Open Letter To My Horrible Roommates (Or: “How Hippies Can Be A-Holes, Too”)

This is an ugly post, detailing the awful way in which some of my housemates have behaved.  Some of their behavior involves the abuse of children.  Much of this post is dedicated to the background of how I ended up living with these jerks.  To read the letter, please see roughly the bottom half of the post.  I strongly believe that such behavior is only allowed to continue because people in my position keep quiet.  Today, I’m speaking up.


First, some background.

On June 7th, I moved into a home with some people who were interested in starting a Non-Violent Communication (NVC) community.  This sounded really cool.  There were to be 7 adults and 4 kids living in a 100+-year-old house in a good part of town.  Two of the adults are really nice, neat people whom I respect quite a bit, and was excited at the prospect of living with them.  The others seemed nice and reasonable enough, as well.  (I still respect and generally like one of those with whom I’d not previously been acquainted.)  We agreed beforehand that the only “cause” of the household would be NVC.  Sadly, a week before we moved in, some of the roommates who had come up with this community idea abandoned NVC (emotional and communicative non-violence) in favor of adding stuff that we all had to live by–after we’d all given notice to our landlords, and had no time to find a new place.  This includes living and promoting Quaker ideologies, not having a TV in the living room (which forced me to give away $300 in related equipment, since there was no space, elsewhere), subscribing to a particularly naive form of environmentalism (“let’s not put liners in the trash can; instead, we’ll spray them with water several times a week, during the worst drought in recorded history;” and “let’s keep the windows open while the AC is on, so we can get ‘natural’ air in, and still be nice and cool”), and other unreasonable demands.  Those who refused to follow such ideals, they said, were going to be kicked-out forcibly (evicted).  Of course, this is illegal, and in violation of numerous verbal agreements…but the threats remained and intensified throughout June, until something truly absurd happened toward the end of June.

(Please note: I have nothing against Quakers, in general, and fully expect that the people mentioned in this post are grossly misrepresenting their religion, just as people from all walks of life sometimes use their beliefs to justify bad behavior.  I hope, one day, to get a chance to discuss theology with someone who can represent this religion as it’s intended, as I tend to find substantial wisdom in all faiths.)

Part of the ideals they were insisting on having followed was “consensus-style decision-making,” with emphasis on CT’s method.  (I’m not including this person’s full name, to avoid possible liability.)  Despite my reservations about letting this man preach his cause at me, my less-kind roommates decided to invite him and his partner, Wren, to dinner, so they could meet me, and so I could hear their message.  I was not OK with this, but was simply so tired of saying “no” for the last month, and having it ignored that I agreed, anyway.  (Note: the root word of “consensus” is “consent.”  Ironic, eh?)  So, my roommates and some of their friends came to dinner at my dining room table, and so did CT and Wren.  At this point, I decided that I just didn’t feel good about being forced to meet someone for the purpose of being preached at.  I’d agreed to read their book at some point, and consider it on its own merit, but that was as far as I was willing to go.  So, I stayed in my room and put a “Privacy, Please” sign on my door.  A few minutes later, someone ignored the sign and knocked.  With a muffled groan, I let Cedar enter, and told her why I was avoiding the gathering.  The conversation, in brief, went something like this:

Dane: “I’m in here because I don’t feel genuine about meeting people under coercion.  At some point, I might like to meet them, when Meagan’s not trying to ram them and their method down my throat; but at this time, it’s just not OK.”

Cedar: “Why don’t you go in there and tell them that?  I’m sure they’d understand.”

Dane: “OK.”

So, like an idiot, I assumed that these hippie-teacher celebrities would have sufficient humility to accept that while I’d like to meet them under different circumstances, now was simply not a time when I was interested in their company.  I came over to the table and explained this to them from a crouching position, in a soft voice.

At first, it seemed promising.  They replied to the effect of, “We were not aware that this gathering has a coercive element!  Sure, let’s do this at another time, under different circumstances.”  So, I went into the kitchen, got a plate, grabbed some food, and began walking back into my room, as I said I would.  Then things started to go badly.  (The below is paraphrased and abbreviated.)

