I'm bad at interpreting these things
June 17, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Nerdy female feeling bullied by extroverted female. I have trouble with subtle communication forms, so I imagining this? If not, how can I handle it?

I've rented a room in my brother's condo for the past year. My brother recently rented the other spare bedroom to another girl, Kristin, who neither of us knew before this. I am a rather introverted, relaxed person, with a calm, happy life with very few problems. Kristin is a very extroverted person. We are all in our late 20s.

Kristin began making comments to me very shortly after she moved in. These comments seem judgmental, and I've started to feel a bit bullied by them, but I don't know if I'm just imagining bad intent behind them. This is going to be kind of long, since I'm not good at interpreting these sorts of things, so I don't really know what details are important.

I work from home and don't keep regular hours. I sleep a lot as well. Kristin gets extremely early and works long hours and weekends. Her hours are so early that I might still be asleep when she gets home from work. She makes comments to me like: "What were you doing just now? You were SLEEPING???" "Sleeping AGAIN????" "Damn, how can you sleep so late? Are you sick or something?"

She knows I work at home and I'm not sick, but still says these things several times a week. Her comments really embarrass me and make me feel like she thinks there's something wrong with me. She's never made a comment like that to my brother, even though on the weekends he sleeps almost as late as I do.

My brother and I probably rate around a 6 for neatness and cleanliness; Kristin rates around a 9. We have compromised on specific things and my brother and I have been cleaning more. But Kristin still comments about it to me. Never my brother. She'll tell me she did extra cleaning, like re-doing things in the patio we haven't touched in a year. I'll say "Thank you," but that seems to be the wrong answer. She'll stand there looking at me. I am actually mystified as to whether she's trying to communicate something, since I do all the extra cleaning that we actually talked about (with words, not looks). When my brother and I leave occasional things in the sink, she'll always come to me and say "What would you like me to do with this?" I know that means "I want to you take care of this right now." She just always comes to me, not my brother, regardless of whether the item is his or mine. If it's my brother's and I say, "That's Nate's, he'll take care of it" then she'll just do it herself. And seems angry. I also don't know why she doesn't just ask me to take care of it instead of asking the question she does. That's one of the reasons I worry the things she says has double meanings that I have to figure out.

I am not a fashionable person and don't think about my appearance, and my boyfriend seems to think I look fine. So I just wear old jeans and t-shirts. Kristin will look at what I'm wearing and say things like "How old is THAT shirt?" I'll ask why she asks, and she'll say, "Oh, I just thought it was cute, I wondered if it was vintage." This is the sort of comment that makes me wonder if I'm imagining things. She could really just be trying to compliment me. But her comments make me feel really self conscious. I just wish she wouldn't judge my clothes either way.

The last thing is, Kristin loves to spend a lot of time chatting and getting drunk. When she comes home she always suggests we all have drinks together. My brother loves this. My brother likes to drink (I hate it). He has his own introvert tendencies that lead to him spending a lot of time around the condo, but I don't think he's really content with that, like I am. He's happy and excited when Kristin gets home and wants to hang out. I think he is really dazzled by her. (Not romantically though. He's gay.)

When she gets home I usually go to my room and spend the rest of the night reading, or online. Or I'll leave the house and exercise for an hour or two. I am very happy doing this. I find it difficult and tiring to concentrate my mind for hours on small talk or topics that I'm not interested in at all like reality TV, especially when the people talking are getting more and more drunk. And I thought I was being very accommodating too - I don't mind how drunk they get, how loud they get, how long they keep the lights on, any of that.

Apparently I am the rude one though. My brother told me that Kristin wants me to have drinks with them too, and is always asking why I don't. My brother said Kristin thinks I don't like her. (Which is actually not true. Despite how I feel embarrassed by her comments sometimes, I do feel completely friendly towards her and don't dislike her.) My brother said I am creating an awkward and unwelcoming environment in the condo. Whenever I see Kristin though, I'm always nice to her, no matter what she says to me. I smile and say hello. I don't just run out of the room when she gets home. Usually I'm already in there when I hear her arrive at the building. If I'm not though, I will hang around and talk to her as long as she wants, until she goes to change clothes or whatever. Then I will go to my room.

There are times I do go and hang out with Kristin and my brother while they drink. If I stay for half an hour and then get up to go to my room, Kristin will start pressuring me to stay, and acting like I'm hurting her feelings. Also Kristin will start pressuring me to drink, which I hate. If I drink a little she'll pressure me to drink more. She also got Nate to start smoking again even though he had just quit, which was very difficult for him. She just smoked all the time around him while they drink, and offered him smokes.

Sometimes I am so bad at reading social cues. And I don't pick up on subtleties in these situations. I have this feeling Kristin is trying to create a weird dynamic. Make me look like some bad person, or like there's something wrong with me, make me some sort of scapegoat, while cozying up to my brother. (Since he's the landlord here). Is that off? How should I deal with her?

By the way, I know my brother is not subtly trying to get me to move out, because I don't think he even knows how to be subtle any more than I do, plus just this week he suggested all these projects for us to start on here that will take many months to do.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
To extroverts, introverted behavior often appears to us as depression, loneliness, etc. She might be worried about you and trying to "help" you. *She* would never want to spend that much time sleeping, alone, etc., so she assumes that you don't really want to either. Or she might be insecure about you liking her and is trying to be friendly in the best way she knows how.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:36 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you are misreading her. As a very extroverted woman who has occasionally (many years ago and I'm not proud of it) been a "mean girl," I can say that this is the sort of subtle-can't put your finger on it-shit I would pull with girls that either annoyed me or made me insecure or that I just thought were odd. Also, she sounds like a workaholic and nothing annoys a workaholic more than someone who seems lazy. I'm sure you're not really lazy but all that sleeping would make anyone wonder. As for why she doesn't do it to your brother-that's easy. Men don't respond to this type of mental game in a way we like so it's not worth it.

