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damage control

The question

I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country, maybe even the world. My cousin has been staying rent-free at my mom's for nine months now – even though it was originally just supposed to be three. She has not once washed her sheets, rarely washes her towels, doesn't ever make her bed or clean her room and she's had her boyfriend there twice for a week at a time and some other friend for an entire week. She never cleans the bathroom that she uses or the tub. She even used my razor and loofah. My mom feels like if she says anything, then it will cause issues between her and my aunt. I don't know what to do. It drives me nuts to have to share a bathroom with her, and I let her use my bed while she's there and I'm stuck with some little tiny bed.

I'm at a loss as to what can be done at this point. My mom told her she has another month because my cousin's boyfriend is supposed to be moving here from across the country at that time so she would need to make other arrangements.

I fear that the boyfriend will soon be there, too, or that she won't really be gone in a month. Any advice?

The answer

As so often happens with Damage Control questions, I wish I had a little more information – in this case, the respective ages of you and your cousin.

I'm forced to put on my Sherlock Holmes-type deerstalker and conclude, since you mention a "razor," that you're past puberty and into early adulthood.

Proceeding on that assumption, or even if not, it seems to me uncomfortably obvious you are envious of your cousin for out-mooching you off your mother.

Now, of course, as your mother's direct offspring, you have primary mooching rights – I'm not sure why your cousin gets the big bed and you get the little one.

Maybe because she's a guest and they often get primo treatment, choice nuggets at the dinner table, while the "FHB" ("family hold back") rule is in effect.

(In your case, it's the "FGLB" – "family gets lousy bed" – rule.)

But I would cease and desist all your squawking: Surely, it is up to your mother to whom she decides to open up her domicile and how that person treats her and is treated.

Were I you, I would concentrate more on girding yourself to flying the coop and becoming independent.

Easier said than done, I know, what with real estate prices and the job market the way they are these days.

Something like 40 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 20 to 30 still live with their parents.

It's a subject much under discussion amongst my peers, most of whom, these days, have either teens or kids approaching teen-dom: will they ever leave?

I was just sitting on my porch with a friend last night discussing it – a porch connected to a house I bought 19 years ago and could not dream of affording today (I couldn't even afford the drugs it would take to hallucinate I could afford this house).

Him: "When my kid's old enough, that's it: I'm kicking him out."

Me: "What if he becomes homeless?"

Him: "Oh, well … "

And thus, we went around and around on the merry-go-round of late-stage parenting.

Don't worry about your cousin. Let her mooch. Time for you to get ready to spread your wings and fly.

Sure, times are tough. But they've been tougher, e.g. the Great Depression (circa 90 years ago). Life's a battle. Let's go find whoever told you it was going to be easy and beat the crap out of him/her.

You might need to get a little creative: have roommates, move to a crappy apartment in a much worse, much less-expensive part of town.

"All the trials of youth, dear boy," as Montague H. Withnail says in the movie Withnail & I.

It's not all tra-la-la with a loofah in a bubble bath at your mother's house.

It's clutching your résumé in the rain, no one returning your e-mails, doors slammed in your face, office politics, evil co-workers, nasty bosses – adult life, in other words.

Sounds awful, but hey: builds character. Let your cousin mooch and grow soft. You get out there with the rest of us, mix it up, toughen up. You'll be better off than your cousin in the long run.

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