Apartment Guru: Keeping Your Roommate's Secrets

roommate privacyDear Apartment Guru,

Being new in town and not knowing anyone, I ended up living with someone who really just pays me rent but, unknown to her parents, mostly lives on a nearby military base with her guy. It's pretty ideal for me. But there is one problem that's getting to me: Sometimes her parents call our house.

How can I handle this without giving her status away? She can't always be out shopping, can she? The last time they called, the conversation was really awkward. I lied for her, but about a half-hour later my roommate called and asked me to tell her exactly what I told her mom. She hasn't said anything about the issue since then.

The thing is, I don't know why she gave them the landline number to begin with. It's unlisted and I only have it because it came with my Internet and cable. But it's a little weird being in the middle of my roommate and her parents. Any advice?

-- Not a Very Good Secretary

Dear Secretary,

I'm assuming your roommate has asked you to lie on her behalf, or I don't think you'd feel like you have to make up stories for her parents about her remarkable ability to sniff out a good sale, or spin a fanciful yarn about her snazzy shoe collection. If that's the case, you are a very good roommate indeed to lie to complete strangers on someone else's behalf.

So, while, yes, the mostly-lives-with-her-boyfriend roommate is one of the most coveted of roommate situations (the others include the travels-for-work roommate and the works-until-1-a.m.-and-on-weekends roommate), you also are putting yourself in the middle of a potential family conflict. Let me remind you about family conflicts: They are often irrational, full of passive aggression and remarkably painful to anyone caught in them.

Here are a few reminders of what it means to battle blood relations:
  • The "Dr. Phil" family: In one episode of the TV show, an older sister accused a younger one of doing drugs while pregnant, and despite several years of "help" from the good doctor, no one is talking to the dad.
  • Woody Allen movies: Almost all of them include someone throwing up during a meal.
  • The Holidays: Need I say more?

Do not, dear Secretary, get in the way. You have your own family to conflict with. Why take on another?

The next time your roommate drops by, suggest that she tell her parents that she doesn't use the house phone and that you only use it for business, so it would be better if they contacted her on her cell phone.

Then get a phone with caller ID. The are several nice cordless versions ranging from $40 to $300. Then if you see a number you don't recognize, don't answer.

And if you accidentally do and it's a member of your roommate's family, try going, "Wrong number!" and hanging up quickly.

That works, too.

Have a question for the Apartment Guru? Email her at: apartmentguruquestions@gmail.com.

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