I'm not saying she is a horrible person. But she's probably always been the alpha female and stays that way by subtly undermining the confidence of all the other females in the vicinity. It's a surprisingly effective strategy and comes very naturally to many women I've met. In my experience, ignore it, she will eventually tire of poking you. Or she'll be like this forever, so you will never be best friends. Doesn't sound like that bothers you much.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:54 PM on June 17, 2010 [14 favorites]

I don't know what you should do but she seems like a walking headache.

"What would you like me to do with this?" Oh please. Next time tell her to fill it with owl pee.
posted by ian1977 at 7:55 PM on June 17, 2010 [24 favorites]

Kristin sounds like an awful person to have to live with, regardless of whether you're an introvert or an extrovert. If I were you, I'd start lobbying to get rid of her. You shouldn't have to feel so uncomfortable, or be treated so badly, in your own home (and yes, it IS your own home even if you share it).
posted by amyms at 7:55 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

She sounds absolutely awful. It sounds as if she is very controlling and very insecure. You are nice to her, but you don't fawn over her. You obviously have no desire to spend time with her, but will not be rude. This perplexes her because she sees you as this shrinking violet and she's the beautiful rose, but you are clearly not jealous or in awe of her. You are happy being you and she doesn't understand how that could be and it angers her.

So what does she do? She takes passive aggressive stabs at you to cut you down. The clothes, the cleaning, the sleeping, the drinking, but none of this bothers you. Well it might a little, but you don't respond by becoming insecure or trying to change. This pisses her off more, you aren't even noticing her.

I really don't know what your solution is. I would kick her out, but since your brother loves her that might be out. I would definitely talk to your brother about what's been going on, he probably doesn't notice. I would also call her out on the passive aggressive cleaning stuff, "What am I supposed to do with this?" "Nothing, I'm going to get to it a little later."

"What are you sick?" "You must know by now I like to sleep in."

I would also stop giving her an inch. If you don't want to sit outside drinking, don't do it for half an hour just to appease everyone. Tell her thanks, but no thanks, you know I don't like to drink.

This is is not in your head, I promise you.
posted by whoaali at 7:57 PM on June 17, 2010 [31 favorites]

I think you should take some time to get to know her, and let her get to know you. It could be that she has no idea what to make of you. Similarly, her approach to things is equally mysterious to you. There is no reason why you can't get along; it seems to me that if you spent a bit of time casually together that would probably erase a lot of the tension. You could even approach it, when the time is right and the ice is properly broken, by saying, "You know, I'm just so bad at reading people, I realize it must seem like most of the time I am in my own little world." Putting some humor into the situation would probably diffuse much of the misunderstandings between you. Also - why can't you go out with them for a night? Nobody says you have to drink alcohol. Bars serve water and soft drinks too you know :)

For what it's worth, my habits are a lot like yours so I don't think you're a freak in this situation.
posted by contessa at 8:06 PM on June 17, 2010

I'm having a hard time determining whether she's being out of line or whether she's trying to be funny.

In your position, I think I would push her on the things she's vague about. If she is trying to snark, asking for clarification will deaden the impact of the snark, and if she's trying to be friendly, she shouldn't mind toning down the sarcasm or phrasing things a different way for you.

If she says "what would you like me to do with this," respond with "I would like you to put it back in the sink so that Nate can wash it when he gets home."

When she says "Damn, how can you sleep so late? Are you sick or something?," tell her "That got old the second time you said it, enough already."

As to the sitting around drinking, that seems to me like a pretty clear overture to friendliness. Do you have any interest in getting to know her better? If not, keep on keeping on, but if so, maybe extend an invitation to something you do for fun. Maybe she'd like to go on a run with you, or watch a movie. She clearly doesn't have a window into how you have fun, so help her out.

She interacts differently with your brother because she has an opening with him -- they can sit around and drink and be goofy. She may be trying to be witty and fun with you, and is not doing a very good job. If you give her some direction on how you would like her to interact with you, it may get better.

If it doesn't, I would lay down the law -- let her know that that you will not be walked on, and she needs to make specific requests or leave you alone.
posted by freshwater at 8:07 PM on June 17, 2010 [11 favorites]

She's a passive-aggressive [deleted]. In my experience, there's no conversation you can have with that type of person that won't end up getting used to create further grievances on their part.
There are degrees of right and wrong action on all sides here, but I think you need to have a discussion with your brother. He needs to know that his tenant is making your home into a hostile environment. Without making it an ultimatum, without bringing it from a place of emotion, maybe you can ask if you could look for a different tenant, or if he'd prefer that you find your own place. Honestly, living alone is the only way introverts like us can be completely happy. If you can afford it, that's what I would do. Some people are wired for roommates and some aren't, and it doesn't make you a bad person that this is not your bent.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:10 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

You guys don't mesh. She is an extrovert, and you're an introvert, but that isn't an inherent barrier to friendship, but the fact that she is being a jerk to you is a barrier.

I'm not going to suggest you get your brother to kick her out. As an introvert myself, I've gone through periods of longing, like Gertrude McFuzz, that I was more like Lolla-Lee-Lou. Let's face it: that's what the world expects us to be. And your brother is going through one of those phases.

Instead, I'll give you the single piece of advice I wish someone had given me a decade ago: live by yourself. Move out of your brother's condo, but don't find a roommate, look for an apartment you can afford by yourself (or possibly with your boyfriend). Having my own space has been the best thing I've ever done for myself.

Good luck. Your roomie sounds toxic.
posted by arnicae at 8:16 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sounds like a good answer to everything she asks (including "what should I do with this?") is "None of your business, really." Because it's not.

If you want to talk to your brother about it, since she isn't like this to him and he likely hasn't seen her harassing you, you might want to compile a convincing list beforehand. Make a note of what she said and when, w/tone of voice. Don't make recordings unless you're in a one-party recording state, but recordings might well help. (Or, heck, just suggest to her that you've got a webcam that's always broadcasting, and imply that it records her every time she's at your door. If she's really trying to harass you subtly without anyone knowing, that might make a big difference.)

