An Experimental Life

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Roommate woes

(Note: This is kind of a long and self-indulgent whinge. Don't say you weren't warned.)

I know I said I was unlikely to update this blog while I'm overseas, but I'm needing to rant. I don't really want it to go on my travel blog because it's not specifically trip-related, and I'm sure most people wanting to read about my travels don't want to hear me vent about how frustrating it is to live with Donna. To be honest, a lot of this stuff didn't start bugging me until after the first month - there were plenty of minor irritations that I was prepared to let slide, but after seven weeks the list just keeps growing. I'm at the point though when I feel like we're just so different as people. I can live with people who have annoying habits provided I still feel like I can respect them as a person, but the more I live with her, the more I realise that Donna and I are just chalk and cheese. The most draining thing is how cynical and bitter she seems about life in many ways. She doesn't strike me as a particularly happy person, and that's really hard to live with because I am just loving life so much right now!

Before I go into the big, meta-grumble kinds of things, these are just some of the little annoyances:
  • She sings around the house. Not usually something I object to, except that it's not really singing; it's verbal fidgeting. If you're going to sing, sing with commitment and enthusiasm! Sing like you mean it, not because some nonsense is just tumbling out of your mouth. Plus her repertoire is seriously lacking: so far I've heard I Vow to Thee My Country, Jerusalem, Cockles & Mussells, Kumbaya and If You're Happy and You Know It Clap You're Hands (sung to 'doo'!) And yet Cockles & Mussells she seems to know all the words to about a dozen verses. The Christmas repertoire has started now too, which makes it even worse! The other day I overheard her 'da dee dee dee'-ing her way through Silent Night at a rollicking pace. Aaaaahhh!!

  • She listens to CBC talk radio. Constantly. She goes into the bathroom for two minutes and the radio goes on. She's making and eating breakfast in the kitchen - the radio is on. She sets her alarm to wake her up very loudly and places it on the other side of the room so she has to get out of bed to turn it off. It's loud. It's early. Even on the weekends. She puts the radio on when she has a shower/bath and turns it up so she can hear it over the noise of the water running. And my room is right next to the bathroom which means if I want to watch TV or listen to my iPod (even with the door shut) I have to have it loud enough so I can hear it over the water running and the radio.

  • She spends forever in the bathroom. God knows what she does in there, but it would be a cumulative total of 2-3 hours every day for sure. And she wonders where her time goes! So often I have to wait for her to spend 45 minutes in the bathroom at night before I can brush my teeth and go to bed.

  • She uses a ridiculous amount of toilet paper (like, a roll a day probably!) and for some weird reason I haven't figured out yet, she always seems to have multiple rolls started. What the hell for?

  • She uses a ridiculous amount of liquid hand soap - just because I was mildly amused by this I made a note of how many days it took her to use a 350ml bottle. NINE DAYS!! That's almost 40ml a day, and you only need like a drop or two each time you wash your hands. She must use buckets of the stuff each year! And you know, I don't think these last two things would bother me so much if she didn't pride herself on being politically and socially aware. I think she likes to think she's pretty 'green' but she so isn't.

  • She will never both wash her dishes and put them away. And sometimes she won't wash them for a day and they're in the way while I'm either trying to cook or to wash my own dishes. She always is occuyping space in the sink, the drainer, or all over the bench. It's never just clear. And because you can't get to the microwave unless the drainer is empty, it's really annoying to spend 10 minutes putting her stuff away before I can heat up something or cook.

  • She clomps around the apartment in socks and sandals. Apart from this being a great look (oh yeah), it really is clomping. She doesn't just walk from room to room, it's like a cross between shuffling and stomping, and it drives me nuts.

  • She leaves all the lights on, even when she's not in the room. In this small little one bedroom apartment there are 7 lights, including 2 lamps and 2 light switches in the tiny bathroom. I have sometimes walked out of my room to find every single light on in the entire apartment except in my room, even when the sun is shining and the apartment has plenty of natural light. I know it's her electricity bill and not mine, but I find it annoying so I will often go around turning lights off that are clearly not needed. Because so often she'll walk into the bathroom, turn both lights on in there, wash her hands in the basin (leaving behind a sink full of suds from all the soap) and then walk out again leaving the room blazing away.

  • She has all these quaint or outdated expressions that she uses - or overuses, I should say. Every night, without fail, before she disappears into the bathroom for a hour she'll say "OK, well I need to take a bath - would you like a crack at the bathroom first?" EVERY NIGHT. And what the hell is 'a crack at the bathroom'? And then she'll usually follow it up with "Okey dokey, here I go!!" with a stupid grin on her face. When we went to lunch together the other day, she started to get all excited as we were walking out the door (as if it's some big momentous occasion to have lunch with another person) and said "Alrighty, and away we go...!" It's pathetic that this bothers me, I know, but it does. Other expressions I heard her use which I'm sure haven't been uttered by anyone else since about 1960 are: "Holy moly", "Holy doodle" and "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle". Right... yes...

