Was my roommate appropriate in inviting this Guest?
May 29, 2014 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Was my roommate appropriate in inviting this Guest? Hello, I currently live in an expensive city, and am subletting from a roommate. I'm a straight male in my mid20s, and he's a bit older than me. This roommate has quickly proven himself to be a truly wonderful individual, both in private and professional life. I would even go so far as to say I deeply admire him. He is starting at a new top notch hospital along with other residents. He offered a place on his couch to any of these new residents, for a day or two, as they get settled into the city. He told me this well in advance. A younger women took him up on his offer. A day before she was set to arrive, he told me he was extending his vacation and asked me to do the hosting. The truth is with her professional background and career, I don't doubt she is a very trustworthy person. And I also don't mind helping my roommate out, as he has really been very kind with me. With that said, I am uncertain if what he did is fair to his guest. She had never met my roommate before, and they only came in contact over a facebook page for new residents. And then a day before she was set to arrive, she found out he wouldn't even be here, and she would be sharing an apartment with me.

Obviously I like to consider myself a very respectful person, but would you be uncomfortable or nervous if you were this lady? I tried to make her feel safe last night by giving her her privacy and mentioning how my girlfriend will be moving here soon, but I felt a little uncomfortable (not for myself, but for her, if that makes sense?)

I also don't think this is something I would offer to do on my own, as my girlfriend and I are both pretty trusting, but tend to view sharing a place with a member of the opposite sex as slightly inappropriate. She is understanding herself, but is a little uncomfortable.

Normally I have absolutely no problem standing up for myself and speaking my mind, but I went along with this because my room-mate is--and It's hard to overstate this--a really great person, and someone I would love to stay in touch with for the rest of my life, and I wanted to help him out. I didn't really think about all of this until after I had already told him I'm cool with it (although his deciding to stay on a longer vacation a day before she was due to arrive didn't give me a real option to bring up concerns without forcing either of them to drastically change their plans).

At this point should I just take it as a lesson learned about what I'm comfortable with, and not bring it up? Or should I casually mention when he gets back that this wasn't appropriate? Or am I overreacting, and this is all completely appropriate?
posted by jjmoney to Human Relations (28 answers total)
Or am I overreacting, and this is all completely appropriate?

Well, I personally think that you are and it is, yes. I'm a woman who has lived with plenty of male roommates over the years, and never considered it to be even slightly unusual or uncomfortable.

What is your cultural background?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:40 AM on May 29, 2014 [13 favorites]

I wouldn't bring it up. It's only for a day or two, and he was being kind. I'd assume she can deal with it if she has a problem with it, or I would assume that she does not have a problem with it. Or, if she does, she is just rolling with it as well. Giving her space and mentioning your girlfriend is fine, otherwise, just be cool. If you feel weird, she'll probably wind up feeling weird.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:40 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

"but I felt a little uncomfortable (not for myself, but for her)"...why? really interrogate this. did she seem uncomfortable around you? did she say anything to you or your roommate indicating she had a problem with the last minute change? why are you uncomfortable for her? honestly it seems a bit patronizing unless she gave you some indication that she was upset.

basically your roommate extended the couch to newcomers as a professional favor, there's no implication that it's flirtatious. it may not have even occurred to your roommate that it would present an issue. i would have no problem with this were i the guest.

when he comes back maybe just mention to him that next time a guest will be home alone with you, you'd prefer to meet the guest first if possible, that way there is less 'surprise you're sleeping on a couch next to a complete stranger's bedroom.'
posted by zdravo at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2014

It's entirely up to her to feel uncomfortable or nervous, it's got nothing to do with you.

The appropriateness level is going to vary person to person depending on their own personal values/standards. You were uncomfortable. It's ok for you to tell your roommate that you thought it would be ok but in the moment you felt uncomfortable and don't find it an appropriate situation for you.

It's kind of not ok for you to make this about her being uncomfortable, because you don't have that information. For all we know, she thought this was totally fine and normal and whatever, and couldn't give a single flipping doo dah about if you're male or female or in a relationship or not.

You're uncomfortable, so say so. Assume that the woman staying with you is capable of deciding for herself what makes her uncomfortable, and leave that part out of it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2014 [11 favorites]

It sounds like the guy is both professional and super nice, so he and his friends - and you by association - share a level of casual trust that's quite a bit higher that what any other random two people would. That may be what's causing the dissonance with you?
posted by ftm at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Personally, it wouldn't bother me all that much. I feel sorry for the guest, but she's probably grateful for the free flop and isn't too fussed about the fact that the roommate is a dude.

