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Living Room--Not a Chat Room

By Mink Stole | Posted 2/7/2001

My roommate is driving me and my friends nuts! Whenever he's not at work, he's plopped down in the middle of our living room hunched over his computer with the TV blaring in the background. Whenever I bring a friend home, he'll click off the TV and insinuate himself into our conversation. Within five minutes, he's injected some adolescent sexual comment in an awkward attempt to flirt. He's not a bad guy, but he has zero social skills and, frankly, limited physical charms. My friends never want to come over, and I've started spending all my time in my room. How do I tell this digital dud to back off?

Dear Trapped:
One day you kids will learn that it takes more than the ability to pay the rent to make a good roommate. Perhaps it's up to me to develop a questionnaire to facilitate the process. I'll think about it. In the meantime, as this guy obviously didn't learn good manners at home, and since there's no such thing as roommate school, it's up to you to teach him. Tell him privately that your friends are there to visit you, not him, and that if they wanted to flirt they'd invite him into the conversation. Otherwise, he should make himself scarce. If he pays the same rent, he has as much right to use the living room as you do, but not to dominate it.

Maybe you can get him to move the TV and the computer into his bedroom. That way he can keep the volume turned up without interfering with your right to a life without laugh tracks. Or maybe you need to set up a schedule of living-room occupancy: He gets it Fridays, you get it Saturdays, and you switch off Sundays. Obviously he's not content with just chat-room pals, so encourage him to go out every once in a while, maybe to a cyber cafe where he can meet new friends. Be kind, but be firm. He probably won't realize it immediately, but you'll be doing him a favor. Even if he were eventually to become extremely rich, which makes even the most inept nerds socially desirable, it wouldn't hurt him to have a working knowledge of at least a few conventions of civilized behavior, such as eating with his mouth closed and not interrupting when grownups are talking.

b>Dear Mink:
The boyfriend I had a year ago has surfaced again. We broke up before because he was not ready for an exclusive relationship--at least with me. After that, he moved away. He heard I was experiencing some personal difficulties and called to see how I was doing. He came to my town, and we had coffee one morning, and the encounter was pleasant. Now he has asked me to visit him. Well, I'm pretty lonely right now and am not seeing anyone, so I said yes. My question is, do you think I'm asking for trouble or do you think we can start again as friends?
Unsure and Insecure

Dear Unsure:
There are no hard and fast rules on the subject. I've remained in contact (after a period of post-breakup recovery and recuperation) with most of the important men in my life, and I count them among my most cherished friends. So I know it's not only possible in many cases, it's worth the effort. But not always. There have been a couple of men I thought were important at the time who are as irrelevant to me now as whatever Jennifer Lopez wore at last year's Grammy Awards.

You are absolutely taking a chance visiting him. You could be reopening old wounds and piling psychic salt on them. You could be letting yourself in for a whole new level of heartbreak if you misinterpret or over-interpret his intentions, especially if he expects you to hop back into bed with him. You'll have to guard against letting your loneliness persuade you that something, however imperfect, is always better than nothing.

On the other hand, his overtures of friendship could be perfectly genuine and without ulterior motive. Contrary to what some may say, I don't actually believe all men are dick-driven predators. I've known quite a few who were not only fun to be with but also truly decent. Maybe this guy's one of them.

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