Roommates Part 1

This is the post I promised to write ages ago about why I ended up living in a bathroom-less "studio" above a mentally unstable masturbation-superstar and down the hall from an overly friendly heroin addict and his suit of armor.  If you didn't read that one, here it is.

If you've already read it, you are probably wondering "what on Earth could make a person voluntarily subject themselves to that kind of living situation?"

And this is the first installment of my four-part answer:


I shared a room with my younger sister for 15 years.

Sibling cohabitation is not something that I would recommend to parents who aren't trying to foster animosity between their children.

But, to my parents' credit, they had noble intentions.  They made the decision partly out of budgetary restraints and also out of the hope that living in such close quarters would force my sister and I to resolve our differences - which is an admirably optimistic point of view.

Unfortunately, the theory did not take into account just how much my sister and I disagreed with one another.  We fought constantly- sometimes violently - about everything from how loudly she breathed to how much my feet stunk.  Neither of us slept very well because I think we were each afraid of being murdered in our sleep by the other.

But my sister's cat was probably the worst part of all of it.  This particular cat felt that it was necessary to be making loud noises all of the time.  It even made noise in its sleep.  And the noises it made weren't cute little noises, either - they sounded like a duck with a speech impediment choking on a car accident between a truck full of squeaky toys and an ambulance.  Go back and reread that sentence.  It was a work of art.  Okay, now carry on...

When I tried to solve the problem by putting the cat outside, one of two things usually happened:  First, my sister would fly into an animal-rights-inspired rage and say something like "you aren't treating the cat with respect!  She should be treated the same way you would treat a human being!"  And then I'd retort with something along the lines of "Yeah?  Well guess what?  I used to put you outside when you were a baby and were still too stupid to get back in by yourself.  I would definitely put you outside with the cat right now if I thought you wouldn't eventually find your way back in." And we would go back and forth like that until someone either got stabbed with a fork or distracted by a phone call from a boy.

But what usually ended up happening is that the cat would be locked out of the bedroom but not outside of the house.  It seemed like a compromise, but it wasn't.  The cat - having been thrown out - would begin clawing on the door and screeching, which was even worse than the other noises and usually prompted my sister to begin crying and yelling "See? See what you did to her?  She needs me!  And she's all alone and scared out there in the dark!"

In essence, I was forced to choose between a noisy cat and the same cat only noisier plus an angry, angry little sister who didn't have the sense to know that she was being manipulated by a cat who was nocturnal and therefore not at all afraid of the dark.

I chose a tent.

The idea was born out of an epic battle between my sister and myself in which I threatened to move outside and live in a tent "even though I'll probably freeze to death" because she was being so pig-headed.  Obviously I had to move out to the tent or else I would risk losing the argument.

My family owns a good-sized chunk of property in rural North Idaho, so it was not difficult to find a suitable tent site.  I set up my tent close enough to the house to be visible to those who may pity me but far enough away to give the illusion that I may be in actual danger and therefore worthy of pity.

It actually turned out to be a pretty cool little setup.  I began spending more and more time in the tent and one by one, my worldly possessions trickled out there with me.  I think my parents began to fear that I liked living in the tent a little too much and that maybe this experience would lower my standards for future living arrangements (which it did) and that I would eventually settle on being a bum (I have not yet resorted to that, but it is not out of the question.  I think I would be pretty good at being a bum because I am resourceful and fairly unencumbered substance addictions.)

For almost four months, I lived in the tent, as happy as a clam (apparently clams are quite content with life).  All the while my poor mother fought a three-way internal battle between her desire to let me express myself, her natural instinct to keep me from freezing or being eaten by a bear and her fears that I would spend my future as a vagrant because of some gross oversight on her part.

Sometime around November, my mom finally cracked.  She told me that she had decided it was too cold outside for me to be sleeping in a tent.  She never mentioned her fears about my future as a hobo.  I argued with my mom, saying "but Mom, I want to live in the tent!  I like the tent!  Don't you want me to be happy??"  I could see her sanity crumbling, but I had no idea that I would drive her to do what she did next.

