How to stop being nosy-ed(?).
August 12, 2013 9:38 AM   Subscribe

My roommate asks me questions that I find annoying, and I'd like to know if there's a way to peacefully stop.

Here are the questions I have been asked over time.
I'm also listing my being-annoyed level in the scale of 100 (that's just for fun) :)

1. When he received a package for me:
"May I ask what it is? Or is that personal?"
(my annoyed level: 98)


2. When me going out:
"Where are you going?"
& When coming back:
"You went to XYZ?"
(level: 60)


3. After I wore sunglasses to a birthday party at night, I was asked if I was doing drugs and therefore hiding my eyes. He said this inquiry was also party due to the fact that I had said I was trying to start "a" business with my friend but couldn't tell him what it was. Later he told my friend he had to ask this because he was wondering how I was supporting myself because I didn't have a job (=selling drugs).
About the ""a" business" thing, all I had originally said was "I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!" Is this a suspicion-provoking statement? Does anyone know of a better way of saying this or something to explain why your business idea is secret?

(level: 99)


I think I might be creating a bad cycle because way earlier I have already started to avoid contact with him because I don't want to be asked questions, but it might have made him even more 'curious' or 'suspicious' of me (thus leading to the recent sunglass-drug inquiry).

After a while of me giving him one-word / super short answer to his question every time, he seems to have gotten the idea that I hate to be 'asked' and he started to ask things like this instead:

"Are you XYZ (whatever question)? But you don't have to answer if you don't want to."

... I guess this is considerate, but it feels even more awkward, haha.


So my question is, is there a way to peacefully & nicely avoid being 'asked?'
(Please feel free to criticize me - maybe I'm not supposed to be annoyed!!)
posted by MiuMiu to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Start oversharing boring, trivial things with him and his "get to know my roommate" curiosity might be satisfied enough that he'll stop prying into things you don't want to share.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:44 AM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Unless there is something off-putting about this person you haven't described here, it sounds like to me he is just trying to make conversation and be your friend. I would even take the sunglasses/drugs thing as a jokey thing that probably came out due to genuine curiosity about you seemingly withholding information about yourself. People do generally want to know who they're living with, especially if you're sharing bills.

You are going to have to have a (probably uncomfortable) conversation with him wherein you tell him directly you don't want to be friends, just roommates. but it sounds to me like you might just be happier living alone.
posted by something something at 9:44 AM on August 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


I'm sure some people will tell you that your roommate's questions are very inappropriate, but it's also possible your roommate may just be a curious type person who is trying to make friendly conversation and/or get to know you better. In either case, if you are uncomfortable and feel that boundaries have been crossed with these questions, just politely tell him that you are a private person and prefer that he doesn't ask you questions that are too personal in nature.
posted by Dansaman at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ick. I read your questions related to the sunglasses-indoors stuff as well, and I have to say that your roommate sounds like such an exhausting buttinsky. Or a mosquito. If I were you, I'd definitely be looking for a new roommate.

Assuming that new roommate is not possible for whatever reason, what I want to tell you to do is to start pointedly asking your roommate a lot of nosy, intrusive, unnecessary questions about everything he does. But that's definitely passive-aggressive, and thus falls into the category of things more satisfying as fantasy than as reality. So instead, I'd suggest sitting your roommate down and being gentle yet direct with him. "Roommate, I have to be honest with you: all these questions really bother me. I feel like I'm constantly being interrogated. Would you mind easing up?"
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's going to ask. So just answer what you like and blow off what you don't.

"Oh THIS? It's boring."

If your business idea is a secret, don't talk about it.

If he says something regarding drugs, just say, "I'm not into that."

If you're offended say, "Gosh, that's offensive."

If it's just general nosiness, "You seem to want to know an awful lot about the dull details of my life."

I think we covered the sunglasses things last week. That was a joke because it's weird to wear sunglasses indoors.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am very very shy and very very introverted... and I don't see much of a problem with your roommate's questions, WITH THE EXCEPTION of any questions that explicitly passed judgment (e.g. the "are you on drugs?" question... implicit judgment doesn't count; it's easy to detect THAT where it doesn't really exist).