CT and Wren (indicating agreement with one another): “Now that I think of it, I’m not OK with you going into your room while we’re eating out here.  In my culture, breaking bread is a sacred thing, so having you go into your room while we’re sitting at the table doesn’t feel right to me.”  (What culture this Californian white guy was referring to yet eludes me.)

Dane: “OK, I’ll sit at the table.”  (At this point, I sat down in an empty chair.)

CT&W: “I feel really wrong about sitting at a table and eating with you unless you’re ready to schedule a date to get to know us better.”

Dane: “I’ll only feel right about that once Meagan stops trying to force you and your method onto me, and after I’ve had a chance to stop being so irritated about it.  I don’t know when that will be.”

CT&W: “I’m not OK with that!  Here we are, sitting at this table, and breaking bread together, and you’re not ready to extend us your friendship!”

Dane: “I understand that you’re uncomfortable about this, and that you see eating together as a sacred event among friends.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t set a date, right now.”

(This part of the conversation repeated for several minutes, with CT and Wren getting more and more animated, loud, and angry, as the conversation progressed.  As is the nature of the NVC method, I made a point of reflecting their feelings before adding my responses.  CT and Wren don’t like the NVC method, and my using it seems to have triggered a somewhat unpleasant reaction, as below.  I have an unusual capacity, which people sometimes comment on, for keeping a calm tone of voice when being yelled at, and as such, never reciprocated their volume increases.)

CT&W: “You’re just repeating what we say, and then re-stating what you’ve already said!”

Dane: “I’m trying to show that I understand your position.  This doesn’t mean that I have to change my own, and I would appreciate it if you would respect my decision.”

CT&W: “I’m just not OK with sitting here, at this table, with someone who’s not ready to extend his friendship to me!”

Dane: “In point of fact, it’s my table.”  (In hindsight, this wasn’t the most diplomatic thing to say…but I’d really had enough, by this point.)

CT (yelling): “I don’t have to sit here and take this!  I’m leaving!  Wren, if you want to stay, you can, but I’m leaving.”

At this point, both CT and Wren left in a huff, slamming the front door behind them.  The other people sitting around the table were absolutely shocked by this.  These two are commonly billed as being foremost “gurus” of effective community communication training, and here they were throwing a tantrum and storming out because I wouldn’t be coerced into being their friend.  We sat around for a few minutes talking about this as a household, until Dan, a friend to several house members, said to me, “I’m impressed with your ability to eject obnoxious people from your home.”  Then, Meagan began yelling, addressing me, and starting with, “I think you’re obnoxious!”  She said that she’d “decided yesterday” that I’m leaving, and there was nothing I could do about it.  (I still don’t know what prompted this decision, but her poor behavior toward me the day before suddenly made sense, once she said this.)  She said she was leaving the house, and would not come back until I was gone.  I replied that I accepted that she believed that I was leaving, but that I had no plans of moving out.  She stormed out, and the rest of the housemates and guests expressed horror at her behavior.

Then the really odd thing happened. The next day, Jack and Maggie (wonderful people) left town for two months, as they’d been planning to do.  A few hours later, Cedar pulled me aside, into a bedroom of a roommate who was also out of town (Heather), and said the following (paraphrased/abbreviated):

Cedar: “I can’t handle the presence of a male who might take charge of meetings accidentally (referring to a meeting about kitchen stuff where nobody else volunteered to facilitate, and I was asked to take notes), because my ex-husband was verbally-abusive to me.  Also, Meagan has said she won’t come back until you’re gone, and I have a pact with her to help her work out her issues, so you have to leave.  This is not a negotiation.”  (The italicized text is her exact wording.)

Dane: “Is there anything I can do to assuage your fears?”

Cedar: “No.  This is non-negotiable.”

Naturally, only she, Heather, and Meagan had gotten a say in this (with the other lease-holder, Lauren, abstaining), despite the obsession about “consensus” that had been displayed for the last month.