She built me a box.

She built me a sound-dampening box in my room inside the house.  I don't know how she made the leap of logic that this wouldn't turn me into a hobo, but she did.

I came home from school one day to find my mother in a chipper mood.  She was cooking and humming and smiling like someone who had just recently been granted a reprieve from their lifelong sentence in a mental institution.   She greeted me as I walked in the door:  "Hi sweetheart!  How was your day?"

Me:  "Good...."  I was suspicious already.

Mom:  "Did you learn anything in school?"

Me: "Oh, just the usual - like how to cook meth and give a blow job... what's going on?"

Mom: "What?  Oh, nothing..."  (She looked away and began chuckling to herself)  "Are you going to go into your room?"

I dropped my books and backpack on the floor and sprinted to my room, at which point I noticed the sound-dampening super-fort that my mother had built for me.

Me:  "Mom?  What is this?"

Mom:  "That's your new home, Sweetie"

Me:  "But I live in a tent... remember?"

Mom:  "Oh, your dad and I already packed up the tent.  We thought you wouldn't miss it once you saw that we made this for you instead."

Me:  "You want me to live in a box in my own room?"

Mom:  "It's made out of soundboard so you won't be able to hear the cat.  It will be fun!  Like living in a fort.  You used to love forts when you were little."

Me:  "Yeah, but that's because I was five, Mom."

Mom: (looking a little hurt) "You don't like it?"

Me: (feeling guilty for hurting my mom's feelings) "No... I... I like it.  It's just that... I don't know how you think that this is a better idea than a tent."

Mom: "It's November, Allie.  We live in Idaho.  It is going to snow soon and there are bears and mountain lions. They are going to be attracted by the food you are hoarding out there and then they will eat you and you'll die."

Me: "What do I do when my friends come over?"

Mom: "Ask them if they want to see your awesome fort?"

Me:  "Normal parents don't do this to their children, Mom."

Mom: "Just go check out your fort.  I put up all of your pictures inside of it and everything."

I reluctantly crawled inside the box/fort.   It wasn't actually as bad as I thought it would be.  My mom had indeed hung up pictures of me and my friends.  She may have tried to sneak in a family picture or two.  I couldn't stand up inside of it, but I could crawl around comfortably.  And my mom was right - I couldn't hear the cat.

I lived in the box-fort for close to six months before we moved and I finally got my own room for the first time in my life.  It almost seemed cruel that I had to go away to college to live in a cramped dorm room with a passive-aggressive crazy person so soon after finally discovering the freedom of having my own space.

Up next: The passive aggressive roommate.


OhSweetSara said...

You're right, that sentence was a work of art.

Sharing a room is a form of torture no one should have to live through.

When my parents were building our house we all (6 of us) had to stay with my uncle and cousins (6 of them) in their 4 bedroom (two of which were designated for the adults, and the 4th room was 'built' specifically for my parents) 1 bathroom home. At one point there were 5 girls sharing one 11x11 room and my 7 year old cousin was the only one who had not hit puberty. Nothing like 2 pre-teens one teenager and one 19 year old cycling at the same time! It was a living hell, and we had to live that way for a year.

Anonymous said...

This is gold.

(Were mountain lions a legit concern?)

Allie said...

Sara - that sounds ridiculous! You guys must have had bunk beds, right?

peterdewolf - thank you! And yes, mountain lions were a legitimate concern. Kind of. We never saw any close to our house (we had dogs) but I did see one a few miles away one time. Bears, on the other hand... totally a legitimate concern. They were all black bears though. And way more interested in our fruit trees than eating me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, is all I can really say.
And I totally agree with peterdewolf- this IS gold!

can't wait for the next installment

Brighton Mum-Teenage Angst said...

That sentence truly was a work of art, worthy of being hung on a posh gallery wall! A box? in your room? what a cool mum you had.

OhSweetSara said...