My mom was outright abused by my dad's mom every time they visited. But Grandma was really, really good at concealing it, and Dad never saw a thing. Fortunately he believed her. But if he had been at all skeptical, it would have been extremely hard to convince him of what his mother was doing, almost right under his nose, because she was so good at hiding it.

I've seen other similar situations. When the person doing the harassing doesn't want to hurt a third party's opinion of them...well, if they've never given *any* indication of that behavior, it can be hard to convince the unaffected person. It's particularly hard when they've cultivated a good opinion of the harassing person. It can take overwhelming evidence.
posted by galadriel at 8:18 PM on June 17, 2010

Dear anonymous, do not spend another minute thinking about this person's motives or trying to figure out what she means. It is not important. If she cared about how you felt, she would choose her words thoughtfully. She is not. She does not. Let it go.

The important thing is that you are content with who you are and how you live. That is awesome, even inspiring. But there will always be people who will not be happy for or with your choices. Usually such people themselves spend a lot of time trying to 'be' who they think society wants them to be, or have insecurities about their own choices and feel undermined when other people who choose differently seem happier (or happy at all!).

My mantra for myself in dealing with all kinds of people lately has become: don't take things personally. Honestly, life has become a lot sweeter, and a lot easier - I don't spend time reading into people's words about me, and most importantly, I don't waste time second-guessing my own choices for any reasons except my own. Those who want good things for me learn to trust me or talk to me in a way that I respond to (without getting personal), and those who are trying to get to me? Well, they just get mighty pissed off!

And then they move on. Total win.
posted by mondaygreens at 8:20 PM on June 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Independence is often seen as a sign of aggression.

You're a homebody, she's a neatfreak partygirl. Not sure you two couldn't be friends outside of this, but roommates are different. You just have to learn to push her bullying off. "Well, not everybody is a workaholic." If she wants to dig at you, you can banter.
posted by rhizome at 8:31 PM on June 17, 2010

Based on what you've said I really doubt Kristin is trying to be malicious. As a pretty extroverted female, I can tell you that however awkward and attacked you might feel around her, she probably feels the same way about you. I can't say for sure (i.e. maybe she is actually a raging bitch) but hopefully I can give you some insight into what might be going on.

Really introverted people are intimidating to me. My gut instinct is to assume they don't like me, or they're being quiet because they're judging me. I feel like I have this boisterous overbearing presence and they don't want to be around me. That makes me insecure, so I might ask them to come hang out, not to punish them but because I want to show them that I'm really not the terrible loud heathen I'm sure they think I am.

She's probably used to coming home and talking to her family or her housemates. Social silence is like TORTURE to someone really extroverted. But she doesn't know what to say to you, so she just says the first or only thing she can think of. I've lived with girls who tease, and it was off-putting at first, but it's just how they interact. And yeah, after a while she might start getting really catty because she doesn't understand why (she thinks) you don't like her. In my experience, the teasing will go away if there's something else to talk about and the cattiness will go away if she thinks you do like her.

So my suggestions, if you DO want to work towards a more harmonious existence:
-Beat her to the punch and greet her when she gets home from work so she doesn't feel pressured to kill the silence.
-Talk to her about herself. Even compliment her once in a while. It might feel disingenuous to you to pretend to care, but trust me!*
-Throw her a bone and hang out with her and your brother once in a while. If she pressures you to drink, you can shut her up by regretfully telling her that alcohol gives you headaches/ulcers/really bad hangovers.

*For the theory behind this, pick up some Dale Carnegie.
posted by ista at 8:34 PM on June 17, 2010 [14 favorites]

Don't try to match yourself to her expectations. If she asks you were sleeping you say, "Yeah, I was! Man, I love being well-rested, I feel fantastic. Working from home is the shit!" She's not the only personality in this arrangement. Whenever you sense that she's trying to embarrass you by noting something about your habits or your clothes, stop and ask yourself if she's just jealous. Behave as though she is.

Don't let her force you to do things around the house. Answer questions like "what am I supposed to do with this?" literally. "Leave it in the sink, please." Don't try to answer the question you assume is lurking underneath. Face value answers.

You seem to have a good relationship with your brother. Possibly you should talk to him about all this, and how it's making you feel. People shouldn't pressuring you to drink alcohol, which kind of goes without saying (or it should).
posted by Hildegarde at 8:37 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Be honest with her about how you socialize. "Eh, I don't really like sitting around watching Reality TV, even by myself. Maybe we can talk when ________." Her behavior sounds obnoxious and I bet she's acting in that way partly because she thinks you don't like her. She's interpreting you leaving the room and not wanting to socialize as "Anon, must dislikes me. I'm trying to get to know her better but she keeps shutting me down. AGH!" Then cue the passive aggressive behavior you mentioned earlier. Explain what your boundaries are and how you tick when it comes to drinking and chatting. If she is at all compassionate, she'll understand.

As for the snarky comments... call her out on it. Make sure that she knows that is NOT an acceptable way to communicate. It's annoying regardless of why it's happening.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 8:49 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think this is only mildly related to extroversion, and a lot more strongly related to someone who is threatened by the general existence of other people who illustrate that there is more than one way to function or to be happy. People with very strong outward personalities (especially those who tend to have a very black-and-white worldview) but pretty weak inner senses of self can fall into this category. In my experience, there's not much to do except to minimize contact, and find whatever common ground you might have (even if it's trivial) in order to use that as a way to be cheerfully pleasant (but still essentially neutral) when you have to interact.

For me, the more bothersome part of this scenario is the fact that your brother is getting on this bandwagon in which you are the one cast as the unwelcoming person who's creating a negative environment. (This also suggests to me that Kristin's problem is a lot more toxic than mere differences between introverted and extroverted folks; I mean, she appears to be inserting herself as a wedge between siblings, which seems like a real red flag to me.)