Later, she said that I was being asked to leave because several of the people living here are “raging feminists” (her words).  Then, in emails to me and the other house members, she said that I was being asked to leave not because of gender discrimination (since that would make her look bad), but “to preserve the values of the house.”  Translation: “You’re not a Quaker, and not my type of environmentalist, and have no interest in acquiescing to my ideals, so you have to leave.”  (The emails expound upon this point at great length.)  Heather, who’d been out of town since about a week after we moved in, decided, without ever having spoken to me one-on-one for more than about 30 seconds, that she was going to side with Cedar and Heather on the issue, since she, too, is a Quaker, and has known Cedar for quite some time.  (The others in the house, including Lauren, are basically agnostic, but are quiet about it, and avoid conflict almost pathologically.)

Since then, I’ve made it clear that I’m not leaving, and Cedar, Heather, and Meagan can’t make me.  I’ve spent the last two months trying to get people to de-escalate this conflict, and have made every effort to be friendly to my house mates, including striking up pleasant conversations when I see folks in the common areas, and sharing tasty food for no reason at all, other than to be nice, and hopefully to re-kindle frienship.  Lauren, Maggie, and Jack seem too afraid to speak out against these three militants, since it could involve losing their own ability to stay here, as well as having the others make their home-lives miserable.  Cedar, Heather, and Meagan have done everything in their power to make me miserable and assert dominance over me (including Heather buying a redundant phone/Internet account, and convincing everyone to switch over to it, so I’d have to pay the entirety of the old account’s bill, at the locked-in contract rate), while constantly using NVC language and making small platitudes, so that it would look like it’s all “OK,” and to avoid cognitive dissonance.  Today, I decided I’ve had quite enough of their hypocrisy, and wrote the following letter, emailed to all the house members (as well as some folks whom I’ve been employing as witnesses for legal reasons), posted it on Facebook, and am now posting it here.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the horrible roommates is now sleeping with two out of three of the other lease holders?  She seems to break up with one or the other of them on a roughly bi-weekly basis, leading to some “interesting” household interactions.  (I’m on the lease, as are the other roommates, but as a resident, not a lessee.  The wording of the lease technically makes me, Maggie, and Jack “tenants” with all the same rights, and none of the legal/financial responsibilities.  We have no subleasing agreement with the lessees; our only legal relationship in this matter is with the property management company.  This has not prevented C., M., and H. from trying to evict me, anyway.)

The Letter

Some of my roommates are nice, considerate people (Maggie, Jack, Lauren).  The others are exceptionally horrible (Cedar, Heather, Meagan).  This is an open letter to the horrible ones, including pictorial illustrations of the crap I’m having to put up with.

Those of you who have been following this drama are aware that they’re (Cedar, Heather, Meagan) trying to evict me because my beliefs are different from their own, and I don’t wish to acquiesce to their Quaker ideals; and, in Cedar’s words, because some of them are “raging feminists,” who can’t handle having men around who speak their minds.  (This gives real feminists a bad name.)  Supposedly, the “theme” of this house is community and emotional/communicative nonviolence.  I have yet to meet a household full of more emotionally- and communicatively-violent individuals.  They’re also big into “environmentalism,” but gripe at me for asking them to close the windows when they have the AC on.  This letter is my way of calling them on their hypocrisy and expressing a big “WTF?!” with regard to the messes they expect me to clean up.

Fair warning: this post contains evidence of child abuse/neglect/endangerment, and will probably make your blood boil.

Today, Cedar, Heather, Meagan, “Sai” (not his real name, I assume), Maggie, and Lauren went on a trip to the hot springs, somewhere north of here.  True to form, the horrible ones of the group made sure I wasn’t invited, but that everyone else was–which isn’t really a big deal for me, given the poor company.  I made one request of them before they left: please don’t leave me a mess like last time.  Below are pictures of the mess they left, this time.

The entirety of what you see on the dining room table was found in Cedar’s room when I peeked in to make sure the windows were closed before turning on the AC.  Many of these dishes and flatware items are mine, and I’d been looking for, and inquiring about them for weeks, to no effect.  Since I’m having company over on Saturday, I decided to take them downstairs and wash them, rather than waiting for Cedar to do them, probably some weeks/months from now.