Nope, we threw down a few mattresses and we camped out on the floor. Pretty much every night was a scream fest of who was on whose side of the floor and who got to sleep closest to the door. It was beyond brutal.

Erin said...

That is hysterical!

Please tell me you have a picture of this box fort somewhere!?

Anonymous said...

Um... so hi... I'm the creeper that's been reading your blog over the past few days... Just wanted to say LOVE IT!!!

I don't remember how I got here in the first place (I tend to follow links in other posts cuz I do whatever the internet tells me to) but I'm glad I did, cuz you pretty much rock!

P.S. I am totally stealing the "you spot it you got it" from you... okay, stealing isn't nice... um, share?

Tony said...

This is definitely one of my favorites from your blog. You done good, Allie!

Sorry about the cat. I know how you feel...they are noisy as hell.

This reminds me of the time when my family moved, and they made me sleep in a 10x10 closet because it was close to my older sister's room. They said that it was my job to protect her.

Once again, Allie, thank you for making me laugh at work.

CherBearBlue said...

That was an amazing sentence, agreed! Question, how much older are you than your sister?

Your parents are awesome. Seriously. Mine NEVER would have let me live in a tent or made me a box.

melissa said...

You're a crazy girl! Way to take a stand!

Tara said...

I feel for you. When I was younger, we thought it'll be a great idea to push our twin beds together. Then that huge bed turned into a bed for me, my twin, my little brother and my 3-year-old sister. Our parents didn't make us do that. We just were too scared to sleep in our own rooms. Haha!

Anonymous said...

Once I lived in a big cardboard box on the floor of my bedroom for a few months. I cut little windows into it, made a blanket door, and decorated the inside with pictures. One day I came home to find it gone. My dad had taken it down. His logic: "No child of mine will live like a hobo while still under my roof."

I was an only child. So what that story says about me, I don't know. But I felt compelled to comment, since fellow box dwellers (by choice, or not) are few and far between.

Also, your blog is amazing.

Gigi said...

Oh Allie! You are tooooo funny. Can't wait to read the next installment!

Kaitlyn said...

Allie dearest, I am writing this to hopefully make you feel horribly guilty and despicable. To put it shortly: your blog is ruining my life. I have been reading it for two and a half hours from the floor of my closet, which is severely cramping my plans for doing anything resembling "organizing" and is also wreaking havok on my spine from hunching over like Quasimodo to look at the computer screen because I am too lazy to get up off of the floor and move my computer elsewhere and also from what I've read I think we may have the same uterus? So, thanks. Way to wreck a productive afternoon and give me arachnoiditis.

Phongdor said...

when you post in installments like this it feels like a bedtime story. Am I weird for thinking that? So be it!

Kaitlyn said...

This just goes to show what my evening has been like. It feels like a bad idea. Or a Mafia transaction.

Artisan Spring Water. Now, if you're serious...Albert Einstein. Playing table tennis with an opponent of your choosing.

And that would be

Kirsten said...

Ok this has nothing to do with this post, although it was awesome and I used to pretty much live in cardboard boxes inside my house when I was younger.

But remember this week when you wrote about how you got a mean comment? I hope you remember because otherwise we have a problem. ANYWAYS, I got my first mean comment yesterday! He told me I was the reason that America had swine flu and childhood obesity. Seriously. It would have been more awesome if he knew english better but I'll take it. I figure you cant become an awesome famous blogger till you get your first mean comment so I guess we are on our way?

Nikole said...

I grew up in a tiny tiny bedroom and the closet was built into the wall (to save space?) like a cubby with doors and then three drawers were built into the wall under it and for some reason I decided that my room wasn't tiny enough and I slept in my closet for like three months in 3rd or 4th grade until I found mouse droppings in my blankets..

I lived in that room for 15 years and it had wood paneled walls that could make your eyes bleed. When I finally got a room that had real live paintable walls I painted them hot orange. And I mean HOT. ORANGE. It was awesome. And horrible. But mostly awesome.

linlah said...

