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DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a male roommate. This is my first time living with a man. He doesn’t really clean much of anything, and I get the impression that because I’m a woman, he thinks it’s my responsibility to clean everything. He never necessarily says this to me, but he implies it often. I don’t feel comfortable living in a messy home, but I also am not comfortable cleaning up after anyone other than myself. How do I approach this situation? — First Time Living With a Man
DEAR FIRST TIME LIVING WITH A MAN: One thing that roommates should do BEFORE they move in together is establish house rules. It’s not too late to do so now. Invite your roommate to a house meeting. Establish that you should have these meetings once a week at a designated time when you can check in to make sure that things are going well and address any concerns you may have. By keeping this meeting on a recurring schedule, you avoid creating dread around coming together to talk. Sometimes the meeting can be upbeat and happy. Other times, it’s serious and pointed.
At this first meeting, share what you believe the ground rules should be about cleanliness, use of common resources, food, guests, bills, etc. Ask him his thoughts and share your own. Make it clear that each of you should be responsible for tidying after yourselves. Point out that he has not been doing that. Establish weekly and, when neces- sary, daily chores that you each must do to keep your house in order. Get him to agree.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My cousin was arrested for fighting a few weeks ago, and her mugshot is still all over the internet. We went to a small school in a small town, so her mugshot quickly circulated around Facebook — even alumni shared the picture. I love my cousin, but her arrest was extremely public, and I have a reputation to uphold. I feel bad for being embarrassed by her behavior and wanting to distance myself. Is it wrong that I want to distance myself from her at this time? — Bad Cousin
DEAR BAD COUSIN: You are not your cousin, and you cannot control what happened. It is understandable that you are embarrassed by your cousin’s behavior. But do not dwell on it. Continue to be yourself and live your life. Your reputation should remain intact for the person you are. Don’t get into conversations about what happened to your cousin. If people bring it up, say it was unfortunate.
You don’t have to hang out with your cousin publicly right now, but you should check in with her to make sure she’s OK and to see how she’s managing. If you are embarrassed, imagine how she must feel. Find out why the incident occurred and if she needs support. Whether or not it was her fault, she may need psychological counseling to work through how she got in that situation in the first place. You can help your cousin behind the scenes. She needs an ally at this time.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAM- LEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharri- [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.