I'd go so far as offering to cook dinner or making polite small talk. You can even ask her, "I don't want to intrude on your space, but I know that Gary would want me to make you feel at home, I'm making some pasta for dinner, and I usually watch TV on Thursday night, want to join me?"

Let her decide and if she declines, that's cool too.

Really, if your roommate is as awesome as you say he is, I'd roll with it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

If she was really anxious about staying with a strange man, he's just as "strange" as you are. And it sounds like you behaved in a sensiitive and respectful manner. So, really, no harm done.

To me, asking a roommate to host one's guest is an OK favor to ask, assuming extenuating circumstances and a friendly relationship between the roomies. I would make it an issue only if this became a pattern.

So I would treat this as a one-off, but if he tries again to get you to play host to his guest, it's totally OK for you to decline and ask him not to do it again.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:46 AM on May 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

It doesn't seem wrong or inappropriate to me at all, and it seems entirely on her (and between her and him) to decide if she feels uncomfortable or if what he did is wrong. I would see where you're coming from if your genders were reversed, however (i.e. you're a woman, roommate invites unknown man into your home to sleep on your couch when roommate is out of town.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys I really appreciate your feedback :) This is exactly what I wanted to hear.
posted by jjmoney at 9:49 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this is totally fine, and not something you should worry about. Consider it an opportunity to stretch your boundaries to a new level of openness, hospitality, warmth, connection with a new human being. :)
posted by amaire at 9:50 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I certainly hope your roommate told you to let her sleep in his bed, rather than making her sleep on the couch, given that he wasn't actually going to be using said bed at the time. Beyond that... meh! Not a big deal. If she didn't want to crash at a stranger's place, she would have made other arrangements.

It would have been better if your roommate had given both of you more lead time, but what's past is past, and it's not like he's about to have new fellow residents on a regular basis here.

I agree that it sounds like you're the one uncomfortable with this -- you can't know how your guest feels. She may feel fine with it. If she was willing to stay on a stranger's couch when the stranger was a future coworker, I'm guessing she is in fact fine with it.
posted by pie ninja at 9:58 AM on May 29, 2014

You and she are both now part of his circle of trust.
posted by amtho at 9:59 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Personally I think it was incredibly inappropriate of him to invite a guest and then not be there to host! But if it doesn't bother you, then don't worry about it bothering her.
posted by radioamy at 10:00 AM on May 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

I see where you are coming from. Even if you felt uncomfortable for her, you still felt uncomfortable. It seems like one of those things that maybe you should give 3 strikes. If it happens in the future and you still are left to play host, maybe it warrants a discussion. Hosting can be draining (at least for this introvert) so I would focus more on boundaries that you feel comfortable with. I visited Moscow with a friend of mine (we are both women) and we stayed with a man we had never met before. A peripheral acquaintance, recommended by a trusted acquaintance (or as much as you can trust an acquaintance). Apparently "couch surfing" in Europe is fairly common and he had taken in lots of other people as well. It was an interesting experience, we were a little uncomfortable about it, but I think it came down to trust on everyone's part.
posted by unicornologist at 10:07 AM on May 29, 2014

I have co-rented with women and with men. I have found people from 'traditional' backgrounds with stricter gender roles express concerns similar to the ones you raise. Maybe I am terribly liberal (and when people would question me about it I would think "geez why am I not bothered? should I be bothered?" but what can I say, I was never bothered, people are people).

Personally I would be totally ok with this, I would be totally ok with him extending his vacation and me letting the person in, I am very casual about these things and don't fuss to much over hosting. (And I like meeting new cool people.)

But if you're feeling awkward about it, and since your roommate is such a good person, then you can mention it for future situations.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:17 AM on May 29, 2014

Is this a one-off? Sounds like he did this without asking you (?), which feels inconsiderate. I'd be displeased about having to either be considerate of someone in the place or keep them up later than they want, wake them earlier than they would prefer, etc., etc., etc.
posted by ambient2 at 10:24 AM on May 29, 2014

If you would like the guest thing to be handled differently, it's reasonable for you to talk with your roommate about that. In your shoes, I'd be fine with it but wouldn't want to be the host -- I'd ask that my roommate be there when any new resident came to stay. "I think it's great that you're helping in this way. I'm open to having these brief visits from time to time. But I'm not comfortable hosting by myself. Are you willing to accept the resident-guests only when you can be here?"

