How would you feel if your roommate asked you if you were on drugs?
July 31, 2013 8:58 PM   Subscribe

How would you feel if your roommate asked you if you were on drugs because you were were wearing sun-glasses at night one day?! Is this a common American idea?!

My roommate asked me if the reason I was wearing sun-glasses at our friend's birthday party the other night was because I was on drugs and hiding blood shotted eyes.
I can't believe he even thought of this. Maybe I am not supposed to be offended, but I am.
He was like,
"I had never seen you in sunglasses, and the other day you told me you were doing something with your friend and couldn't tell me what it was... so" (this is about me telling him specifically that my friend and I were trying to start a business and couldn't tell what to anyone yet, which I thought was okay and never suspected to be interpreted as drug-related!)
I feel like I have no trust from this person, which if to some extent would probably be understandable because we are not close friends. We rarely hang out.
But I never thought he would think of me as a criminal, as I never have done anything criminal, and I never told him I was a criminal of any kind.
I would never do drugs and I never did it and certainly never even talked about doing it during the last year of living with him!
I'm sorry about venting, but how would you feel?
posted by MiuMiu to Society & Culture (48 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you sure it was a serious question? It sounds like he was trying to make a failed joke or flirtation. It would be okay to tell him that what he said bothered you.
posted by cairdeas at 9:01 PM on July 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yes it's common. People who wear sunglasses at times when people usually don't wear sunglasses (indoors or at night) are often suspected of being either hung over (where the light bothers their eyes) or stoned (where they have bloodshot eyes and don't want to look stoned). Depending on who is talking, this is often just a jokey thing to say to people, not necessarily a "You are on drugs and that is bad!" thing.
posted by jessamyn at 9:03 PM on July 31, 2013 [33 favorites]


And as for this:

Is this a common American idea?!

Kind of, it's a well-known trope/joke in the US that if you're wearing sunglasses at inappropriate times (indoors, a cloudy day, super early in the morning, etc.) then it might be because you are hungover.

Same thing as suddenly running to use eyedrops when your parents or another authority figure knocks on your door, to hide red eyes from smoking pot.
posted by cairdeas at 9:04 PM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think most people would not necessarily think smoking pot was that big a deal... certainly not that it was "criminal", so even if he did ask you seriously he might have just been curious (or wanted to know who your dealer was). I certainly wouldn't be offended if someone asked me if I smoked pot, even though I don't, because it's such not a big deal.
posted by brainmouse at 9:04 PM on July 31, 2013 [18 favorites]


I wouldn't really feel offended, but I would be bemused and try to make a joke in response. People wear sunglasses inside for lots of different reasons, including sensitivity to light, eye infections, etc. (and of course, hangovers and bloodshot eyes)

That aside, I gather that you're not from America, so maybe as per the above response, your roommate was trying to crack a joke to make conversation. If you two aren't very close friends, he might have been trying to relieve some tension in the social situation.
posted by jdgreen at 9:05 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you and your roommate have different ideas of the type of person who would do drugs. I think he did not necessarily intend to imply that you were a criminal or had done anything particularly worthy of scorn or derision - I think he was either making a quick joke, or he was a little concerned for your health, because sometimes someone who takes drugs recreationally can deal with the afteraffects poorly. It is okay for you to tell him that you were insulted by his intimation that you were a drug user, but I also think it's likely that he wasn't implying a lot of the negative things you got from his statement, regardless of if he was being serious or joking around about it.
posted by Mizu at 9:05 PM on July 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's a cultural myth, mainly about smoking pot (marijuana), although I really haven't known any of the pot smokers of my acquaintance to do it. I suspect he meant to tease you, not to accuse you of committing a crime or doing illicit drugs. Some Americans consider marijuana to be more like legal mind-altering substances (alcohol, tobacco, coffee) than the other illicit substances commonly used recreationally.
posted by gingerest at 9:08 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, it is a common American trope that people wearing sunglasses at night (there's even a song called "Sunglasses at Night") are "up to no good". I think the reason is that when there is no sun out, there's no reason to hide your eyes... unless you have something to hide. Also, apparently eye contact is more prevalent in the U.S. than in other countries, per some of the answers to this AskMe, so maybe Americans gauge trustworthiness through eye contact more than other cultures do. I don't know...

