Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I have a couple roommates; we’re all single guys in a condo in South Anchorage. Three bedrooms, three of us. There isn’t a ton of space beyond our rooms and then there’s a living room and dining room area. Through all this COVID stuff, we’ve seen it all — been furloughed, worked from home, one guy was laid off for a bit but got a new job recently. But we’ve kept busy and kept each other from going nuts. Until now, we’ve been on the same page, none of us going out besides work, just lots of hanging out, the three of us at the condo.
One of my roommates recently met a girl online. At first they were just talking and texting but I woke up a couple weeks ago and she was in the kitchen drinking coffee — she’d spent the night. I was pretty surprised to see anyone besides us in our house. We’ve been pretty careful about COVID. I thought maybe it was a one-time thing, but two nights later when I got home from work, they were on the couch watching movies, and again, she spent the night.
I’m pretty freaked out about this. I don’t know this girl or how careful she’s been, and I really don’t want to get sick. Our other roommate actually has asthma but he’s also the nicest guy in the world and I just know he won’t say anything. I kind of brought it up, suggesting it might not be the best time to have people over, and my roommate jumped all over me and said what is he supposed to do, he’s single, he likes her, and he pays rent here like everyone else.
Am I overreacting or what?
Even in non-pandemic times, one needs to tread carefully when establishing happy mediums for bringing romantic interests around in a shared living space. Forget COVID-19; if you have a roommate rhythm, bringing a new person into the mix can mess it all up, throw introverts out of whack, and introduce weird energy into a steady state of relative harmony. With a majorly contagious virus thrown into the mix, it just makes it messier, wackier and weirder.
Generally speaking, public health officials have suggested that if you broaden your social bubble beyond your household, you should do so slowly and carefully, and only with people who are going to mutually respect the expansion, meaning they are only expanding with you, not with others. This way, everyone’s exposure remains small. This might be a good place to start. Sit down with your roommate and find out what he knows about his lady friend. Is she totally isolated besides seeing him? Conversely, is she dating others? Does she have a job that requires she’s in a high-risk situation for being within 6 feet of unmasked strangers?
Until you know these things, you can’t assess the risk to your own household. But even without understanding how she spends a standard 24-hour period, you can agree on some general household rules. For example, what if guests are only entertained outside? Or in personal bedrooms? Are there expectations about guests wiping down bathrooms and other shared areas after use? This might seem extreme, or like overkill, but you know what else extremely overkills? Pandemics.
Hate to say it, but I feel like we’ve officially reached the point where you simply have to do what’s best for yourself and those you care about, and to heck with everyone else. (Now I’m not saying abandon those in need beyond your bubble. But it is difficult to be charitable or even helpful when you’re sick or worried sick.) So your first roommate wants to bring someone into the bro bubble without clearing it with the rest of you? And your other roommate is too nice to stand up for himself and his high-risk respiratory system? Well, then you have to take care of No. 1, too.
If you’re freaked out about the added exposure in your home, then continue to voice those worries to both of your roommates and the visitor whenever they can hear you, while also doubling-down on protecting yourself. Don’t assume they’re doing anything to keep the condo clean or you healthy. Sanitize the areas around you constantly. Wash your hands after touching anything. Heck, wear a mask when you aren’t in your safe space or you aren’t confident the condo is COVID-19 clear. How’s that for overkill in the name of health, safety and self-perseverance, Wanda?
And in this time when many people aren’t respecting science, mask mandates or the well-being of their fellow human beings, you simply have to do what you think and feel is right for yourself — in your home, out in public, in stores, at work, on trails, wherever you happen to be. This will not only improve the likelihood of you staying healthy, but it will also give you peace of mind in an increasingly anxious world and inside your increasingly crammed and cramped condo.
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