I would suggest talking to him, alone, in a neutral environment (say, you two go out for a nice lunch or dinner or something) and let him know that A) you have nothing personal against Kristin; B) you want to be able to maintain the same general living routine you've always had, and which he hasn't had a problem with before; and C) you need him, as your brother, to back you up. Try not to make this confrontational or accusatory in any way; just let him know that you don't want any feathers ruffled, and at the same time you don't want to have to alter your basic personality and living patterns in order to accommodate a roommate.
posted by scody at 8:58 PM on June 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

Some extroverts know how to get along with introverts, and some have never had the pleasure of learning. Kristen seems to not understand you or how to handle you. I don't know if she's actually being malicious or trying to make friendly overtures, but the way that she only bugs you and doesn't infringe on your brother makes me suspect she's coming from a stereotypical place of having a lot of expectations of women and less of men. This would incline me towards the "malicious and passive-aggressive" interpretation, but the end result is the same: Not Relevant.

It's up to you to decide, do you want to befriend her, or do you want to wash your hands of her? Either way, it's time for a major confidence boost. It's your home and you have a right to be totally comfortable in it.

If you want to wash your hands of her, it's pretty straightforward. Take the advice of lots of commenters upthread. Always be totally honest with her. When you catch her cleaning up after your brother, ask her to stop that and tell her it's your brother's responsibility to do it. When she asks you about your clothes, answer her in a straightforward manner and do not engage further. When she nags you to sleep less or come drinking, tell her that you're sleepy, that you don't want to drink, that you would prefer to be alone right now, etc. If she ever confronts you or is directly aggressive, tell her that you're never less than honest with her and that you would really prefer to keep a divide between roommates and friends.

If you want to befriend her, you're going to have to do a lot of the same things, but go a few steps further. Extroverts have trouble understanding the intense desire to be alone that introverts naturally possess. If she's never been around someone like you, who is comfortable in their introversion, she's not going to figure it out without you telling her. She probably needs a crash course in "Caring For Your Introvert". She needs to be reassured that you're happy spending time alone and sleeping, and that you're happy living in a slightly messy room. You can help her need to control and her need to assist you in making a concrete arrangement or two. After establishing an intent to be friendly, and not just cohabitating, you can try making a couple deals. She has full control over the cleanliness of the living room, say, and you promise to vaccuum every thursday or something, but nothing more. In exchange, you promise to set aside one night a week to hang out for a couple hours, no matter what, as long as you are not pressured to drink, and that you don't have to join in the conversation if you're not interested in it. She can promise to not bother you about sleeping at "odd" hours if you promise not to rub your free time in her face. And so-on.

I think that the power to control the situation is really in your hands.
posted by Mizu at 9:06 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

This is about her working early and a lot while you don't work as hard, full stop. She doesn't respect you and she never will; you are her punching bag and she thinks she can be as shitty as she likes to you because no matter how mean she is, she can always play that moral superiority card and boom that makes you lose. At least, in her mind.

There are some defense mechanisms you can learn, but these might not work and the only option might be to get the hell out, or convince your brother to get her out.

Generally these insecure extrovert types like to assert that they know what's normal and you're lame for being abnormal. Repeat to yourself: Kristin is a ridiculous piece of shit, who brings this crazy negativity into your life that comes from inside her. You know what you are doing and she is dogshit stuck to your shoe. She's a pathetic, transparent joke. So when she butts in, just laugh and reassert yourself.

From there you can see she's not so threatening and just accept what you like about her and ignore/deflect what you don't like.

You should probably talk to your brother in any case, and tell him that actually you are the one who feels unaccepted, harassed, and unwelcome and that it's actually sort of making your life a little shitty.
posted by fleacircus at 9:42 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is the very textbook definition of "high maintenance." I am familiar with this woman. She exists in order to get validation from the outside world.

If she can make you feel bad for waking up at 9, that makes her feel good for having woken up at 7. But you know what? Life isn't a fucking contest.

It sounds like you need to find appropriate ways of communicating with her. First I suggest doing whatever it takes to find common ground. Something the two of you can talk about or do together. Even if it's just one stupid TV show that comes on once a week. Any common ground, no matter how flimsy, is going to be crucial to your endeavor.

Next, do some experiments to find out the appropriate response. Like when she cleans the deck. She is bringing to you this fact: I cleaned the deck. She awaits the "right" answer. My guess is that the right answer is to fawn over it and be suitably impressed. Wow! I didn't know our deck could look that good! That's really awesome, Kristin, thanks!

Remember that praise costs you nothing. You can manufacture it endlessly, at no cost to yourself. But you risk sounding insincere. Start by dishing it out in small dollops, like sour cream. It may take practice. Many of us are not in the habit of dispensing praise.

I suspect that it worries her, that you lock yourself up in your room when she is making the attempts to reach out and have fun with you. Perhaps you can pretend to take up a demanding hobby, like WOW, or Eve Online, or some intensely personal journaling, or a work schedule which requires your presence at the oddest times.

She is not an idiot. She knows that you don't like her. (Or, in your own words, you don't DISLIKE her.) She wants you to like her. She is happy when people like her. She feels more secure in a housing situation where people like her.

Maybe you can find a way to like her that doesn't involve drinking. Maybe you can meet her halfway in this, and say something like "I have an hour I can spend with you guys, and then I have to meet my raiding party."
posted by ErikaB at 9:47 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't think this is an "introvert versus extrovert" situation. This is a situation where an unmitigated narcissist either doesn't understand the concept of social boundaries or does but is refusing to recognize them...because they can. You should perhaps not consider this being due to some personality defect or lacking on your part. As other posters have suggested, this person is choosing to create a hostile and toxic environment which you just aren't able to ignore or otherwise deal with at the moment. As long as you're not being similarly obnoxious, you have every right to be who you are and how you want to be.