As I gathered these items, I also noticed a large amount of food on the floor (which isn’t my problem), as well as a number of prescription pills that had been spilled, and could easily be eaten by the children and animals who live here (4 kids, 4 cats, and one dog–the latter being mine).  An ~8-year-old girl with type 1 diabetes lives in this room, with Cedar, and is frequently left home, alone, or without an adult who has been made aware of her presence, or been trained in giving emergency insulin injections (in the case of fainting, seizures, strokes, or other emergencies relating to blood sugar problems), and often without the girl knowing where her mother is, or when she’ll return.  She and her brothers are often left without food while her mother is away, and sometimes they ask me for food so they don’t have to go hungry–which I provide out of ethical obligation.

Side Note:
There is also a person living here (Meagan) who was engaged in hitting her live-in boyfriend, “Spectrum,” just a few months ago–and who is now living with 3 teenage boys, some of whom she babysits and tutors, at Cedar’s request.  She has recently invited her new boyfriend, “Sai,” to live here, without asking the rest of the household.  He’s a nice guy, and seems to have no idea what he’s getting into.   I’ve been told by someone I trust, who works with sick children for a living that all of this constitutes neglect, and possibly abuse and child endangerment–but that it would do little for me to report it, unless there was an acute issue in-progress for the police/CPS to witness.  So, the kids get to keep suffering.  😦
(End of side note.)

The mess you see in the pictures includes:
-A dishwasher full of dirty dishes, which nobody saw fit to run before leaving.
-A stove covered in dirty pots, pans, and other implements.
-A sink full of dirty dishes.
-A laptop and cables left on the floor, which pose a tripping hazard.
-Three full trash cans, two of which I emptied just yesterday.
-Four clean plates left in the cupboard–which is to say, what was left after Cedar hoarded the rest in her room.
-A 6-foot by 4-foot table covered in dirty dishes, cups, glasses, and flatware found in Cedar’s room.  The moldy quesadilla is a particular gem.
-A dish drainer overflowing with clean dishes that nobody bothered to dry/put away before leaving.
-The ant problem is back because my roommates don’t clean up after themselves.  (See below.)

The last time my roommates went out of town, far worse things happened.

-Cedar threw an overnight birthday party for her 16-year-old son, including her 14-year-old son, and about three of their friends.  She left the following morning, leaving them all in the house with just me, after I told her I’m not interested in watching her kids.  She didn’t bother to shop for food beforehand, so her youngest son went hungry.  (He didn’t like the kinds of food I had on-hand to offer him.)
-I was left with over three dishwasher loads of other people’s dishes, many, but not all of which were from her son’s party.
-Her son’s friend badly scraped his knee, and didn’t know how to treat the injury.  At the request of the kids, and to prevent infection, I applied water and hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound, then antibiotic ointment to disinfect it.  There were no bandages in the house (that I knew of), so I used a clean paper towel and packing tape to cover it, then instructed him to change the dressing at least daily and seek medical help as soon as he was able.
-Nobody bothered to make proper arrangements to take care of their cats.  The cat box was so full and smelly that I had to clean it myself, so my Dungeons and Dragons guests would stop gagging.  I had to give the cats water and food.  Had their owners bothered to coordinate with me, they would know that I keep the doors locked when I’m sleeping or absent, and as such, whomever they intended to come and take care of their pets (since they said they didn’t want me to do it) would have to call before doing so.  Evidently, the people who were supposed to do the job could only come at night…and I’m not OK with folks I don’t know well walking into my home at night, when I’m asleep, without my permission.  (Really, who is?!)
-The kitchen was full of ants and cockroaches because my roommates kept leaving food on the counter tops and floor.  I dealt with it by putting insect bait/poison around the perimeter of the house’s ground floor.  We were pest-free for several weeks after that, but now they’ve returned, for the same reason as before.

This stuff really pisses me off–and I’m still floored at how some of my roommates are so obsessed with “saving the world,” and yet fail to make the most basic efforts to take care of their kids, pets, and home.

“Being a good roommate 101: CLEAN UP YOUR OWN FRIGGIN’ MESSES.”

End of rant (for now).



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