Ask Kat: My Virgin Ears
Ah, the joys of dorm life...I am in my first year of college and am having some issues with my roommate. During the week, everything is fine. We may not be best of friends, but we respect each others' space and get along as well as two people with polar opposite personalities can be expected to. On the weekends however, she turns into a party animal. While she has enough respect for me not to bring the party to our room, there have been a few occasions where she has stumbled in at 4 A.M. drunk from a wild night. Though I do not in any way condone her habits, the fact that she is drinking underage isn't my real concern.
Lately, the problem has gotten much, much worse. A few times now, she has come back to our room with one of the girls she regularly drinks with. While I don't mind this friend sleeping over occasionally, I do mind overhearing them talking about the various guys they did or almost did the HND with. Though they (mostly) keep their voices down, it's not difficult to overhear what they say, and they certainly don't seem ashamed about it. While I don't delude myself into thinking that this kind of stuff doesn't happen (this is college after all), I really would rather not have to listen to them casually joking about the various guys they hook-up with.
I've already told my mom about this, and she thinks I should talk to my RA about it. I know I should, and I will if the problem continues to escalate, but I really would like to try and work things out with my roommate first. There is only one problem with this: I am terrible at confrontation. I still have to live with her for another semester and don't want to make things awkward between us. How do I express my concerns in a way that doesn't permanently damage the already strained relationship we have?
Actually, I'm not sure you should be expressing these particular concerns at all—because unless she's bringing guys back to the room, puking on your carpet, or compromising your ability to sleep/study, your roommate's social (and sexual) activities are none of your business. The onus is on her to respect your shared space, not to adjust her social life to your specifications.
But if you feel that you must say something, then I'd start by at least trying to pretend that you don't think she's a huge, disgusting, dirty slut.
Yes, it's that obvious.
Your roommate is an adult, what she does with her body is her business, and if she's celebrating her newfound freedom by engaging in safely consensual sexiness with the neighborhood dudes, that's okay. It might not be what you'd choose, but that doesn't give you the right to police her behavior—and it certainly doesn't mean she needs to be "ashamed" about enjoying herself. And more importantly, if you really want to spare yourself the pain of overhearing the down-and-dirty about her latest hookups, a holier-than-thou attitude is the last thing you want to bring to the conversation.
That said, you're right to say you should try to work things out directly with your roommate, particularly since a) you have to live together until the end of the year, and b) she does seem to be making an effort to respect your living space (not bringing the party back to the room, keeping it quiet when she's socializing, etc.) Talking to your RA is a last resort, to be saved for when things have gotten so bad that your only hope of resolution is official mediation followed by moving out. You're not there yet, and while your RA is trained to handle all manner of dorm-based conflicts, a conversation with her now will probably go something like this:
You: I keep overhearing my roommate discussing her hookups.
Your RA: Welcome to college.
As for what to say to your roomie, here's some good news: since it's not your place to judge her lifestyle, you're not going to address the subject matter of her conversations. Instead, tell her a slightly-pared down version of the truth: that you know she and her friend try to keep their voices down, but unfortunately, their chatting is disrupting your sleep—and, as a result, you were wondering if she would mind keeping her late-night socializing to an absolute minimum, and the convo at whisper level.
And you, of course, will do your part to smooth the way toward roommate utopia by investing in a comfortable pair of earplugs (the better to not-hear your current roommate discussing her sexcapades, my dear!), which should block out any residual sexytalk. But even after you've parted ways at the end of this year, I'd hang on to them—because given the average college student's favorite extracurricular activities, you'll probably be needing to block out a LOT between now and graduation.
Got a college conundrum? Send it to Kat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Confessions of an RA: The Roommate Experience, Part 2