DAME’s Friendkeeper tells us how to mediate when mutual friends move in together, and lays down the law with a long-winded talker.
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Two of my girlfriends are moving in together. They’re both recently single and instead of trying to find places on their own, they’re just going to get a nicer place big enough for the both of them. Sounds like a win-win, right? Here’s the thing: I’ve lived with one of these friends before, and she was kind of a monster. Totally lovely person outside of our roommate situation, but when we shared an apartment she was really nitpicky and a little passive aggressive and generally a pretty unpleasant housemate. Is it my responsibility to warn my friend who’s moving in with her? Granted it’s been a few years and we’re all in different places so maybe she’s changed, but if not, one of my girls is in for a rude awakening.
Home Sweet Hell
Hmm, let me see … if I was going to move in with Jennifer Jason Leigh would I want a heads up from Bridget Fonda? Yes … BUT! There is nothing to say that your friends will have the same chemistry as roommates as the two of you did (think of how happily married your ex-boyfriend is now and how his wife doesn’t think that little bits of razor shavings on her toothbrush are cause for alarm).
Your assessment that your friend was nitpicky, etc., goes both ways. You may have driven her crazy leaving clipped toenails on the coffee table (sorry, my ex-boyfriend again … I could have so easily cloned him if I’d only liked him!).
What I would actually say to them both so it doesn’t seem like you’re talking behind your former roommate’s back, is that they should make sure they have a clear understanding of what they expect from each other. Suggest that they make a list of what drives them crazy, e.g. dirty dishes by their bedside, wet towels on the floor, watching YouTube videos of Dan and Phil on their laptop and laughing really loud (these are currently some things I’m dealing with thanks to my 11-year-old roommate, but unforch she won’t move out or even contribute to the rent!). My firm belief with any combining of people is that it helps to raise as much awareness of possible problems before they start, but you really have no idea how much the responsibility of that failed situation had to do with you and her together.
I have a wonderful friend who is kind, giving, and a loving mom, and while we don’t see each other often, when we do we easily pick up where we left off, laughing and talking about our lives. But she has one habit that drives me crazy and that’s her tendency to tell long-winded stories that take a very looooooong time to get to the point. She gives me the history of every person involved whether I know them or not, wanders off topic, then comes back to the story eventually (after a few prods from me). All the while I’m listening and nodding thinking, “Get to the point, lady!” Is there a way I can ask her to get to do just that without having to say, “Get to the point!” and looking like an insensitive, and impatient jerk with ADD? Or am I being an insensitive, impatient jerk with ADD?
Get to the Point
I think we all know people like that; some of us are less tolerant about it than others. My lovely boyfriend once told me that if I lost my train of thought one more time while telling him a story he had permission to kill me. (I’m not sure who gave him that permission, but it certainly kept me on track.) In my case it’s not about telling long histories, it’s about seeing a notification on my phone. I’m like Dory the fish in Finding Nemo. ANYWAY, what were you asking about? OH YES, your friend.
I am not sure exactly what causes a person to wander like that, but the effect is that people lose interest in what they are saying—AMATEUR PSYCHOLOGIST ALERT— and I think that’s what they are afraid of so then they cause it to happen. When I first started writing professionally my editors would strike the first three paragraphs of whatever I wrote and say, “START HERE!” I was thinking I was so smart setting up my story, not realizing that if you don’t grab someone right away they won’t be there to read, He watched his father kill his grandmother from his crib. This we all know is called burying the lede. But that was a job and people don’t really worry about your feelings in jobs, they put big Xs through your words and use all caps. But you will want to be kinder.
I had a lovely friend who was a nursery school teacher who talked this way. It was great for the little kids who needed lots of steps and help understanding why, but I was not a kid. So when she’d start a story and tell me about her sister-in-law’s mother’s hairdresser, I’d interrupt and say, “What does this have to do with the story?” Not in a hostile way. I was—to use a teacher term—redirecting her. After I did it a few times she said, “Why do you keep asking that?” And I said, “Because I have a reservation for dinner in 6 hours and I don’t want to be late.” Luckily she laughed and we got into a good discussion about streamlining the info so you don’t lose your audience.
I have to say this isn’t always going to work. My ex-husband’s elderly aunt could take a month to tell a story and she also repeated the last few words of a sentence after she said it. Like, “I went to the story to buy a cantaloupe. Buy a cantaloupe.” So it would in fact take a month and a half. In those cases, you just listen and smile and pat yourself on the back for being patient and saintly.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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