"Asking questions about the other person" is a very common, very root-level method of socializing/being friendly/learning about other people. I don't think the problem is "nosy roommate", then, so much as "roommates with wildly differing views of the proper depth of this particular roommate/roommate relationship". Roommate thinks you're buddies (and is awkwardly attempting to foster this connection)... you think you're just dudes-who-split-utility-bills.

In any event: you've gotta clear up - nicely! no need to be a dick! - the exact nature of your relationship with your roomie, WITH YOUR ROOMIE, rather than extinguish this particular behavior.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:47 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of these things sound like him making friendly conversation of the sort any roommate might make, and some of them sound like they might be him needling you because it obviously pisses you off when he asks questions.

It seems like you probably don't have much, if any, relationship with your roommate aside from sharing space. You could probably ward off both the questions and the desire to needle you by occasionally having a friendly chat with him.

There are lots of people out there who would *love* to have the kind of roommate that wants to go about their life silently and not try to be friends with the other people in the house. If your lease is flexible or ending soon, please consider finding one of those people to live with, instead of someone who wants to be friends with his roommates. Both types of people are perfectly in the right to want the kind of roommate relationships that they want, but they shouldn't live together.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't want to make you feel too bad about this because everyone's hardest battle is their hardest battle, but using your "annoyance ratings", it looks like him asking about your business which you told him about even though it was a secret, took you to 99 out of 100, which is what, nearly the most annoyed you could possibly be? Really?

I mean on the scale of things he could do as your roommate (heh) that doesn't seem, really, all that bad.

Perhaps, whilst establishing boundaries as others have suggested, you could also work on your own mindfulness, remembering that there are a lot of things that are worth getting worked up about, but an infinite number more that are not.

Good luck!
posted by greenish at 9:53 AM on August 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


"I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!"

There is difference between being discrete and deliberately provoking people with talk of "secrets". Not mentioning the business or telling him a white lie (we are filing paperwork for other businesses). It sounds like you invited him to be part of drama (not answering pretty normal questions like where you are going/have been) and he thought you wanted the attention. Any time I have had interaction with someone coy they have acted as you have; people that truly want no attention tend to answer such questions with boring answers (this package?, oh I bought some toothpaste for a cheap price) to discourage further questions.
posted by saucysault at 9:53 AM on August 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Is your roommate (is this college and you share a room? or is this a housemate?) an anxious person? I could certainly see a situation where you have an uptight/judgy/provincial/anxious college roommate wished on you by student services. If that's the case, what about, "Look, man, let's talk about [string/weather/sports/classes/food] and not the tiny personal details of my life - I like talking to you just fine, but sometimes I feel like I'm expected to report in, you know?"

In this scenario, I see your roommate as someone who is lonely, doesn't know how to make small talk, is worried about irrational stuff and doesn't have a lot of life experience, so he's thinking "oh no, what if MiuMiu is on drugs? What if he's frittering away all his money on marijuana? Or maybe he's dealing it, and the cops are going to send a SWAT team and shoot our pets and I'll be arrested as an accessory! Or what if he passes out in a drug-induced coma and it's all my fault for not intervening?"

Honestly, I have a secretive housemate (I mean, he's my favorite housemate that I've ever had but he's not a forthcoming person) and sometimes I do ask slightly more nosy questions than I might with someone who shared more personal details - and it is rooted in anxiety. I feel like if one of my other housemates has a health crisis or doesn't turn up for a day or two or is acting sort of mopey, I know enough about their lives to be able to find them or decide whether I need to urge them to go to the ER or whatever. Whereas with my less talky housemate (we do talk - it's just that we talk about The Internet, and fandom stuff, and cooking) I don't know those things and so I sometimes ask, like, "where are you going?" because he has been known to take off for a week without telling anyone and then I have to stick my head into his room to make sure he hasn't, you know, died when I haven't seen him for a few days.
posted by Frowner at 9:58 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be up front and clear about what you want. You want him to stop asking you questions about what's going on in your life, so say that to him. Be nice about it, but also be clear about it. Your life is not up for discussion.

Or, you could just respond to his questions with factual, vague statements:

Q] Where are you going?
A] Out.

Q] May I ask what it is? Or is that personal?
A] It's personal.

