear whether Sartre, in reality a gregarious, table-hopping type of fellow, meant it to be taken literally), but it's certainly hard to argue with when a cohabitation arrangement goes pear-shaped.

Living together is tough, even if the person is a peach, a prince, a saint. I'm sure even Gandhi would have presented a challenge as a roommate (come to think of it, he would probably have been really annoying: turning up his nose if you offered him some chicken wings while watching the game, only eating the carrot sticks; launching a campaign of "passive resistance" every time he didn't get his way).

Anyway, I won't waste your time with any of the usual BS on how to get along with this guy. He clearly has no interest in getting along.

But you know what? It's a great revelation in life, I feel, the day you realize not everyone is going to like you.

It can be difficult. Of course you want everyone to like you. There was a couple some years back who disliked my wife Pam and I because they felt we scooped our house from them.

(They were wrong about the whole deal, but that's a story for another day.)

For months, the wife - whose kid was one of one of my kids' best friends - would glower balefully at me in the park.

And the weird thing was, to my own amazement, whenever I spotted her my stupid face broke into a goofy smile, until a split-second later I realized: "Oh yeah, I forgot: she hates me."

I became obsessed with the fact this couple disliked us (and would think "Stay down, hand; stay straight, face" whenever I saw her).

But then one day I said to the man in the mirror: "Not everyone is going to like you. Inhale, exhale, let it go. In fact, why not try disliking her back?"

And it wasn't great. Of course it'd be nicer if we liked each other and laughed and sipped chardonnay in the sunshine.

But disliking her back felt better than just taking it from her.

And so I know this is probably not what you'd expect to hear from an advice columnist, but I would say to you: Why not dislike this boorish fellow back?

Stand up for yourself. Let him have it, right between the eyes. If he has the effrontery to tell you he doesn't like you, that your very "presence" irritates him, tell him: "I don't like you either, and your presence bugs me too."

Don't let him push you around. He sounds like a bit of a bully, and bullies only respect you if you stand your ground. Good practice for the future.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the prize: the great joy that will descend upon you when the door closes behind this abrasive, offensive doofus in a few months' time.

The greatest happiness is the relief of pain, they say. So if hell is other people, maybe heaven is when they finally leave.

David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad .

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