I can’t deal with my flatmate’s personal hygiene: dear eva, please help
What to do when London gets a bit too much? Let agony aunt Eva help!
Life can be harder than a stone in a salad; what to do when your flatmate’s hygiene breaches the kitchen-wear? What to do when the city grinds you down? We ask our very own agony aunt Eva Wiseman to help us sort our shit out. And if you’ve got a pressing problem, all you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll fix everything.
As Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” but he had neither exhausted his options in Pret, nor stood under someone’s armpit on a hot day on the tube, or paid £4 for a small coffee that had been filtered through some sort of small sustainably-raised animal. Honestly, I am through with you London, but I just can’t quit you. I want to run away, and live next to the beach and make little lavender scented things, but also I know I’d miss skipping the queue to get into fashion parties and drinking cocktails on the roofs of department stores at 8pm on a Monday and buying things I don’t need and living in an eternal state of Peter Pan-ness. Should I stay or should I go?
Ok a little bit about ME: I grew up in one of those northern-most corners of London, where the sky is the size of Brent Cross and Christmas announces itself with a giant menorah outside the tube. But it was London, and so everywhere was 40 minutes away on the train, and it was Brixton and Camden in the same afternoon, and that lumpy bit of the park where people took acid, and also your friend’s house that always smelled of tuna pasta bake, and the rows with your mum and crippling heartbreak and home.
Anyway, I moved away, like you’re considering, to the beach for a few years, and when I returned London felt like a different city. I got a flat 40 minutes away from my parents, and a boyfriend and a job and all that, and then a baby, and then something became clear. I was going to have to move out of new London, and back up the Northern Line into the London of my childhood. Jesus, did I milk this. I went crazy on it. Questions, questions about ‘identity’ and ‘what matters’ and ‘adulthood’. My friends would slowly glaze over, not only bored by round three of my existential crisis, but vaguely offended by my obsession with comparing my choices, here or there, neither of which were options for them. And still, on and on I went, the impossibility of staying in town against the impossibility of moving to the suburbs, and then on and on with my apologies for complaining about such luxury. We moved in the spring, and I made a thousand t&c's that meant it didn’t feel permanent.
Two years later, two things have changed. We’ve settled here, near a park. Near two parks. And we’re going to stay. And the other thing is that I’ve realised the anxiety was never about where we were going to live, not really. It wasn’t about being within walking distance of a secret bar or vegan deli, or even about sharing a postcode with my friends. The anxiety wasn’t about place, it was about what the place meant. Inevitably my friends have scattered too, some towards the sea, some to the country, and all our lives are fine but different. So I suppose what I’m saying is: no matter where you go, there you are. If you remain fixed on fashion parties then no, the seaside will not bring much comfort. If you spend time on the smoking terrace dreaming of evening jogs beneath the pier, then same. It’s the psychological distance from the thing you crave that matters. For me it took something happening, a baby arriving, screaming and gorgeous, and the choice seemingly being taken out of my hands. Some people need to subconsciously push that thing to happen, whether it’s being made redundant or becoming single, to force themselves out of comfort zones and into comfort.
Alternate answer -- stay.
I am a young, straight man who lives in a flat share with one boy and two girls. I'm 26. I'd consider myself non-confrontational and pretty peaceful about stuff. We've lived together for three years, since uni, and all get along and although there are the some minor arguments it's not so bad, we all have a roast together at the weekend and hang out with each other's boyfriends/girlfriends etc etc. Anyway, last night I was watching telly and my flatmate came downstairs and put her mooncup in a mug and then poured boiling water on it. In front of me. I was like, can you not do that in a jug in the bathroom, and she went mental at me, screaming that I had never had a period and I was oppressing her rights as a woman to cleanse her mooncup. I totally consider myself a feminist but really had to draw the line at her basic lack of hygiene, so had to retreat to my bedroom and not look her in the eye this morning. Who is right here?
Yours, A Man.
Oh god I hadn’t thought about this for literally a decade, the time my flatmate’s dick piercing got infected, so he got this adorable little egg cup, which he filled with saline solution and sat, his gentle Yorkshire penis, stuck with a handful of studs, draped into it on the sofa. But this is different. I suppose? Is it different? I mean -- ok, did she empty her period blood into the sink? Even then, are we talking glutinous meaty blood or a little dash of young red?
The more questions I have, the more I’m on her side. Having to secrete all your secretions is more of a schlep than you can imagine, what with the hiding tampons in your hand when you go to the loo at work, and the checking your arse in reflections constantly if you’re wearing pale trousers etc etc. And it sounds like one of the lovely benefits for her, of living with such good friends, is that she can be totally comfortable around you. Yeah, ideally you wouldn’t have seen her do her menstrual admin at the sink, because it made you feel weird, and ideally she wouldn’t have played the oppression card, because love, you could wait until he’s finished Strictly. But the tax on shared spaces is discomfort. My advice is to drink your tea from another mug.