Etc.

Another more nuclear option is to ask "why do you want to know?" when he questions you? This will quite likely cool his opinion of you as well as shutting him up, though. If you're in a long lease, think about this before taking that option.

Whether other people feels you should feel bothered by this or not is kinda worthless. You actually DO feel bothered by it, so that's what you have to deal with.
posted by Solomon at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm not telling" (said casually, with a smile, to every question ever.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:02 AM on August 12, 2013


When he received a package for me:
"May I ask what it is? Or is that personal?"
(my annoyed level: 98)


Run-of-the-mill friendly curiosity sends your annoy-o-meter to 98? I don't understand why you have a roommate. If you have one out of economic necessity, all I can think is that everybody's life would be better if you offered up some basic friendliness. Note not friendship -- there's no requirement to be pals with a roommate -- but getting in a huff over small talk is not a reasonable way to co-habitate.

In a previous relating-to-people question of yours, one answer, favourited 46 times, said

I say this in all kindness: you really, really need some therapy to help you learn about what is and isn't normal in platonic vs sexual male/female relationships.

Given how many of your questions involve difficulty in relating to others, and your being upset about the problems there, I think "see a therapist" is good advice here. The question about the stranger in your room was bizarre; if this is still the same roommate, I don't know what to say. There really isn't enough information given in the questions for anybody to tell you what the score is, other than: this stuff is causing you an unusual amount of distress and you are struggling with how to sort out relationships to an unusual degree, and counseling of some stripe would probably make your life easier and more pleasant.
posted by kmennie at 10:03 AM on August 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


(Please feel free to criticize me - maybe I'm not supposed to be annoyed!!)

You're allowed to feel however you feel, of course. But I do get the overall impression from your questions that 1. you don't have a very strong understanding of subtle social conventions and that 2. often, when you don't understand these things, you get annoyed with the person causing the confusion. Which is perfectly understandable- this person confused you, so you're annoyed- but often, it's not their fault or your fault really. Just a misunderstanding.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:09 AM on August 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!" Is this a suspicion-provoking statement? Does anyone know of a better way of saying this or something to explain why your business idea is secret?

"We don't want to say until we've fleshed out the details a bit more" might be somewhat less suspicion-provoking. At least it implies that you'll be public about the nature of your business at some point, just not right now, suggesting legitimacy. Whereas with something illicit you would presumably keep it secret indefinitely.

That said, if you say you're starting a business but don't say what it is, you can't stop people from speculating. If not aloud, at least in their heads. Some people's speculations will be more charitable than others. Not much you can do about that, other than revealing your business.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem here is threefold:

One: Small talk reads to you as nosiness, probably even when it's executed well.

Two: He is bad at making small talk, but is still trying to do so. He's doing this to try to maintain a generally good relationship between the two of you.

Three: There seems to be some sort of communication barrier going on between the two of you.

It's okay to have boundaries but it sounds like you're not really communicating those boundaries to him; there are whole layers of conversation here that he's not aware of. It also sounds like there are other problems in the space between you and him, and the annoying nosiness is a symptom, not the disease. I used to have to share a house with a cousin I hated and even the sound of his breathing annoyed me - not because there was anything especially annoying about it, but because I just really did not like him. Little things can escalate. If this is the same roommate from the previous question where he offered up your room without your knowledge, is it possible he's getting on your nerves in a lot of other ways and this is just one thing that's bothering you?

Your first two examples are just standard small talk.

Your third example is of a conversation whose connotations were not the same to you as they were to him. You took great offense at being asked if you were on drugs when that is probably the most common reason for wearing sunglasses indoors or at night, and you assumed he was attaching a moral judgment to being on drugs. Also, it turned out that you were wearing sunglasses to avoid making eye contact, which I think we established is a hell of a lot weirder than being on drugs - it's so weird, in fact, that if I were your roommate and you told me that, I'd think you'd made that decision because you were on drugs.

About the ""a" business" thing, all I had originally said was "I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!" Is this a suspicion-provoking statement? Does anyone know of a better way of saying this or something to explain why your business idea is secret?