I suggest you stop trying to figure out how to twist yourself into different shapes to accommodate the self-designated alpha girl. Once you start doing that it will never end and she won't respect you any more for it. Based on what you've told us, it appears she already thinks that she's got you jumping through some of her hoops and she's probably feeling rather empowered by it. If you try to explain to her how her behavior affects you, all she's going to hear is, "Blah, blah, blah, not about me, blah, blah, blah."

Independence is often seen as a sign of aggression.

Hmmm, passive aggression, maybe. But just because someone is making a choice to interpret independence in such a way, it doesn't mean their interpretation is valid. Don't feel guilted into tearing yourself down in order to assuage someone else's irrational beliefs. Self-centered people are essentially their own entertainment and the people around them are just side acts or an audience at best. Stop letting this girl drag you onto her stage because there's never going to be any applause for you up there.

Generally these insecure extrovert types like to assert that they know what's normal and you're lame for being abnormal. Repeat to yourself: Kristin is a ridiculous piece of shit, who brings this crazy negativity into your life that comes from inside her

This. So.Much.This.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:55 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

This is her fault because she is being an asshole, whether she means to or not.

Your contribution--and the thing you can change--is how you react. You can't feel guilty about this shit or act apologetic or try to be helpful.

Your life is AWESOME. You work from home. THAT'S AWESOME. Okay probably curse less unless you're a natural fighty swear-mouth like myself, but here are some ideas:

"Hells yes, I was sleeping, I sleep whenever the fuck I want, it's awesome. Man, I can't believe people have to get up in the morning, every morning. I just have whatever schedule I like.:

"This shirt is old enough for my boyfriend to want to fuck me on the regular!"

"I would like you to wash that dish and then put it in the cupboard. Thanks!"

The trick is to be 100% confident that you're awesome, because you are, and stop trying to play along using the normal social rules (don't brag, don't make her feel bad). Fuck that. Just rock out with your bad self and let her petty bullshit slide.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:58 PM on June 17, 2010 [14 favorites]

I just got out of a situation exactly like this one. I too work from home, and I tend to enjoy relaxing in my room alone by myself as well. I lived with 3 roommates who always had significant others or friends coming and going, so the house was always full. I would hang out and chat with people for a little while, but eventually I would retire to my room. Even though I wasn't doing anything wrong, I feel like I was pegged as the unfriendly, unsociable roommate.

Ultimately the only solution I found was to move out. My boyfriend (whose social and relaxation habits are very similar to my own) and I couldn't be happier. So I guess really the best advice I can give to you is to move out and find a place that can be your own.
posted by bloody_bonnie at 10:26 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I bet Kristin's worried that the siblings will gang up on her and kick her out, so she's trying to cozy up to the one she perceives to be the dominant sibling and intimidate the one she sees as the submissive one. She sees Nate as the alpha since it's his condo (and probably also because he's the man). She wants to be in second position herself, but you get that spot automatically because you're Nate's sibling, even though to her you don't "deserve" it because you're quiet and (in her eyes) antisocial.

I'd guess she's not exactly cutting you down on purpose, but she's definitely doing concrete things to play status games with you, and she should know better. While I suppose you may be overanalyzing the occasional incident, overall, I'd pretty confidently say you're NOT imagining it; she is chipping you down bit by bit, in a nasty, passive-aggressive, unfair way, and on some level she knows it. I know this because in the past, I've been both the mean girl and the victim of the mean girl; this is a dynamic I've put a lot of thought into and observed closely.

It might help to try to come up with a different way of socializing that you actually enjoy that will create a new type of friendship with her. Board games? Cooking together? If you show her you like her by doing a shared project like that, maybe she'll lay off the "come watch reality TV and drink with us!" pressure. Also, if there's anything you'd genuinely like her help or advice with- career advice? proofreading? bouncing story ideas off her? organizing your books? surprise party for Nate? - then I think you should ask- people like her are happiest when they feel that others admire and look up to them. (I wouldn't ask for clothing or makeover advice, though, since she'll probably turn snippy if you don't take every shred of her advice.)

Based on some similar dynamics I've experienced, though, I have to say, I doubt this person will change her behavior in the short term. Hopefully she'll outgrow it in a few years. But really, a better solution might be to not live with her any more if you can help it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:24 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I used to live with a girl who could not stand a dirty house. One time she came home and I had left a dirty plate in the sink. She picked it up and asked, "What is this? Why can't i ever come home to a clean house?" I responded pretty calmly that I would get around to doing the dishes later. She tried to escalate it but I told her, "Listen, i told you I will do it later, but right now I'm watching this show. I will get it after my show ends. If it is that important to you that it MUST be clean now, you can clean it yourself." Then I turned back to the TV, thinking that would end the conversation.

Then she threw the plate into the wall.

I have never understood these people, but in my experience they can be quick to anger and difficult to live with. I never did find a way to effectively communicate with that roommate; however, we got along great when we weren't living together, so who knows?

You might consider expressing your concerns to your brother and let him know that you are uncomfortable. I wouldn't pressure him to take any action against her, but just let him know that you are having these problems; this way he can start to key in and notice things that he may otherwise not even recognize.

Also, if he is a cool, ask him to pay attention and supports you occasionally when she tries to dominate the social interaction. If she wants to drink, say, "No thanks, I was actually thinking of doing X instead (going to the movies, going out to dinner, etc.). Want to come, bro?" And make sure he says yes and does what you want no matter what she says. It will make her feel less secure in her position and I'm betting she will be less likely to pull horseshit with you if she knows you "out-rank" her in your brother's eyes.
posted by Menthol at 11:24 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is something that will probably get easier as you get older, by the way; early 20s is still way too close to high school. And she is acting very high-school. Why else would she think you're obligated to provide her with social support? Does she have no friends of her own to drink with? By the way, if she doesn't...still not your job to supply it. She needs to get her own life and stop trying to absorb you into hers.

