The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters

The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250051455
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Series: Picador True Tales
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Stephanie Wu is an editor at Town & Country, covering culture, food, and travel. She is also the founder and editor in chief of, an online publication for young Asian American women. She was raised in Taipei and now lives in New York with a roommate.

Read an Excerpt


I’VE HAD ABOUT THIRTY ROOMMATES—including three classically trained opera singers—but none of them were as horrible as my high school experience. In my junior and senior years, I went to a residential arts school to study creative writing. My roommate was a girl I’d met during a summer program, also for creative writing, at the same school. It was fine at first, but it didn’t take too long for things to go really, really bad.

My school was a very isolated environment, with two hundred kids living under one roof. There were only about fifteen people in the creative writing department, and you saw everyone for hours every day. I can’t remember when it all started falling apart, but suddenly, I was the target of a group of eight girls—and my roommate was one of the ringleaders. Art school kids aren’t just mean, they’re creatively mean. They’re almost better at assessing your character and the things that will bother you than kids at a typical high school. I think they chose to bully me because I was easy to pick on—all my clothes matched, like a big pink blazer with matching pearl earrings. It was clear that I was bothered by their bullying and didn’t stick up for myself. That made it more fun for them to torture me. They were mean to others as well, but I think my suffering was unique because of the close proximity.

The worst part was, I had to see these girls every day. It was especially hard during workshop time, because we writers were always sharing personal stories, and I knew they’d be able to use my stories against me. And my roommate was a compulsive liar—we took a poetry class and she told me that she made up things that had never happened to her. She once wrote a poem about how, when she was cast as a princess in elementary school, someone said, “How could there be a black princess?” Everyone else thought it was such a moving poem, but it was all made up.

The girls did things like taking an unflattering photo of me and setting it as the background on the school computers. When I went home for the weekend to see my parents, my roommate and her friends stole my food, slept in my bed, and went through my makeup. I found swipes of their fingers in my lip gloss and eyeshadow. They also started stealing things from me, like one shoe but not the other. They wore my clothing when they went downtown, and then took photos and put them on Myspace for me to see while I was home. When I was in the shower, they went on my computer and combed through my instant messages and sent them around to one another.

By the end of the semester, my mom was really upset. She spoke to the people in charge of residential life and told them my roommate was stealing and breaking my things. Their best suggestion was to take photos of my room before I left for the weekend, and they said, “If anything has been disturbed, we’ll handle the situation when you get back.” As soon as I went home, my roommate wrote on her LiveJournal, “It’s too bad my horrible roommate’s Bose speakers went missing.” My mom read this and called the school, and of course the speakers hadn’t been touched—they were messing around with me. I went to my writing teachers—in art school, they’re almost like your parents because you see them so much—and they told me to tough it out. “Girls are mean sometimes,” they said.

I remember they took my pads and taped them to the mirrors and wrote next to them, “What is this, a jumbo plane?” I had a sign of my name in my room, and they wrote swear words all over it. They stole at least a hundred dollars’ worth of my stuff. I even spoke to a therapist a few times. At this point, all the friends I’d come to school with had teamed up with my roommate, so finally I decided to sleep on the floor of a friend’s room until they moved me to a different room.

My problems with that group of girls persisted throughout senior year, but at least I had a different roommate by then. The girl who moved in with me was the first opera singer I lived with, and she acted like a diva, even though she was only fifteen. She got up at seven every morning and played one of two CDs, either Renée Fleming or John Mayer. I always woke up to her singing along. She was also very high maintenance—every night she painted her fingernails to match what she was wearing the next day. She had a portable bowl hair dryer that she sat under, wearing a gold brocade blazer and opera diva clothing. She bought her prom dress at a secondhand store for girls who can’t afford expensive dresses. She lied and told them she couldn’t afford a dress, and then bragged about how cheap it was. Of course she became friends with the group of mean girls, but she didn’t go out of her way to make my life worse.

I don’t know if there was one worst thing the girls did to me, but they had a huge effect on my overall confidence. Despite the fact that I knew what they were doing was mean and wrong, a part of me always wondered if it was my fault or if I was asking for it in some way. I still have moments where I’m very self-conscious because I’m wondering what people will think or say about me.

I’ve had a ton of crazy roommates since then—my college roommate listed her number one interest as Everclear, the drink, and named her fish Sushi. She liked to party a lot, and during the first week of classes started sleeping with a male cheerleader on our floor. One night they were having such rowdy sex that my friend in the next room over, who shared a wall with her, fell off his bed.

One summer in college, I did a homestay in France. That’s where I had my second opera singer roommate—this huge, six-foot-three guy with bright blond hair. I assumed he was gay—he told me he was an opera major, he loved Kelly Clarkson, and he worked at Sephora—which partially explained the makeup I saw on his dresser and the fact that he wore mascara. When we climbed stairs, he said, “These stairs are working my thighs like a Hungarian shot put.” Then one day he came into my room and said, “Hey, your friends are cute. Do they have boyfriends?” I was completely speechless.

I later studied abroad in Rome too, and lived with eight other girls in one huge apartment. These girls were overwhelming—they partied a lot harder than I ever did. One had a threesome in her room. One night, two of them came back and there was blood everywhere—apparently one of them had punched a taxi driver. They never cleaned or took out the trash, and left trash bags on our balcony. I went out there once to find it covered with maggots.

But none of them could ever compare to the mean girls. After all these experiences, I guess my tolerance is really high.

—M, 24 (F)

Copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Wu

Table of Contents

Introduction xv

Growing Pains

The Creative Bullies 3

The English Boarding School 7

The Twenty-Year Friendship 11

The Public Backstabbing 15

The Bunk Beds 19

Freshman Year

The Amateur Taxidermist 25

The Close-Knit Family 29

The Secret Keeper 33

The Garbageman 37

The Alcoholic Genius 41

The Planned Parenthood Chaperone 45

The Impersonator 49

Student Struggles

The Eleven-Woman Suite 57

The Obsessive Lesbian 61

The Party Poopers 65

The Overexcited Bladder 69

The Best Friend Gone Wrong 71

The Fake Move-Out 75

The Suicide Attempt 79

The Plumbing Problem 83

The Gang Headquarters 87

The Goldfish Killer 91

The Swedish Neutrality 93

The Faulty Wiring 97

The Princess Palace Dream 99

The Recovered Addict 105

The Multiple Personalities 109

Adventures Abroad

The Kleptomaniac 115

The Foreign Exchange Student 121

The Manic-Depressive 127

The Business Shower 131

The Superyacht 133

The Russian Missionary 137

Recent Grads

The Four-Month Hangover 147

The Persistent Pests 153

The Roommates with Benefits 159

The Pseudo-Frat 163

The Passive-Aggressive Pig 167

The Teenage Protector 171

The Heist 175

The Mormon Household 177

The Pet Feud 181

The Roach Motel 185

The Rent Stiffer 189

The Ex-Boyfriend 193

The Craigslist Best Friend 195

The Business Partners 199

Young at Heart

The Three-Month RV Trip 205

The Jersey Shore House 211

The Roomance 215

The Shower Intruder 223

The Naked Nanna 225

The Staged Robbery 231

The Serial Roommate 235

The Cabdriver 239

The Widowed Escort 243

The Top Chef 247

The Newborn Baby 251

ThePotheads 255

The Geriatric Retirement Hotel 259

The Houseboy 263

Acknowledgments 267

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