This doesn't mean that you were up to no good, or that your roommate was accusing you of being up to no good. As others have stated, it could be that your roommate was joking with you, or thought you were, in fact on drugs, but that wasn't a negative judgement.
posted by baniak at 9:12 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


("Sunglasses at Night" was written and performed by a Canadian, so I suppose you can assume at least some of what we're talking about also applies to Canada.)
posted by gingerest at 9:17 PM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's hard to tell from your question if he was totally serious or somewhat joking. It's also hard to tell how "bad" he thinks "doing drugs" is.

But yeah if someone was wearing sunglasses at night I'd think it was weird and I might make a joke about it.

So...why were you wearing sunglasses at night?
posted by radioamy at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree that you're probably taking this too seriously.

Also, even if your roommate did mean to suggest that you really were doing drugs because of the sunglasses thing (which IME is usually just a joke), he probably didn't mean it in an accusatory fashion. Lots of people experiment with drugs to no ill effect and it's a pretty standard part of the urban young person experience in the US.

If you want a snappy comeback, you could always quote the 80's pop song:

"Don't switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no..."

Keep in mind that none of the words in that song actually make any sense.
posted by Sara C. at 9:20 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


He was teasing you.

When I lived abroad and had less recourse to solve any potential legal problems, and when my employment depended on not offending powerful people with a completely foreign standard of etiquette, such teasing would have bothered me. On my home turf, my friends, coworkers, and I make all sorts of outrageous jokes, even though our lives are relatively tame.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:23 PM on July 31, 2013


Response by poster: Aw thank you for your answers...
I'm sorry to some of you, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking as he looked very worried.
After I explained to him that it was to avoid eye contact at the party, he was like, "Ok, that makes me feel a lot better!".............. :/

And thank you, now I know never to wear them at night, ever!!!
posted by MiuMiu at 9:28 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking as he looked very worried.

I would find this reaction very childish. I do not use drugs myself, but would generally regard whatever my roommates do on their own time as their own business.

Sunglasses at night/indoors is a fairly risky fashion move as it starts to enter the range of "costume accessory." But there are contexts in which it works. This person attending a show at a bar on the Lower East Side is totally rocking the sunglasses-at-night-indoors look (while wearing a hat, no less!). Whether you were able to pull it off is something I can't say, but it's certainly a thing people will make note of.
posted by deanc at 9:35 PM on July 31, 2013


To answer your question, how would I feel if my roommate asked me if I was on drugs because I was wearing sunglasses at night? And they seemed legitimately worried and definitely, positively were not joking or being light-hearted about it? I'd feel like my roommate needs to grow the hell up and mind their own business.

They can bug you about drugs when you're stinking up the apartment with pot smoke or they catch you doing lines at the living room table. Wearing sunglasses? "Very worried"? Does your roommate actually interact with humans or do they solely learn about human behavior from movies and TV?

You say you and your roommate are not close friends - consider keeping it that way if this is truly the wavelength they're on.
posted by windbox at 9:58 PM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd assume it was a joke, but i disagree with some of the other posters here. I think i'd associate sunglasses at night with ectasy, not marijuana. Either way, joke or not, it was a harmless question. Depending on how close i was with my roommate, i might say 'yes, i am on drugs' if i was stoned.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:08 PM on July 31, 2013


Data point (and/or excuse for wearing sunglasses at seemingly inappropriate times): I occasionally wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses, which hurt like hell when the tiniest bit of dust gets caught behind the lense. So, when I'm wearing contacts I tend to wear sunglasses whenever I'm outdoors, regardless of the weather or time of day.
posted by she's not there at 10:20 PM on July 31, 2013


I'm sorry about venting, but how would you feel?