I really don't see how anyone could say you're unreasonable. You're agreeing to having strangers stay in the place where you live! You're allowed to set some limits.
posted by wryly at 10:28 AM on May 29, 2014

Asking your roommate to play host for a guest is normally an okay favor to ask, but the last-minute nature almost made it so you couldn't say no, which is really the only thing that really makes me uncomfortable here.

I mean, he's a guy too, so it's not like there was a "surprise, there will be men in the house" aspect for her.
posted by ktkt at 10:32 AM on May 29, 2014

This is a safety issue for both of you. Two people in the same private space are vulnerable. This is a fact.

However, you mitigate this by observed behavior, circle of trust. ..and gut instinct. If no alarm bells, enjoy the company and live life. If you feel she is not to be trusted (example: she falsely accuses you of criminal behavior ) - ask her to leave the premises. Or, remove yourself from the premises.

Observed behavior and gut instinct.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:42 AM on May 29, 2014

The was to defuse the situation would have been to ask your girlfriend to stay over with you so your guest doesn't have to worry that you're a dangerous or creepy guy. I wouldn't be comfortable staying with some strange male around even if my original host claimed "he's a good guy."
posted by discopolo at 10:55 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

This sort of happened to me once; I was visiting a city I would be moving to, came out to look for an apartment and meet people. A future colleague offered to host me, and when I arrived I found out that she was giving me her bedroom, she would be sleeping at her boyfriend's place, and I'd be staying alone with her male roommate (I am female). I didn't even meet the roommate until I came back after dinner that first night. I was a bit nervous, but no more than I would have been had this been a person of whatever gender - just nerves based on staying with an unknown individual, mostly relating to my own very mild social anxiety. The guy was very nice, welcoming, and respectful, as I imagine you were from your description of the event, and I felt ultimately as comfortable as one can when visiting a new place and new people. In retrospect, I'm grateful for the hospitality of both people, who also became friends once I moved here.
posted by AthenaPolias at 10:55 AM on May 29, 2014

Also, if she's just there for interviews for a day or two, it doesn't sound like you have any hosting duties at all.
posted by discopolo at 10:57 AM on May 29, 2014

Chances are this woman was expecting her host to have roommates and/or had otherwise prepared herself to stay with people other than just her host. If you're couch-surfing, you know to expect anything/anyone.

Would this be a non-issue if the guest was a male?
posted by stubbehtail at 10:57 AM on May 29, 2014

This seems fine to me and I would feel at least as comfortable with an arrangement like this as I would with Couchsurfing or a bed in a hostel.

The only way it becomes sketchy is if you assume that the act of having a roommate is sketchy. In major cities, it's assumed that a single person in a multi-bedroom apartment has roommates.

I don't really see how there's anything dangerous about any of this, unless you begin from the axiom that being female is dangerous and it's wrong for women to be unaccompanied or allowed out into the world at all. I mean, what do you think women out and about in the world do, if it's so terrible to sleep on the couch in a domicile where other people also live?
posted by Sara C. at 11:38 AM on May 29, 2014

The fact that you think this is an issue, proves that it is not. What I mean by that is since you are already concerned with this person's comfort level, there's most likely only going to be the minimum required akwardness/uncomfortableness, since you're not oblivious to the other person.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:50 AM on May 29, 2014

Thanks again for all the responses. There seem to be multiple points of view, which is kind of interesting.

Since my roommate, and guest, seem to be great people, I'm just going to go with it and not make a fuss. I'm a pretty comfortable and gregarious person myself, so I have no doubt everything will be fine.

I know the women who I am closest to in life would be uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean that other people would be uncomfortable (or should be). But I suppose that is why I was unsure! I was also raised in an open-minded, but somewhat gender-conservative household (i.e. taught no sex before marriage etc, not that I still follow it, but some of those norms were instilled in me).

Thanks a ton everyone.
posted by jjmoney at 12:24 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nothing unsavory is going on between you and her, so I think that's fine. But I mean, his guest (who you didn't know) was coming into town and he decided to extend his vacay to overlap with that. I would be uncomfortable about that, because it's kind of a dick move.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:45 AM on May 30, 2014

I would feel awkward because the person who invited me wasn't there... "Hi, you don't know me, but someone else said I could crash on your couch, so... we cool?" Awk-ward. But other than that, yeah, couch surfing you know you're going to be with relative strangers, and you figure out what it takes or you don't do it, and that's all on her.
posted by anaelith at 6:47 AM on May 31, 2014

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