OK, have I painted a clear picture of what kind of person I'm living with here? I really do think that spending her entire life on her own has made her more than slightly mad. Girls, be warned - this is who you might turn out like if you never find yourself a man! (Or another woman, whatever...)

So, now for the bigger things... These are things which are not so much irritating as they are revealing about how she sees the world and which make me realise just how different we are. I respect difference, I do, really. But I rarely get along terribly well with anyone with whom I have this many conflicts of values.

The first thing is kind of silly, really, but when I told Alison in North Van about it, she had the same reaction as I did, so clearly it's not just me who thinks Donna's insane. I don't know how we got on to the topic, but about a month ago we were talking about Bridget Jones (the first of the movies) and Donna said "You know, I thought that movie was OK, except that Bridget ends up with the wrong man."

"WHAT??" was my first reaction. "You mean you think she should have ended up with Daniel Cleaver? How on earth did you arrive at that conclusion?" I asked her.

She went on to say that she thought that it wasn't so much that Daniel Cleaver was the better man, mainly that Darcy had clearly been such a horrible character and that she had no respect for a man that treated women the way he did.

Huh??? I couldn't really see anything wrong with how he treated Bridget, but get this - it wasn't Bridget she was referring to. Instead, Donna has focused practically all her energy on Natasha, the woman Darcy was semi-engaged to and going to move to New York with towards the end of the movie - the woman he ends up leaving in order to go back to Bridget. Donna's argument was that Natasha had "a reasonable expectation of marriage" from Darcy, and therefore it was absolutely unforgivable that he had run off to be with someone he actually loved. She kept using this phrase "reasonable expectation of marriage" as though that was the only thing that mattered. So, should Darcy have married Natasha even though he was actually in love with Bridget, only to have the marriage probably fall to pieces down the track? What good does that do anyone? And Natasha's a minor frigging character, for God's sake! The only reason she's there is to present an impediment to either Mark or Bridget saying what they really mean much earlier in the film. It's fiction! It's a plot device, you freak!! But I really think that Donna must have been seriously jilted in order for Natasha to be the only character in the movie she can identify with.

Also, since Bridget Jones's Diary was essentially a modern-day re-write of Pride & Prejudice (and Donna read all of Jane Austen seven times when she was a teenager), I asked her whether she also thought that Lizzie Bennett ended up with the wrong man there as well and should have married Wickham. I mean, after all, you could argue that Lady Catherine's daughter had a "reasonable expectation of marriage" from Darcy, and he still goes and proposes to Lizzie.

"Completely different situation", says Donna.


"Because Darcy never showed any affection toward Lady Catherine's daughter, or indicated in any way that he intended to marry her," she argued.

"But Mark Darcy doesn't exactly she much affection to Natasha either. Apart from the fact that Natasha bosses him around all the time, and Darcy's father makes an announcement toward the end of the film, you'd barely even know they were together at all! And besides, just because Darcy in Pride & Prejudice doesn't indicate himself that he plans to marry Lady Catherine's daughter doesn't mean that everyone isn't already aware of the fact that they were intended for each other since birth. Even Lizzie was aware they were supposed to marry one day."

Anyway, there was absolutely no convincing Donna (on either storyline) and so the argument - if you could call it that - sort of went around in circles for another ten minutes before we ended up dropping it. But I still think it's bizarre and that she's obviously screwed up and has a warped sense of perspective on anything to do with relationships.

* * * * *

You know, maybe it's something to do with the huge number of self-help books she reads. I reckon that'd screw anyone up. It's amusing in a way. Just looking at her bookshelf the titles there made me laugh, because there are so many books with "How To..." in the title, or similar, and not one of them seems to be working for her. Some examples:

How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable - she is.

How to Get Lucky - she's not.

How to Buy a Computer - well, this computer's an old piece of junk with the '0' key missing, so no.

How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt & Live Prosperously - uh, no.

Getting the Love You Want - she's not. I asked. And yet she told me this is one of the best books she's ever read... Go figure...

How to Put More Time in Your Life - well, she seems to get a lot less done in a day than most people would, so I'm going to say that this one hasn't worked either.

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life - hmm, no, again.

How to Make ESP Work for You - hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Let's Have Healthy Children - she doesn't have any children.

The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner - well, she's living in a cramped one-bedroom flat that she couldn't afford to live in unless I was here. You do the math.

The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom - given how much she complains about money, I'm going to guess that she's not very financially free...