Mature adults do not harass or grill each other, even roommates, about harmless personal choices like not wanting to drink, or dressing differently, or being quiet. Even if those choices are ones they don't understand.

Introvert/extrovert/whatever; not important. Respecting you and your right to live as you choose? Important. She is not doing that. She is out of line.

Do not accomodate or try to change to appease her; it won't work, will make you miserable, why go through that? Shut her down verbally, if you like, the next time she nitpicks at you. Because that's rude and uncalled for. You pay rent; you have a job; you don't bother anyone. Everything else is none of her business, and you have the right to say so.

As per moving out, well, it could very likely come to that. You might want to clue your brother in at some point; it really doesn't matter how he feels, but how you do. If he wont' back you up on establishing boundaries, then you're probably better off on your own.
posted by emjaybee at 11:25 PM on June 17, 2010

Based on my experience with people who are like Kristin, I don't think she sounds malicious.

She does, however, sound a bit thick. Or should I say--she's used to a culture where people don't pick up on small, subtle gestures. You like to communicate carefully and delicately. Her style of communication is very "Hulk smash table, haha."

If you so like this girl, I think next time you feel insulted by her, you should tell her. "You know, Kristin, when you talk about me sleeping that way, I feel like I'm under attack for being lazy." Try to say this calmly, and with being accusatory.

And see what she says. If she is at heart a considerate person but just bad with her communication skills and doesn't understand how her words make you feel, she'll come around and make an effort to change her ways.

If she really is a jerk, nothing will change, and you won't have lost anything, but have gained valuable information that will help you decide what to do next.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:37 AM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'd suggest just answering her questions.

K: "How old is that shirt?"
You: "[X] years". Then smile and continue with what you're doing.

K: "What do you want me to do with this plate?"
You: "Nothing." Then smile and continue with what you're doing.

K: "Do you want to come for a drink?"
You: "No thank you." Then smile and continue with what you're doing.

If it's not a direct question, like the above, but more of a hint, such as "mmm, this beer is really tasty....", then don't respond verbally. If she actually has to ask you to do something, maybe she'll think a little harder about trying to coerce you into doing something.

She's talking to you like this to get some kind of a rise out of you. Whether it's malicious or not, I don't know. It could just be complete cluelessness on her part. The worst thing you can do, though, is respond in a negative way. Just be polite and friendly, like it seems you are already doing. She might or might not eventually stop behaving like this, but either way, you'll be handling the situation as best you can.

Also, tell your brother that if she has a problem with you, she's to speak to you directly. You guys aren't in the playground any more, and it's time she realised that.
posted by Solomon at 3:15 AM on June 18, 2010

Have you ever seen that 30 Rock episode where Liz goes to her high school reunion and she's dreading it because, in her memory, she was bullied by the popular kids? But once she talks to them, as a more socially-competent adult, she finds out that they were just trying to be her friend, and she was actually the one being mean and awkward? I'm pretty sure that's what's going on here. I'm speaking from experience as a formerly very introverted, kind of misanthropic person myself who missed out on a lot of possible friendships because-- even though I thought I was protecting myself from "mean girls" at the time-- I was the one being judgmental and rude. Think about the situation from her perspective for a minute: she moved into a new living situation with strangers, hit it off with her landlord (your brother), and then you react by being indignant every time she tries to start a conversation, and by hanging out alone in your room when she and your brother are having fun. You think she's judging you for sleeping a lot and wearing old clothes, but I'd bet she's really judging you for being kind of rude to her and never wanting to be around her.

As for the cleanliness- a "6" standard of cleanliness just isn't acceptable for some people. Not really your fault, but it probably upsets her to see dirty dishes lying around. She probably thinks she's being helpful when she does the dishes that you and your brother won't do.

If you look for the worst in people, you'll find it, but it really sounds to me like this girl just wants to be friendly with you.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:40 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I haven't read through all the answers, but I'm sure this has been said already: this doesn't sound like an introvert vs. extrovert issue, this sounds like a nice polite person vs. rude controlling jackass issue.

it really sounds to me like this girl just wants to be friendly with you.

What the hell?

I'd bet she's really judging you for being kind of rude to her and never wanting to be around her.

Why does she have to want to be around her? They're roommates, not best friends. I'm sorry, but if a person is introverted and wants to spend time in their room reading, they have every right to do so. This is the OP's home, where she should be able to relax and be herself. She doesn't have to be friends with anyone if she doesn't want to, and Nasty Roommate needs to learn to deal.
posted by cottonswab at 5:35 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Really introverted people are intimidating to me. My gut instinct is to assume they don't like me, or they're being quiet because they're judging me. I feel like I have this boisterous overbearing presence and they don't want to be around me. That makes me insecure,

Too freaking bad. Why should a person change their whole basic personality orientation just because it makes some people feel insecure? I think it's on the insecure person to learn something about introversion and adjust their behavior if it bothers them so much.
posted by cottonswab at 5:43 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I tend to agree with the posters who say that she's just an extrovert who hasn't learned how to handle introverts yet, and who feels really uncertain and insecure and shut down around you. Comments like "and how old is THAT shirt" are so obviously passive aggressive (depending on the tone of voice) that she would literally have to be a twelve-year-old girl trying to assert her dominance in a sixth grade classroom to think she could actually pull that off. You say you have no feelings of hostility towards her - she's obviously not malicious - so she's probably just nervous.

There's been a lot of advice already on how to perhaps reach out to her in return. I do want to say that you should set a limit for how much effort you're willing to put into this. You don't have to be friends with everyone who comes into your life, and it doesn't make you a bad person.

(I'm in a living situation like that right now, and any desire I had of making friends evaporated when I heard her badmouthing me to some of the other roommates, for similar things such as you describe in your post--sleeping too much, not going out all the time, etc. Thank god my situation is temporary, and I know I'll be out of here soon. I second the advice to get your own place, stat. It makes your life so much less stressful if you can actually feel at home in your own home.)
posted by Phire at 5:53 AM on June 18, 2010

This is the OP's home, where she should be able to relax and be herself. She doesn't have to be friends with anyone if she doesn't want to, and Nasty Roommate needs to learn to deal.

