Ask The Roommate Doctor

Got a problem? She’s got answers.

Got roommate problems? Get help. E-mail the doc:

My roommate is what you might call morbidly and grotesquely obese. I’m guessing that she probably weighs more than 200 pounds. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t feel sorry for her anymore; I’m just disgusted. As you probably guessed, she eats like a pig. She eats fast food in the morning, noon and night. It’s especially hard for me to watch her destroy herself because I’m studying to be a nutritionist. Not only is this bad for her social life, but it could kill her. I want to help her without putting her on the defensive. What should I do?

—Healthy Heidi

Imagine Gandhi shacking up with Hitler—never mind the fact that Gandhi is god-like while Hitler was the spawn of Satan, they seem to have very different eating styles. While Hitler preferred stuffed pigeon, Gandhi preferred to fast for peace. Though I’m not comparing you to either Hitler or Gandhi, I am comparing yours and your roommate’s respective health views to the very opposite ideals of these two diametric figures. As you are studying the glorious world of alpha-linolenic fatty acids, your roommate is a veritable Rhodes Scholar when it comes to fast food menus, reciting the value meals like a literati recites Proust. This doesn’t mean you should turn your perfectly sculpted back on her when she’s on her fifth helping of mac ’n’ cheese casserole, but it does mean that you can’t expect her to immediately see the light upon reading The Abs Diet. She’s eaten her way to 300 pounds for a reason—and it’s not because she likes the open-mouthed stares of very young children. The fact that you care will help her a lot more than a chastity belt for the kitchen appliances and pantries. Rather than expressing disgust (something she probably already feels herself), show her some love and patience … after that, the dietary tips will be a piece of cake.

Two weeks ago my roommate brought home a cat without discussing it with me. When we first moved in together (last December) we were both petless and I assumed that was the way it would stay. I’m not an “animal person,” and I resent what she did. The cat pees all over the house and smells pretty darn bad. Now she’s telling me that it was supposed to be a surprise for me and she thought I would like it. I don’t know why she thought I would like it, but I don’t. So far she hasn’t done anything to rectify the situation.

—No Catwoman

When I want to show my 87-year-old grandmother that I care, I buy her a gift certificate for a full day of skydiving and bungee jumping. I also invite my friends along with me to the gynecologist’s office when I want to let them know how much I love and appreciate them.

These gestures, of course, are obviously bogus. Bringing home a living, breathing animal as a token of friendship is fine if the recipient happens to be Jane Goodall and the animal is a chimp, otherwise there should be a discussion about adding to the household brood. It doesn’t take much more than common sense to know that caring for any kind of animal is a lot of work—not something you burden your unsuspecting roommate with under the guise of a “gift.”

Bringing home a cat without talking to you about it first was not only disrespectful but negligent behavior. Your roommate needs to find a new home for Mr. Kitty right away. If she’s really attached, perhaps she can find a place with visitation rights.

I just applied for a graduate program in London and I will find out if I’m accepted within the next six months. When should I tell my roommate? If I don’t get in, I don’t want her to be upset that I was going to leave in the first place.

—English Rose

You have a few options. You could just not tell her at all—maybe slip a copy of Leavin’ On A Jet Plane under her door and hope she understands. Or drop some hints—you know, start listening to the Scissor Sisters all the time or incorporate phrases like “bugger off” and “capital idea.” Make some kind of altar in honor of Oscar Wilde and Benny Hill. If she doesn’t get the hint, it’s clearly her fault. Then there’s always the honest, it-might-sting-at-first-but-you-will-feel-better-later approach: tell her immediately and never mind the bullocks.

I moved into the dorms with my new roommate this summer. He seems like a cool dude. I’m testing his trustworthiness by leaving money out once in a while. My girlfriend thinks I’m a jerk for doing this. I think I’m just smart.

—Chris R.

Skepticism and paranoia are often mistaken for brilliance, just as the Scary Movie franchise is usually mixed up with thoughtful social commentary à la the Coen Brothers. Before you take the Mensa test, take a cue from your girlfriend and trust her on the “jerk” assessment. After all, you would probably feel a little icky, too, if you found out that the hottie at the supermarket wasn’t actually flirting with you, but a plant hired by your lady to lure and trap you into revealing your inner scumbag. Give your roommate the benefit of the doubt and live in blissful trust, unless the day ever comes when he proves otherwise.