See?? She's like a living breathing testimony to the fact that self-help books are a lot of shite, and yet still she swears by them and invariably a few more from the library will appear each week as well. Some days I just feel like saying "Lady, you need way more than just a book!"

* * * * *

With Christmas coming up, I asked her a few weeks ago whether she had many people that she needed to buy gifts for, or send cards to. She's the eldest of five siblings, so it seemed to me that surely she had brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews that she caught up with at Christmas, but no. It seems that she's almost completely estranged from her family, which I just find unfathomable given that I'm quite close with mine. I mean, sure, not all families function all that well, but I really don't understand how someone can reach a point when it's been months or even years since they last had any contact with family.

I didn't want to pry and keep asking questions, but she did say that she has a niece who's now in her early thirties who had a child when she was about 22, unmarried and unemployed. That does sound like a pretty tough situation for anyone to be in, but what most surprised me was that Donna takes the attitude that this girl was "old enough to know better how not to get pregnant, and old enough to know that getting rid of it probably would have made more sense than having a child in such circumstances." Woah! Now, I'm pro-choice and always have been, but you can't tell someone that having an abortion is the smarter decision than having the child. That would be something the girl would have to live with for the rest of her life - you can't impose those sort of values on someone else when it's such an immensely personal decision she had to make.

"But surely", I said to Donna (trying to tread carefully and not say that I thought she was being rather callous) - "Surely what someone in that situation needs is love and support from family, not judgement, don't you think? Everyone makes bad choices at some point, and wishes they could make a U-turn. I mean, you can't blame people for the mistakes they make in life."

"Sure I can!" she responded emphatically, and more than a little insensitively.

I think that was the point at which I started to get really irritated. I don't understand how anyone can be quite so judgemental of people who need help. And it annoys me most because she doesn't seem to take the same view with other people who are in underprivileged circumstances, like people with addiction, or the homeless (of which there are a huge and visibly growing number in Vancouver). Yet she can be quite harsh to the people she knows personally. I just find it really hypocritical, because whatever her personal politics are, compassion doesn't seem to play a very big part.

* * * * *

So, as I mentioned, she's clearly not very close to her family. In fact, she happened to mention the other day that in her will, which hasn't been updated in over twenty years, she has specified that when she dies she is to be cremated and there is to be no ceremony. This was what she put into writing when she was in her early thirties, and she specified no ceremony primarily because she didn't think that anyone would come. I don't know if there is anything more depressing than making your own funeral arrangements with the assumption that no one would attend. Surely no one can live like that and really be happy with their life the way it is? And if you're not happy with your life, then why wouldn't you do something to change it? I know I'm being harsh here, and that having never been in such a place in my life, I'm really not in a position to judge. But I just don't get how someone can complain about so many aspects of their life (and she does) and not be proactive enough to do something to make it better.

* * * * *

OK, I know I should really wrap this up because I've vented plenty for one evening, and I know some of it probably comes across as pretty bitchy. But I just have to leave you with one more anecdote.

A couple of weeks ago when Donna was trying to think of ways to make some extra cash, she came up with the hair-brained idea that she could try her hand at writing Harlequin romance novels. Aparrently there are quite concise guidelines for writing the books to the formula the publishers want, but Donna was convinced that she could do this with no trouble at all - how hard could it be to write trashy soft porn? She said she's only ever read one once, a long time ago, and it was as awful as she expected it would be, and yet if she was getting paid to do it, she thought she'd give it a go.

Well, I was greatly amused by this, and having trouble keeping a straight face while she was telling me that she could even try and use a trip to Greece (for example) as "research" for her book and then claim it back as a tax deduction (this is the NDP so-called social activist we're talking about here!) and then write her book set in the Greek islands or somewhere like that. Mmm, yeah, I'm sure the government aren't going to find anything dodgy about that at all!
I couldn't quite understand why anyone would want to write something in a genre which they admitted was trashy and poor quality writing. To be honest, I think I'd have more self-respect (and I said as much!) than to stoop to writing romance novels purely for the money. Aparently she has no self-respect.

Anyway, the whole thing came to a premature conclusion when she looked at the guidelines on the Harlequin website and point number one specified that it was advised that writers keep up to date with current trends in the romance novel genre so they could be aware of what the public and publishers were likely to be interested in.

"Oh well, there goes that idea then!" she said. "I'm too busy to waste my time reading trashy books if I have to do it in order to write my own. Forget it."

So she was prepared to take the time to write a piece of trash, but she wouldn't stoop to read one? That's kind of screwed up. Plus, I have to say that Donna is possibly the least romantically-minded person I have ever met in my life. There should be a rule, a kind of litmus test if you like: anyone who thinks that Bridget Jones ended up with the wrong man is not the right person to be writing Harlequin romances!