I would feel perfectly fine and would answer "yes" or "no" depending on which was the truth. I think you're seriously over-reacting here. He could very well have been joking but either way it isn't a big deal.
posted by Justinian at 10:23 PM on July 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


One note: this does not mean that all, or even most, Americans use drugs. It's something that many of us see depicted on TV and in the movies. I don't know your friend's background, or yours, but we often get skewed impressions of different cultures because of media like this.
posted by amtho at 10:30 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I never thought he would think of me as a criminal, as I never have done anything criminal, and I never told him I was a criminal of any kind.

Hardly anyone in the US thinks of people that smoke pot as 'criminals' any more..
posted by empath at 10:33 PM on July 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


Maybe you've been acting lately in a way that seems weird to him, like saying and doing odd things? That would explain his comment after you told him why you were wearing the sunglasses. In the US, it would be seen as odd to be doing something to avoid eye contact with people at a party. Going to a party and avoiding eye contact with everyone there is seen as eccentric in the US. It's something like Michael Jackson or Prince would do, someone who is a little crazy.
posted by cairdeas at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


It might have been his (nice?) way of telling you that unless you have something to hide, it is inappropriate to wear sunglasses at night or indoors. I would not be offended if asked that. This appears to be a cultural miscommunication rather than an insult.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:50 PM on July 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


I just wanted to note that often, very large pupils indicate that a person is on a drug. Ecstasy is one example. This is a reason why people sometimes shield their eyes when high.

I've never seen the oft-mentioned red-eyed marijuana stereotype in real life.
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:51 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


If he was serious, not joking or teasing, then yes, he was over the line just a a bit.

But YOU are definately over-reacting about this: "I never thought he would think of me as a criminal, as I have never done anything criminal, and I never told him I was a criminal of any kind" --- really? It sounds like he was expressing his concern for you more than anything else. Depending on how the conversation went, being a little annoyed might be appropriate; "offended" is decidedly extreme.
posted by easily confused at 2:41 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


He may be concerned about you if you are avoiding eye contact at parties (and if he is your roommate then he is probably well aware that you do this and may feel protective/annoyed as a result, I'd suggest talking with him). Avoiding eye contact is not the norm in social situations and wearing sunglasses inside/at night is doubly conspicuous, likely drawing more attention to you rather than less. The pot joke may have been an attempt to break the social tension.
posted by headnsouth at 3:36 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sunglasses have one job: to shield your eyes from harsh sunlight.

Since there is not bright sunlight at night, wearing sunglasses then tends to tell everyone else:
  1. "I am actively trying to hide something."
    1. "I have a black eye but don't want people to know I'm being abused."
    2. "I have just come from the optometrist who has put those pupil-dialating drops in my eyes and oh my god, close the refrigerator door—it's blinding!"
    3. "I am a creepy idiot who thinks that I've found a foolproof way to stare at women's breasts without being caught."
    4. "I despise you all."
  2. "I (think I) am Bono."
Generally, people come across as
—at best: silly; at worst: pompous or anti-social—when they wear sunglasses indoors or at night. I understand that you wanted to "to avoid eye contact at the party", but by hiding behind sunglasses you give off the wrong message.

Your room-mate asking you if you are on drugs is a natural question one might ask of someone who is acting strangely—which is what you were doing when you were wearing sunglasses at this evening birthday party (especially in light of you being evasive earlier about this "new business" that you and your friend are getting into. If I had a room-mate who didn't want to answer a single question about his new secret business and then he start wearing sunglasses at night I might just wonder the exact same thing).

Now, just as much as it might've been an honest question, it may have also been him ribbing you—"kidding on the square"—bringing up something in a joking manner because you were doing something that made everyone else feel uncomfortable. People want to see someone's eyes when they look at them, or talk to them—if someone is actively blocking that connection, the people feel disrespected or unvalued.
posted by blueberry at 4:06 AM on August 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking as he looked very worried.

I would bet anything that, if he was concerned, it wasn't because he thought you were doing something illegal or bad. He may have been worried because you likely have little to no experience with drugs or drug culture, and it's not difficult to get sick, hurt, or taken advantage of when you're under the influence of something you're not used to.