I spent 18 years in a room with my older sister I would have loved a sound dampering super-fort

Mary Sue said...

Ha! I found you through The Bloggess and I heart this post and the studio apartment piece leading up to it. Strong work.
Also, because I found a new blog I like... I WIN!

cardiogirl said...

One day I shall write a short story (since I'm too insecure to declare I will write a book) and I would love to use that background for one of my characters.

I don't even need the tent. I'll take the box.

Can I please use the box in a fiction story?

I am anxiously awaiting your reply.



Anonymous said...

Oh man, I wish you had pictures of this tent or the fort. This is epic.

Nooter said...

um, why didnt you just put the cat outside in the tent?

also, all the really awesome forts have a sign that says 'no girlz'. did your fort have a sign that said 'no girlz'?

Danielle said...

I found you from The Bloggess and she is right -you are definitely awesome!

Susie said...

"Artisan Spring Water"

Sorry Allie, I couldn´t resist.. :o) If you still have that broccoli lying around somewhere, I would be more than happy to give it a very special place!
Alternatively, you could go for a phoenix? Thanks a lot!
I am ever so happy I found your blog (only yesterday..!) and decided to print the first 30 or so posts and take them home with me so I could read them (cuddled into my blanket, drinking tea and smoking - things I couldn´t possibly do at work, haha). Well, and here I am again - curious about you and your roommates and everything else. Finding your blog has made me a very happy camper!
Greetings from Munich, Germany -- susie
PS - I will send you my email address via email (can´t seem to leave one here without it being published..)

Nunya said...

I heart your blog. I am bad at commenting.

Cathy said...

Awesome. When I was growing up, my little sister lived under the stairs for about a year.

Our staircase consisted of (from the bottom up) four stairs, a landing, then about 20 more stairs at a 90-degree angle from the first four. The landing had a little door under it, so it created a tiny room about 3x3 square feet and about three feet high. That's where she lived. For a year. Even though she had her own bedroom.

The best part (for me) was that every time I went downstairs I made sure to jump on the landing to make her "roof" shake. I found it hilarious. Older siblings are mean.

Lilith_ii said...

You are awesome! I just love your reminiscences, they always remind me of some weird story of my own.

I shared a room with my little sister until I was 14 (and we eventually moved out of the small flat into a big house). We had a very intense love-hate-relationship. Although I am older I was terrified of her. She only had to give me a creepy glare (remember Jack Nicholson in Shining?) while breathing "I'm going to get the knife" and I was barricading myself in our room for hours. Once I spent two hours on a tree, knowing she was too small to climb it, while she was standing under it with a pair of scissors.

All the while I was loving her insanely (still do) and I always regretted being mean (not only because of the knives). Once she was terrified, because I told her Peggy Bundy (remember Married... with children?) was under her bed (don't know why that freaked her out but it totally did) and she was scared to sleep in her bed. She moved into the wardrobe for weeks and I was so sorry, I went along - which made me even more sorry, because it really was not very comfortable.

Me, Myself, and I said...

I've never had to share a room with any of my siblings... and I'm very glad for that! I probably would have ended up with my sister. And it would have ended quickly and violently and I would have moved into the basement. And our basement was not the kind that is all nicely furnished and is basically a downstairs-downstairs living room. Our basement had stone walls and cobwebs and bookcases. And spiders. And it would flood sometimes when it rained.
And all that would have been preferable to rooming with my sister.

I await your Roommates Part 2 with bated breath.
(Okay, maybe not. But the idea is there).

Chocolatesa said...

I once lived in a tent IN SOMEONE'S LIVINGROOM!!! :D Lol the two bedrooms were already taken by roommates and we had a vast L-shaped livingroom/diningroom that I took the short bottom part as my room. But the back of the couch wasn't enough privacy when you have your boyfriend over so I put up my tent and stayed there until boyfriend's dad saw it a year later and told us "for pity's sake move in with me! I have a spare bedroom!" So we did.