It's suspicious because it's not an answer. It's fine if it's a secret, but try to convey to him why it's a secret, and please bear in mind that "Because we decided to keep it a secret" is not an answer and will raise even more suspicions. Quit being coy. If you're keeping it secret for a reason, tell him what that reason is. If there isn't really a reason, I don't know, make one up.

I think I might be creating a bad cycle because way earlier I have already started to avoid contact with him because I don't want to be asked questions, but it might have made him even more 'curious' or 'suspicious' of me (thus leading to the recent sunglass-drug inquiry).

After a while of me giving him one-word / super short answer to his question every time, he seems to have gotten the idea that I hate to be 'asked' and he started to ask things like this instead:

"Are you XYZ (whatever question)? But you don't have to answer if you don't want to."

... I guess this is considerate, but it feels even more awkward, haha.


Your roommate is trying very carefully to navigate a situation that feels like a game where you know the rules and he doesn't. He understands that something he's doing is annoying you and he's trying to figure out what it is and to try to seem accommodating so you won't be annoyed.

What you should do is just tell him that you're not really much for small talk. That's all. Quit waiting for him to figure it out by himself and just tell him.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


It sounds to me like he's only trying to make conversation with you. In Western culture it's considered friendly and sociable to show interest in another person's activities. A shared living space kind of ups the intimacy level from the outset - there needs to be some base level of trust for two people to live together comfortably.

A roommate isn't like a stranger on the street or a cashier at a store, who you could brush off and not waste another thought on. Presumably he's someone you must share common living areas and appliances with, and split chores with. You also mentioned attending the same birthday party as him, so you appear to have mutual friends as well. It's entirely your right to minimize the personal information you share with him, but there's no reason to be hostile about it. I'll go further and say that it might be in your own best interest to maintain a pleasant, if somewhat distant, relationship with your roommate. Consider that if you ever misplace your key and get locked out, if you're sick and need someone to run out and get something for you, if you need to borrow laundry detergent or ask any other kind of favor, what does it cost you to make small talk with your roomie once in a while?

On preview, I second kmennie. This question is a little hard to understand in the context of your previous questions, where you've demonstrated an alarming degree of trust and openness in your personal interactions with complete strangers and bare acquaintances. Is the problem simply that you don't LIKE your roommate? Is it really his questions that are annoying, or does he have other annoying traits that cause you to dislike socializing with him? In any case, therapy might help you to examine your feelings about your roommate and about other people in general, and help you to establish boundaries while maintaining goodwill with the people in your life.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why not be honest?

"I find these sorts of personal questions very annoying. Could you please stop asking them?"

Your roommate sounds like an idiot. Drug dealing? Really?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the people who are saying you are overreacting didn't read your previous question. This guy is more than just curious, he's acting like your mom in a creepy way. This guy isn't a really a friend, right, just a roommate? Asking you about your packages and where you're going and where you've been is annoying, and I'd hate it too.

Start oversharing boring, trivial things with him and his "get to know my roommate" curiosity might be satisfied

This is not going to work. Boundaries only work when they are clear and firm. This guy is already cluless, nosy and paternal. You need to shut him down and stand by it. Tell him he pries too much into your life and you need him to back off. Then remind him of this when he pushes.

In Western culture it's considered friendly and sociable to show interest in another person's activities.

In Western culture it's also consider polite to respect people's privacy. I think trying to make this an East vs West thing is missing that a dude is constantly "checking on" a woman who is forced to be around him all the time by virture of the lease.
posted by spaltavian at 10:23 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


2. When me going out:
"Where are you going?"


One of the advantages of living with a roommate is them knowing when you left, where you are going (to a certain degree), and when you are expected to return. This is so they can inform someone when you don't return as expected and the police know which ditch to start looking in for your body. So this part of the questioning is both reasonable and something you might want to consider embracing. Or not if you don't want that back up. I had one roommate who seemed to feel compelled to have a stalkerish level of detail of where I was at all times and I basically ended up never telling them anything beyond the vaguest of hints about what I was doing.
posted by Mitheral at 10:29 AM on August 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Actually, this is good news for you--you have a chance to practice setting boundaries with someone in a safe environment. This is great!

The keys to setting boundaries are:

-be direct--say exactly what you mean:

"I'll be back when I'm back. I am not going to tell you when I'm going to be back."

or

"The package is personal. Please don't ask."