Another possibility: he has no problem with marijuana (or whatever he thought you might be on) on a personal level, but doesn't want it in the house, in case someone finds it and suspects it of being his. This is totally reasonable.

As an aside, wearing sunglasses at night and indoors is attention-getting enough that it probably had the opposite effect that you were going for. Making eye contact with others is uncomfortable if you're not used to it - I have a lot of problems with it, too - but the only thing you can do is practice.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:13 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


After I explained to him that it was to avoid eye contact at the party, he was like, "Ok, that makes me feel a lot better!".............. :/

This is an extremely unusual thing to do in America. Why were you trying so hard to avoid eye contact?
posted by telegraph at 5:10 AM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's practical to wear sunglasses if you're on drugs to avoid retinal damage from Mydriasis. This concept has been acknowledged by Los Angeles hip hop group Dilated Peoples who may have been inspired to select the title of their group from this phenomena.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:23 AM on August 1, 2013


I would think he didn't know me very well. I've never done any drugs but I wouldn't assume someone would know that if I never told him.

I just want to add that "are you on drugs?" Is a pretty normal thing to say to someone doing something strange. It's usually said in a joking manner, along with related phrases like "what are you smoking?" Now I'm not saying this is what your roommate was doing, just that because it's a commonly used phrase, it's less personal than, say, "have you been crying all day?" or "did someone hit you?" I could see a roommate/stranger/non-close friend being much more comfortable asking you about drugs/drinking than other more personal potential causes of wearing sunglasses at night.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:35 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like I have no trust from this person, which if to some extent would probably be understandable because we are not close friends. We rarely hang out.
But I never thought he would think of me as a criminal, as I never have done anything criminal, and I never told him I was a criminal of any kind.


Some other people have mentioned this already, but it bears repeating: in America, the majority of young people do not perceive marijuana use as the act of a criminal. Yes, it's illegal in most places, and yes you can be arrested for it, but the law is broken so frequently as to be more comparable in most peoples' minds to exceeding the speed limit, rather than, say, stealing.

If you find out that people you know are using drugs, feel free not to associate with them, but try not to think of them as evil criminals- drug use here is probably seen differently here than wherever you are from.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:38 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]




As another data point, I (an American) would find it more worrying/bizarre if you were wearing sunglasses to avoid eye contact at a party than I would if you were wearing to protect your eyes after a drug or alcohol fueled bender.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:28 AM on August 1, 2013 [38 favorites]


If you act in ways that aren't expected in US culture, people might "joke" or genuinely think that you are on drugs. Sunglasses at night are especially subject to this as everyone's pointed out above. It does not mean your friend doesn't trust you, or thinks you're a criminal. It means you were behaving in an unexpected way, and he was trying to find out why.

If you don't want to make eye contact with people, don't. The sunglasses won't help, and as happened here, will just get you more attention.
posted by RainyJay at 6:35 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this was related to your vague hints about starting an unspecified business you can't tell him about, he may have been worried you plan to start selling drugs from your apartment. I can see how that prospect would worry someone who also lives in the place - strangers visiting for 5 minutes to buy drugs are probably no-one's idea of an ideal living situation. The sunglasses may not have worried him, they were just something to comment on and gauge your reaction. It's easier to say "I saw you wear sunglasses indoors at night" than "I've been trying to figure out what you mean by starting a business and not being able to talk about it". Precisely because it can be framed as "just joking" or "just curious", and doesn't come off as accusing as "so you plan to sell drugs?".
posted by MinusCelsius at 6:43 AM on August 1, 2013


After I explained to him that it was to avoid eye contact at the party, he was like, "Ok, that makes me feel a lot better!".............. :/

If you were trying to avoid eye contact with someone specific or people in general, together with your vague behaviour in an earlier conversation, your behaviour might have appeared slightly 'off', as that's not a natural thing to do. That, combined with the sunglasses, might have triggered some alarm bells with him, which led him to the wrong conclusion. As you said, it was problaby out of worry, so don't hold it against him.
posted by Ms. Next at 7:26 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I had never seen you in sunglasses, and the other day you told me you were doing something with your friend and couldn't tell me what it was... so"

Your roommate sounds nosy and controlling. You need to set some boundaries with them.