It's Nasty Roommate Kristin's home, too. But I guess she could just learn to "deal" with feeling uncomfortable herself all the time.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:13 AM on June 18, 2010

You have an obligation to be candid with your roommate and to do your part to make the environment pleasurable to live in. You think she makes your life tough? She probably thinks the same about you. The shit you're both going through can be brought into line - each with the other, anyhow, even if the perfect relationship is unattainable.

Bubbly extroverts who enjoy boozing are prone to the same confusion and complex feelings as you. They just deal with it differently. You need to understand them - and her.

Talk to her. Be up front. 'Y'know, we want different things around here cleanliness-wise, and maybe we can...' You're shy? You only have to get over that shit for ten minutes at a time. Let her know what you need and what you see, and encourage her to do the same. That's what actual functional relationships are built on. Not booze, and not quiet.

Talk to your brother too. Hell, give him a printout of your post here! It's helpful, honest, and thorough. But don't slide into this unbelievably boring and myopic 'Poor quiet people are sooooooo put upon by alpha females' bullshit. Everyone is put upon. You have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to be a part of something else. Even for and with this perky little workaholic. Would she benefit from more authentic closeness in the house? Would you? The non-asshole answer is 'Yes' - or at the absolute least, 'We won't know until we try.'
posted by waxbanks at 6:15 AM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

It's Nasty Roommate Kristin's home, too. But I guess she could just learn to "deal" with feeling uncomfortable herself all the time.

The OP is not deliberately seeking her out and trying to make her uncomfortable, she is just being quiet, keeping her own schedule, and wearing clothes that she likes. In other words, living her life and minding her own business. So yeah, it's the roommate who has a problem, IMO.
posted by cottonswab at 6:49 AM on June 18, 2010 [8 favorites]

There are a few possibilities (as others have mentioned) that I don't want to rehash in great detail. Either she's (a) a mean, awful person, in which case you can't do anything, or (b) she's uncomfortable because she doesn't understand you.

My take would be to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume (b). Conveniently, there's an easy test-

Ask her to read the classic "Caring for Your Introvert" (a fantastic read for introverts and the extroverts who are confused by them), and see if her behavior towards you improves. If it does, great. If things are unchanged, you have an answer.
posted by JMOZ at 7:05 AM on June 18, 2010

Too freaking bad. Why should a person change their whole basic personality orientation just because it makes some people feel insecure? I think it's on the insecure person to learn something about introversion and adjust their behavior if it bothers them so much.

Wow cottonswab, you're exactly right. That's why, when I recognize that behavior in myself, I try to adjust my approach and talk to the person in private settings, ask them about themselves, relax my inherent dislike of silence and give the person open-ended invitations so they can take me up on an invitation whenever or if ever they feel like it. But I expect a little give in return because like it or not, everyone has to interact now and again with the people they live and work with.

If Kristin was a little more insightful, she might well have chosen to resort to the same tactics.

The point is that right now both people are probably uncomfortable, but if both people "change their whole basic personality orientations" just a liiittle bit, they can reach a point where they're comfortable with their differences enough to deal with it without being distrustful and catty.
posted by ista at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2010

I apologize if my responses were a bit harsh. I am by nature very introverted and all day, every day, I have to go against my basic nature and talk and socialize when I really don't feel like it. It's incredibly draining, and when I go home, that is my sanctuary where I can really relax. A situation like the OP describes would be torture for me. I really feel for her because it doesn't sound like she had a lot of choice or input into this situation before the room was even rented, which, while it is her brother's condo and he can rent to who he wants, was not very considerate. People who are going to live together need to get to know each other at least a little bit before the decision is made, because not everyone meshes well together.

I try to adjust my approach and talk to the person in private settings, ask them about themselves, relax my inherent dislike of silence and give the person open-ended invitations so they can take me up on an invitation whenever or if ever they feel like it

That is a wonderful approach, and I'm sure if Kristin had tried that instead of the rude behavior she's exhibited so far, the OP would not be posting this dilemma. I know I wouldn't have.
posted by cottonswab at 8:16 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

So what part of the introvert/extrovert divide leads this misunderstood roommate to wander over to the OP and expect her to do her brother's dishes?

For reals, I am an extrovert like nobody's business, and my opinion of this roommates behavior is that she is being an asshole. Whether it's because her cat died three years ago or she gets uncomfortable when people read, her behavior is obnoxious. Trying to figure out what she thinks you're thinking so you can change your behavior to make her think something different about what you're thinking (that was long just to type) is too much effort for a very casual acquaintance.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:18 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

I agree with ifdssn9 ... I don't think this is an introvert/extrovert issue. I think the roommate is simply being obnoxious. It may not be deliberate, she may just be a hyper type-A person with poor social skills.

I deal with this a lot...with my in laws. They are the most hyper, type-A people I have ever met. They all wake up by 6 am (usually earlier), keep meticulous homes, and are always busy, busy, busy. Me? I love to sleep late when I can, I keep things clean enough to be sanitary and presentable most of the time, and I love having spare time to do nothing much at all. I dare say that doing nothing is one of my favorite things. Oh, also, they're super skinny and I'm ... not. They are very seemingly passive aggressive about these things, often commenting on my sleeping late (and by late, we're talking 10 am on a Saturday), or making a big point to see if I want fruit instead of the dessert everyone else is having, and that sort of thing. I used to feel really offended, and struggled with how to respond to them.

An approach that one of my more pleasant friends has helped me take on is to be assertive while being extremely friendly and genuinely sweet.

When they say things like, "Wow, you slept really late again!" (Which they often do, they think sleeping past 7 am on a weekend is something on lazy slobs do), I just smile and very cheerfully respond with, "Oh, I know, I just really enjoy sleeping in a bit when I can!"