-be consistent--once you have said you aren't going to talk about your personal stuff with him, don't talk about it:

When he says, "But I'm just looking out for you," you say "I don't need to tell you when I'm going to be back." If he tries to argue, just repeat your simple statement. Some people call this the broken record technique, and after he hears you say the same thing ("I am not going to tell you when I'm going to be back.") over and over again he'll stop. (There is an exception, like if he says "But I want to know whether I can park my car in your space," or "I'm not going to be home either and I want to make sure someone is around to look after the cat," then it's totally different--but in that case he's not prying into your personal biz, he has a good reason to ask).

-don't apologize--Don't start off everything you say with "I'm sorry, but..." You don't have to apologize for this.

-be neutral and polite--you don't need to snap at him or deliberately try to make him feel bad about asking these questions. He is probably just curious. Keeing a neutral tone of voice will minimize the awkwardness.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:33 AM on August 12, 2013


It's not considerate to constantly ask questions, while pretending you don't have to answer them. If he was being considerate, if he was respecting the boundaries you've put in place, the questions would stop.

You're going to have to tell him to stop. Then just don't answer any more.

If this is one of the same roommates who let a strange/homeless girl sleep in your room without telling you, I really think you should move.

And, again: the secret business and the sunglasses inside at night to avoid someone at a party does strike American youth as being a potential drug dealer/drug user situation. This is more likely than not NO moral judgment there. You would have to ask your roommate to be sure.
posted by RainyJay at 10:34 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those are the kinds of questions my roommates and I ask each other all the time (well, minus the drugs thing). It's totally fine to not want to answer them (you can have a simple stock answer, something like "I'd rather not say"), but he isn't doing anything wrong by asking.

Asking you if you're on drugs is weird, but not as weird as wearing sunglasses indoors at night. An abnormal/inappropriate response to an abnormal/inappropriate behaviour, IMO. Particularly when he knows you are unemployed but still somehow supporting yourself and also that you've "started a secret business" recently. I'd wonder about drugs myself in that situation, although I wouldn't ask outright.
posted by randomnity at 10:36 AM on August 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!" Is this a suspicion-provoking statement?

Yes. Next time just tell him a white lie instead of talking about secret businesses you can't tell him about. A sentence like that invites speculation.

Actually, now that I think about it, if I had a roommate who received packages all the time that they didn't want to tell me about, didn't seem to have a job or any way I could clearly see of supporting themselves, and was having a friend over to discuss a super-secret business they couldn't tell me about...yeah I might start to wonder if they were up to something weird.


2. When me going out:
"Where are you going?"
& When coming back:
"You went to XYZ?"
(level: 60)


This really isn't that nosy, especially if you share a room. Maybe your roommate just wants to know when you'll be back so he can plan on dancing around in his underpants in the kitchen, having someone over, or get some studying done when the place is quiet.

My point is that there's a million innocent reasons for your roommate asking you most of these things, and it is probably his attempt at making small talk and getting to know you a little bit. I don't see this as a sign that your roommate thinks you are not trustworthy or a criminal (yes, even reading your previous sunglasses question).
posted by inertia at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's reasonable for your roommate to wonder how you are paying the rent that he may be held liable for paying if you can't pay the rent. I would give him an answer that is both vague and reassuring.

Instead of a conversation that goes

"Hey, how do you make money to pay the rent?"
"I have a business."
"What kind of business?"
"A secret one."


Maybe you could have a conversation that goes

"Hey, how do you make money to pay the rent?"
"I have a business."
"What kind of business?"
"It's a long story, but it involves books and the internet."


You are probably thinking that you need to say something like

"Hey, how do you make money to pay the rent?"
"I have a business."
"What kind of business?"
"It's a long story, but it involves books and the internet.
What I do is I buy my books from X for $A and sell them on Y for $B.
I buy about W or so a week, and make about $M in profit.
Would you also like to get in on this totally bitchin' opportunity?"


but you don't have to go into any serious amount of detail. Just give the guy some peace of mind, and think about why someone would want to ask you questions in the context of their relationship with you. Give them enough info so they feel ok about shutting up and minding their own business.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, if this is the same roommate from when you posted your question in January (I woke up and there was a stranger in my room), I might be even wondering if your roommate is hoping to sell drugs to you. Maybe you should be asking some of your own questions!
posted by oceanjesse at 10:53 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Are you XYZ (whatever question)? But you don't have to answer if you don't want to."