They also sound pretty naive and sort of clueless; I get a sort of "out-of-touch-mom" vibe from this. Tell them to calm down, back off, and worry about themselves.
posted by spaltavian at 8:15 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would think my roommate was an idiot.


Not because the sunglasses idea was wrong, neccesarily, but because they were so snoopy and controlling. And also because that's just sort of excessive on their part.
posted by windykites at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's an old trope about shades and potheads. In the service I accidentally left my regular glasses at home when I reported in for a flight, only had my shades on me. Duty officer was about to give me a piss test until my wife walked in and handed me my regular prescriptions.

But, there is also some truth in the Larry David line

"You know who wears sunglasses at night? Blind people and assholes."
posted by timsteil at 10:55 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: omg.. I had no idea this sunglass thing was such a common idea and am so mad at myself for going to that party... now I bet everyone there thinks I'm a total freak.
Also I wonder why my friend who let me borrow her sunglasses for the party in exchange of me agreeing to go to the party even though there was a person there I didn't want to make eye contact with, didn't tell me this!!!! I asked her if it would be weird, but the only thing that came up was "Just tell them you are blind" and we kinda laughed it off... I feel so stupid!!!
posted by MiuMiu at 11:35 AM on August 1, 2013


Don't worry about it. You sound very sensitive to what other people think about you. Believe me, people are mostly worrying about their own business, not whether other people are pot smokers, or make goofy fashion choices at a party.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:38 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think everyone thinks you're a freak. If they even noticed, they probably thought you were trying to hide something, as outlined above. In your particular case, it was eye contact with someone. This is not the usual reason to wear sunglasses indoors/at night, though. That's if they even noticed.

Are these the same roommates who let a strange/homeless girl sleep in your room? If so, from your previous question, they probably don't see a stigma attached to being perceived as using drugs. Don't let them talk you into doing things you don't want to do (going to the party even though you didn't want to) if you're afraid of how others will think of you.
posted by RainyJay at 11:44 AM on August 1, 2013


Honestly the "avoiding eye contact" thing sticks out to me as weirder than possibly doing drugs.
posted by radioamy at 11:50 AM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


omg.. I had no idea this sunglass thing was such a common idea and am so mad at myself for going to that party... now I bet everyone there thinks I'm a total freak.
Also I wonder why my friend who let me borrow her sunglasses for the party in exchange of me agreeing to go to the party even though there was a person there I didn't want to make eye contact with, didn't tell me this!!!! I asked her if it would be weird, but the only thing that came up was "Just tell them you are blind" and we kinda laughed it off... I feel so stupid!!!


It's ok! Anyone with brains knows that a foreign exchange student is going to make some little mistakes because they're not familiar with the culture, and it's expected and no one really cares. Don't worry about it at all. Now you know! I'm 100% certain that no one thinks you're a freak.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:51 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


last thing - are you in college? particularly if you are, you seem to be way overestimating how unusual illegal drug use/recreational prescription drug use is.
posted by anthropomorphic at 12:15 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


MiuMiu, you are way super severely overthinking this.

Nobody cares that you wore sunglasses to a party at night.

Probably no one really thinks you're literally on actual drugs.

Someone might think you're a freak, but who cares?

Your friend who laughed off the "what will people think" thing has it right. Don't worry too much about stuff like this.
posted by Sara C. at 12:24 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


MiuMiu: "omg.. I had no idea this sunglass thing was such a common idea and am so mad at myself for going to that party... now I bet everyone there thinks I'm a total freak.
Also I wonder why my friend who let me borrow her sunglasses for the party in exchange of me agreeing to go to the party even though there was a person there I didn't want to make eye contact with, didn't tell me this!!!! I asked her if it would be weird, but the only thing that came up was "Just tell them you are blind" and we kinda laughed it off... I feel so stupid!!!
"

If that is the most awkward thing you have done, then you are way ahead of all the people I know. Don't sweat it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:33 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree that no-one thinks you're a freak based on this incident. Don't worry about it.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2013


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