Or, for example, when my husband was away for 3 weeks on business, they could not imagine how bored I must be without someone to cook and clean for (???). They would constantly ask me, "Oh, you must be so bored without your husband home! I bet you can't wait for him to come back so you have something to do!" I would respond with a chipper, "Oh yes, I really miss him, but it's not so bad. Between work and grad school, I am plenty busy, and it can be nice to have some quiet time to just read or whatever."

It can be hard to think of nice, friendly ways to respond to things, but it becomes easier over time -- and I've found that by making myself treat all their questions as friendly inquiries instead of passive aggressive insults to my character, I actually have started to like them a bit more. Maybe it could work with your roommate?

I sometimes enjoy ... ok, often enjoy... responding to perceived obnoxiousness with sarcasm and my own blunt obnoxiousness, but I am slowly learning that by assuming the best intentions instead of the worst and responding as if there are no bad feelings, it can actually be a lot less exhausting than constantly feeling on edge with someone that you have to see frequently.
posted by tastybrains at 9:50 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Always start off with the idea in your head that it's incompetence rather than malice.

I think the root of her problem with you has less to do with the introvert/extrovert thing (although that most certainly plays a part!) and more to do with the fact that you work from home. Let me guess: your brother does not? She doesn't know or understand what you do with your time. She's seeing laziness, and assuming that since you "have all this time on your hands" you *should* be doing more dishes, cleaning more, or whatever. Taking care of the domestics to her standards, basically. What *she* would do if she had more time on her hands. This is why she is coming to you with your brother's dishes. She knows whose dishes they are, but she thinks it's your responsibility, since you're the one who stays at home. That can sound kind of malicious (and it can certainly come across as malicious) but she's probably just an incompetent.

It might help if you talk with her directly about what you do, and how you spend your time. Specifically stating that you have different points at which things are "good enough" when it comes to cleaning will also be helpful. Make it clear that if you're falling down on your responsibilities around the place, you'd like her to let you know - and then you'll take care of it. I'm sure this is true. And when she comes to you with your brother's plate, you can explain to her (again, if necessary) that that's not your responsibility. It's his. Not hers, not yours. If it bugs her very much, she should talk to him about it.

Also, let her know directly that you just don't drink - there's nothing wrong or shameful in that, and you're not judging her for doing it, but you're not interested in doing it yourself. Don't give in to the social pressure being created here.
posted by lriG rorriM at 10:21 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

So what part of the introvert/extrovert divide leads this misunderstood roommate to wander over to the OP and expect her to do her brother's dishes?

I also don't think the dish issues have anything to do with the OP's introversion or Kristin's extroversion. Dish weirdness is just inevitable when you have roommates with different expectations of cleanliness who haven't sat down and had an open discussion about who does dishes when. The person who does the dishes feels taken advantage of, the person who doesn't do dishes feels judged, and it's just a bad scene. If this is anything like most uneven dish-washing scenarios, I'd bet that Kristin feels annoyed at the OP's brother for leaving messes, but doesn't know how to approach the situation, so deals with it passive-aggressively. (The way you fix that situation is to have a family meeting and lay down ground rules, and make a chore wheel if necessary)
posted by oinopaponton at 10:50 AM on June 18, 2010

If you so like this girl


If you like this girl

If you want to be extra reassuring to her, you can always preface your grievances by saying, "you know Kristen, I like you, but..." --insert what specific thing makes you feel like she's criticizing or not being nice--...
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:15 PM on June 18, 2010

It doesn't sound like you are imagining it. You sound like a really nice person and my advice is to just not care what she thinks. Live your life the way you feel comfortable and let her just suck it up. It took a long time for me to learn this lesson, but you are not here on this earth to please other people. I can't see where you are doing anything wrong. Sleep as late as you want, work the hours you want to work, clean up after yourself, do your part, and beyond that, tell her to kiss your ass. You are under no obligation to socialize if you don't feel like it. It's your home, your sanctuary. You are paying to live there, too. Enjoy it.
posted by wv kay in ga at 7:37 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing that jumps out at me in a huge way: Kristin offering Nate cigarettes when he's trying to quit. That's really revealing to me.

Pretty much everyone will try to support a friend's (or acquaintance's) efforts to quit. Even dedicated smokers will refrain from smoking in front of the one who is in early stages of quitting and offer encouragement and support; this is just sort of baseline behavior in polite society, and the fact that Kristin would rather your brother smoke tells me that she wants everybody to do whatever she does no matter what it is.

Because being a workaholic and clean freak are seen as positive things by a lot of people, perhaps the fact that she's pushing you to be more like this doesn't strike as many warning bells as it might otherwise. But I suspect that if she were smoking crack every night and dancing naked and biting the heads off chickens on the weekends, she would be pressuring you to do the same. Because it seems she just wants everyone to be like her and do whatever she does, no matter what it is. She drinks, so you should drink. She smokes, so Nate should smoke.


I once had a friend just like this -- with a bad coke habit. That was one friendship that I really couldn't afford (sanity and health-wise) to maintain.
posted by taz at 12:45 AM on June 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Like Taz, the smoking thing rang alarms for me too, and I'm not sure why people got so caught up on the reality TV and dishes when that fact was glaring them in the face. It is clear from that behavior that she is trying to create an atmosphere that makes her comfortable and gives her some sort of leadership/BFF role, a go-to person for the very landlord. Being his sister, you're a huge threat to her. She may not mean to be such a blatant ass, but she is because you're a girl, and it isn't some whimsical perceived threat.

You need to tell your brother that you are unsure of her, and justify it with the very things you've said here. If he tries to tell you that you're making things up, or getting yourself unnecessarily stressed over social nuances, tell him he needs to find a new roommate.

After having my own apartment, it'll be hard having it any other way.
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:14 AM on June 22, 2010

« Older Is there anything I can do to clean the dust from...   |   Am I a bad sister? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.