There's your chance. Say "Yeah I don't want to answer." Your roommate will probably think that is rude, if not hurtful. You need to decide whether you care about their feelings or not.

- If you do care even a little, you should follow up with "Sorry, but I'm just very private and I don't like small talk." Make sure you aren't wearing your 99% annoyed scowl face while you say this.

- If you do not care what your roommate thinks at all, you might want to follow up with "I'm private and I don't want to make small talk." Feel free to let your annoyance show in your face and tone.
posted by General Tonic at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another thought I had. If you're asked what some package is, or where you're going, think of the most personal and embarrassing thing you can think of:

"What's in the box?" "Heavy duty flow tampons."

"Where are you going?" "For a colonic."

Basically, something designed to make the guy run screaming from the room.

As has been previously noted, I'm an asshole.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's also called "negative reinforcement", which means you would actually be acknowledging the guy's questions. Better to tell him politely to fuck off.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:14 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ooooh I SO understand where you're coming from! I live with my fiancé, but my sister was staying with us for a few weeks. She had NONSTOP questions. If we were cooking, she'd want to know what it was, when it would be ready, how we made it, where we learned about it, etc. I am sure she was just being curious and interested but to me it felt like judgment. Either she thought we were doing x thing the wrong way (that's not how you make curry!), or that the thing in question was wrong in the first place (eew curry is gross). I'm sure she wasn't judging us as much as I thought but it still rubbed me the wrong way. I don't know if it's that I'm necessarily a private person (because I'll be the first one to say "I gotta go poop" as opposed to glossing over it), but I don't like the position of superiority that an asker gets. I mean--they ask you something and now you owe them an explanation? In your own house? PUH LEASE. I feel the same way about texts/voicemails that say "call me". Who the hell are you to make me call you?!?! Not my boss, that's for damn sure.

So! I would just start giving short answers or ignoring the questions if you can. Regardless of their motivation, most of the things are truly not their business. Answering will only further reinforce that these are answers the roommate deserves to know, which is not the case. The answer to "What are you doing?" is "Nothing". The answer to "What about later?" is "I don't know" (notice the lack of "yet"). "What's in the box?", gets an "I don't know" and then you open it in your room. I only say this because I agree with what someone else said--refusing to answer or saying you prefer privacy may be seen as too blunt/negative. Hopefully the roommate has enough social graces to not ask followup questions after an "I don't know" because what would even come next, "When will you know"?" That would be WAY out of line.

Good luck, and sorry. I highly recommend living alone!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:25 PM on August 12, 2013


Have you thought about living with some women around your age instead? So many of your questions revolve around odd encounters with Western men that it makes me think you'd be better off spending more time with women. As a woman who lived in a foreign country for several years, I learned social niceties and standards from my female friends native to that country. My female friends were also a great source for answers to my "Is that guy weird or is it cultural or am I the weird one?" questions.

I can't tell from your question if your roommate is an average person trying to be friendly, or a buttinski. ("Buttinski" - slang for someone who "butts in.") Either way, you can live your life in a private way without putting on the air of "I've got a secret!!" to everything that you do. It's cool to be friendly with roommates and all, but you don't have to tell them the contents of your mail or everywhere that you go. Nor should you make a big deal of informing them that there are things going on in your life that they are not privy to. Just be private, rather than asking for privacy.
posted by stowaway at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


"I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!" Is this a suspicion-provoking statement? Does anyone know of a better way of saying this or something to explain why your business idea is secret?

This is a very odd thing to say, it almost implies that you meant to keep it secret that you had a business at all, but accidentally said something. This prompts people to think about the sort of businesses someone would keep secret.

Several friends of mine have inadvertently ended up with roommates who were dealing drugs in secret. This generally isn't a good roommate experience for people to be surprised by. Your roommate may not so much be assuming you are selling drugs as hoping you'll say something to put them at ease so they know you aren't.

