Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Self-Justifying--A Model

So, just to be perfectly clear, this post is not picking on my roommate. I'm not mad at her, nor upset by her behavior--sure I wish she would change, but mostly for the sake of the people who will live with her (I can testify from personal experience that it is not easy). If she never changes, I can still cope--in large part, admittedly, because I only have to deal with her until the end of the semester. :-D

I freely admit to mocking her though--just a little bit.

Some time ago--I think it was a Friday--we had a little altercation, which might be named To Lock or Not to Lock by someone who was a little too fond of literary allusions. Ahem. In summary, it boils down to roomie coming in after I've locked the door so I can change into pjs, complaining about how inconvenient it is that I lock the door before she comes in (despite that she, on occasion, never comes in at all), me pointing out mildly that I was going to change, her objecting that "no one is going to just walk in without knocking," and me NOT saying, "like you were just about to?" That was strategy, as my next move was to bring up that she doesn't lock the door, like ever, and I'm not comfortable with that, and her answer to that was, oh so surprisingly, that no one is going to come in. She then called me passive-aggressive for not bringing it up until then, and I countered by admitting that it was p-a, a bit, but trying to imply, or in general say more gently than blurting it out, that I was not and am not comfortable talking to her (because she does not freaking respond. At all. Really creepy to someone from a highly verbal family), and she responded with the incredibly profound cliche, "it's a two-way street."

Now, what I find fascinating about this whole thing is that we were both responding according to our conditioning--at least I was. It's an absolute in my house that no one is perfect. So I gave ground at the accusation of being passive-aggressive, expecting a similar response from her, because that's how discussions (i.e., not yet fights) work in my house--but instead, I smacked into a brick wall. Roomie, on the other hand, sort of approached things with an "I'm never wrong" attitude, and managed to very quickly self-justify out of any fault on her side. I don't know what background gave her that attitude, but the odds are rather better than even that that is how her family of origin acts during discussions.

So, fast-forward to a night the next week. I was changing clothes, but hadn't locked the door, because I'll let no one say that I'm not reasonable on issues that do not darn well matter. She walked in, while I was in an in-between stage (just pants, thank heaven), and I said, in a voice which my family would recognize as protest but not outrage, "You could knock!" I then listened, with far more patience than I would have had if I actually had been upset, to her righteous indignation about not expecting to knock to walk into her own bedroom. I thought, after the fact, that her word choice there was interesting--I would never say, "my bedroom" when referring to my dorm room, because it isn't "my bedroom," it's my home away from home. My home on campus stops at the door which she so often does not lock--but for her, this same space is chiefly a place to sleep.

She objects to me locking the door, because it's inconvenient for her, and never considers that any other perspective could be possible. She objects to my reasoning, because "no one would do that"--herself excepted. She rejects my concerns about unlocked doors because "it's passive-aggressive not to have brought them up earlier." She could be a model for the wonderful new how-to show, "How to be right in any argument, no matter how reasonable or well thought out the other side is." It's really fascinating to discover how someone's mind works--and I mean that not at all sarcastically! I probably have a better idea of my dear roomie's motivations than she does right now--it's largely academic, since even given her motivations I have no clue how to deal with her, but I do feel better knowing that I am not her real problem.

1 comment:

  1. Crazy situations, huh? I always hated living with a roomie, especially when I didn't pick her. Housemates are different. But sharing your bedroom with someone you don't pick... that's hard.