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The question

My 23-year-old son has moved in with a friend to share rent and expenses. After a few months, during which things went well (except for one incident for which he has apologized and not repeated), the roommate has started to harass him to move out. This harassment includes bizarre things such as spying on his activities, texting my son's girlfriend of his comings and goings, refusing to let certain people over, threatening to complain to the landlord and shouting.

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They both have their names on the lease. We think he may want to get another friend to move in instead. Our son is at a critical time in his university studies and does not need the stress of having to move or find another roommate. Any thoughts on how to resolve this issue?

The answer

Madam: If I understand correctly what's going on out there lately, my first order of business is to congratulate you on having a 23-year-old who's already moved out.

Mazel tov!

Ah, your son's plight brings me back. One's 20s can be much so fun: going to clubs, jumping around in "mosh pits," "stage-diving," "crowd-surfing." Girls shouting "woo-hoo" on the dance floor at parties, sometimes even festively popping off their tops...

(That's the part about being in my 20s I miss most: There's far too little festive "woo-hoo" shouting and top-doffing on the dance floor at parties these days for my taste.) Having roommates, however, wasn't my favourite part of that era. Not that there was anything wrong with the fellows I lived with. Au contraire, they were great guys.

It's just that cohabitation is tough at the best of times. It's hard enough to keep it friction-free when the person you live with is someone you love deeply, have sex and/or children with, and have vowed in front of a religious or nautical figure to cherish, honour and obey till death do you part.

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But when you have a roommate, you're just living with some dude. Some dude who comes come home drunk and scarfs down the last eight inches of your kielbasa, washed down with your last beer, while he farts and burps and watches TV.

Some dude whose idea of housework is to clean his electric shaver with your toothbrush.

Some dude whose idea of cooking is to put a can of spaghetti in the microwave, is surprised when both explode and are destroyed, then slouches off for a nap.

Honestly, it's a miracle these types of arrangements ever work.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advising you to advise your son to move out. Not immediately, anyway.

Part of me feels that your son should dig his heels in - that, from sheer contrariness and cussedness, he should mount a campaign of psychological counter-terrorism. After all, contrariness, cussedness, friction and conflict all build character. (Take Winston Churchill.)

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And of course, it's possible these two could negotiate a truce. Maybe your son should buy a six-pack of beers, some rice crackers, and, say, 18 inches of kielbasa and see if they can identify the problem and/or find some sort of arrangement they can both live with.

But if that doesn't work - well, then I definitely think he should get the hell out of there.

Their relationship is clearly dysfunctional. And as a friend of mine said when I told her about your son's plight, this roommate "sounds like a classic villain - and that type has so much energy, they just wear you down in the end."

You say your son's at a "critical juncture" in his studies and doesn't need the stress of moving out. But, really, which is more stressful: living with a freak show who spies on you and texts your girlfriend - or throwing some T-shirts and a laptop in a duffel bag?

Moving would take at most a day out of his life. You could help him find a new place. Or, if you live in the vicinity you could put him up temporarily - feed him cookies and hot cocoa while he studies and checks Kijiji for apartment listings.

Now I would be remiss if I didn't observe that it might not matter what you say or do. Your son may not pay the slightest attention, no matter what you advise.

In a way, the real question here is: How much should one get involved in the affairs of one's 23-year-old offspring? Well, I have good news and bad news on that front and they're both the same: It may be time to let go a bit.

I know it's easy for me to say. My oldest son is 14. I'm sure I'll wrestle with the same issues when he hits his early 20s. But your fluffy little duckling has flown the coop, momma bird. You have to start letting him make his own mistakes.

As he will. Ye gods, if my own 20s are anything to go by, if a poor choice of roommate is the worst decision he makes, you can count yourself lucky.

At least he's learned a valuable lesson: Living with the wrong person can be a living hell. Might come in handy when it comes to a much more serious and less temporary decision: choosing a spouse.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change, Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad and Damage Control, the book.

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