If you don't even want to say the slightest thing about your business, not even so much as "a new product we haven't finalized yet", "it's in the personal services sector", "Sorry, there's an NDL, I might be able to tell you more after I talk to my lawyer" -- you shouldn't be mentioning you have a business.

Also, taking your past questions into account, if this was your friend's business idea, and they brought up the idea of agreeing to keep it a secret -- you should be very careful. Ask yourself why they wouldn't want you to tell -- what if they had you front money for something fake, or were putting you in a position where you would be committing a crime, or were taking advantage of you in some way? You seem a bit naive about taking risks with people you don't know well, and it is a sad fact that there are people out there who will take advantage of that.
posted by yohko at 1:46 PM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think most of this is probably pretty normal roommate chatter - but, it does annoy you, and you do have a right to not share details with roommates that you don't care to share.

I think there's one big exception to this, and that's your source of income (and whether it is 100% legal). I once had a roommate with a very unclear income stream (that is, there was clearly income there and he always paid his rent, but the circumstances of how he got that income were always a little unclear to me and our other housemates). It always made us pretty uncomfortable, because we couldn't feel as certain that he would be good for rent and utilities. I do think people you share expenses and living space with have the right to know that you have a stable income and that you aren't doing anything illegal on the property that could get them into any trouble. You do not need to share EVERY detail of your job/income stream, but you should share enough that your roommate feels comfortable knowing rent will be paid on time and you're not up to anything 'off' that could negatively affect him down the road.

I would suggest having an honest conversation in which you try and communicate openly about this and lay any fears of his to rest. Something to the effect of: "I am a really private person, and sometimes your questions about my activities, packages, etc. make me feel uncomfortable. It is truly nothing personal - this is just how I would be with any roommate. I'm worried that my desire to keep my personal life private may have raised some questions in your mind about my income source - I want to assure you that everything is on the up-and-up. My income source is [XXX something clear and understandable - don't need to give details, just something non-evasive]. I hope this helps you feel more comfortable that I will be able to pay the rent on time every month, but I also have to ask that you let me volunteer information about my activities, mail, etc. in the future rather than asking every time. Thank you!"
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing is, you often ask what feel like variants of the same question. You often want to know how to stop people encroaching on your personal business without you having to be mean or even sharp. It's a bit like when people ask "how can I break up with someone without hurting them at all so we can remain friends?" and the true answer is, most of the time you really just can't. If it was easy to have it both ways, that's what everyone everywhere would do all the time. - Either you are stuck playing along with your roommate's unwanted curiosity by answering questions you don't want to (and shouldn't have to!) answer, or you must be sharp (or at least firm) about it and not give in. When they ask what's in the package you can say, with a smile, "Well, that's not your business!" and laughingly shake your head as you take your package to your room. I mean hell, what if it's sex toys? What if it's prescription medication? What if it's just none of their business? Their discomfort at having you draw the boundary is not more important than your discomfort at having them cross it. At all!
posted by tomboko at 4:06 PM on August 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Have you thought about living with some women around your age instead? So many of your questions revolve around odd encounters with Western men that it makes me think you'd be better off spending more time with women.

this. i'm also wondering how old this roommate is. is he much older and trying to be parental with you? whatever his age all you really have to do is say "i'm uncomfortable with you asking me all these questions and i'd appreciate it if you wouldn't do that". you do have to communicate with people as they can't read your mind, but considering your posting history i think it would probably be best if you had a female roommate.
posted by wildflower at 4:18 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I can't tell you what kind of business because my friend and I decided to keep it a secret!" Is this a suspicion-provoking statement?

Yes.
If you are saying that your business—your primary source of income—is "a secret", it sounds like you are hiding something.

(You may not like your roommate, but in a way you two are "partners"—in a business called "Keep The Two of Us From Being Homeless, Inc.". That is, if you don't cover your half of rent, you'll probably both get kicked out because the total monthly rent won't get met. Your roommate doesn't want that, so their concern as to if you have dependable income is a real concern.)

Now, when you said "it's a secret" it could be that you meant "none of your business", but couching it as a "secret" raises red flags for your roommate.

Giving "it's a secret" as an answer could be someone hiding something out of embarrassment: It could be out of fear of someone taking your idea: It could be out of fear for your safety: Or it could be out of fear of arrest, because the nature of the business is illegal in your location: These are the ideas that are floating through your roommates head when they ask you a question and get a coy response.

Does anyone know of a better way of saying this or something to explain why your business idea is secret?

Well, you might provide a reason as to why it's secret like "Dude, my friend an I have an idea but we don't want anyone to steal it, so we're not telling anyone until it launches—but I'll add you to our email list so you'll be one of the first to know!". Or you could say something like "Oh my god, it's terribly boring, but basically it has to do with cutting potatoes [or whatever]."

It you think it's none of their business, just tell them
"Don't worry about it—my employment is legal and I'll always have my check when the rent is due."
----

P.S. - I would also go along with the above "see a therapist" advice. There seem to be a lot of problems and grief coming into your life stemming from misunderstandings of everyday DO's and DO NOTs of American life. Maybe visiting some sort of "New to the USA" support group/web forum?
posted by blueberry at 6:17 PM on August 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Regarding scenario #2:

I can understand how the questions about the package or sunglasses/drug use might seem nosy to you, and there's a lot of good advice above about how to deflect or respond to these kinds of questions.

In shared living situations, though, my experience has been that letting people know when you're coming and going is just common courtesy. Personally, I find it comforting to have a sense of whether or not someone else is at home, or when they plan to be at home, so that I know if I can, say, monopolize the bathroom by taking a long bath, or if I should plan on locking the front door and turning off all of the lights when I call it a night. (There are also the benefits, safety-wise, that Mitheral describes.)

This doesn't mean that you have to go out of your way to find your roommate and announce, "I'm going out!" and it doesn't mean that you have to answer follow-up questions if you don't want to. But if your roommate is just hanging out in the kitchen, or in his room with the door open, or whatever, and you walk right by him on your way out without looking up or saying anything at all... yeah, that would strike me as odd, and a bit rude.

The next time you're going somewhere and he's right there, you might try this: be the first one to speak. Just say, "Hey, I'm heading out, I'll be back later/tonight/Sunday." Then, scoot. If he asks where you're going, you can just say, "Oh, just downtown/campus/running errands; mumblemumble, gotta catch the bus, see you later!" on your way out the door. This way, you head off his questions, avoid giving him precise locations and times, and still exchange the bare minimum of niceties.

If things have reached a point where you literally do not feel comfortable saying "hey" to him when you're in the same room, this sounds like a really fraught living situation, and I'd nth all of the comments encouraging you to explore other options.
posted by Austenite at 12:02 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I gather from the OP's prior questions that she's a student living with other students. She's not actually obliged to tell her roommate(s) the details of her finances. Sure, everyone wants to know that their roommates are good for their portion of the rent, but I am afraid that many of the answers here are giving her the impression that she's required to share more details than she's comfortable with. When I was in college and lived in shared housing off-campus, I didn't know how much my roommates relied on parents, financial aid, or jobs to pay their rent. Their details were not my business, just as mine were not theirs. Rent got paid.

My concern here for the OP is that she's not familiar with social norms, and she's trying to figure out to handle someone who may not be so familiar with social norms himself. Young guys in their 20s are often the worst people to look for guidance as to how to behave appropriately. They just do what they want to do and don't worry too much about manners or making others comfortable. That the roommate thought she was on drugs for wearing sunglasses -- when wearing sunglasses indoors and at-night is definitely a little trendy right now among the college-age set -- indicates to me that he's the one with poor manners, not her.

I really think some more IRL girlfriends would help the OP navigate these situations better. MiuMiu - it is more than ok to enforce boundaries! You don't have to talk about anything that you don't want to!
posted by stowaway at 1:42 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just another data point and I'm from a different country (UK) but I have lived in 6 shared houses with lots of different room mates, and apart from the comment about drugs, those are all very standard questions that I ask and have been asked many, many times. I always ask where someone is going - that's basic polite interest! Of course, if the person doesn't want to answer then they are free to give a non-answer but if they're always hiding things then they will come across as rude and anti-social. I know it might not feel that way from the inside.
posted by kadia_a at 12:41 PM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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