The Perils of Co-Habitation
A friend of mine says that she will never live with someone she is in a relationship with; statistically, she says, people who co-habit before marriage are more likely to divorce. Besides which, she uses the same knife for butter and jam, which is surely a dealbreaker – although not, perhaps, a marriage-breaker. I'd been having a housemate issue for a while. Not an "I licked your cheese" scenario, but something smaller, quieter, and altogether more disturbing. She would get up in the morning, pour herself a bowl of cereal, and blow-dry her hair, at the kitchen table, cereal spoon in one hand, hairdryer in the other. Apart from the fact that I had a grudging respect for her awesome multitasking abilities, something just didn't sit right with me.
My mother wouldn't allow me to brush my hair in the kitchen (in the days when hair-brushing was something I did; the days before hair mousse and embracing the curls and hairdressers who actually liked me and didn't want me to get picked on at school). She said it was unhygienic. The hairs, she imagined, would fly into the food, not to mention whatever dirt said hairs had picked up during the day.
It seems that we inherit more than genetics, so; the sight of my housemate blowdrying her hair in our otherwise not-particularly-clean-or-tidy kitchen would drive me into a mental frenzy, so abhorrent was the thought of hairs in the food. It didn't really matter that there was no food on our counters; they would surely lie in wait, until I took out a bowl of porridge or of semolina, something sticky for the hair to really attach itself to.
It took a while, I'll admit, to bring it up. Life is about picking and choosing battles, and though I maintain that this particular one did, in fact, pick me, I resisted the urge to bring it up for weeks. Until one day, I was caught unawares (read: slightly inebriated) and decided that this would be the perfect time, the perfect place.
"Well!" I said, slightly breathless at the thoughts of the impending fist-fight that would surely ensue, greasy chip in hand (when house-hunting, if your house is on a street with a chipper, find another house, FYI). "I-have-something-to-say-and-I-don't-think-you're-going-to-like-it!"
There was a pause. Housemate, ever benevolent, looked slightly . . . bemused, if I recall correctly. "Go on . . ."
"WELL!" I had by now reached fever pitch, treading a fine line between panic attack and heart failure. "I-REALLY-HATE-WHEN-YOU-BLOWDRY-YOUR-HAIR-IN-THE-KITCHEN!" Another pause. "IJUSTWORRYTHATYOU'REGETTINGHAIRINTHEFOODI'MSORRYI'MSOWEIRD!"
She laughed (laughed! - as if this hadn't taken WEEKS of buildup!). "That's fine! It hadn't occurred to me, but it is a bit weird, now that you mention it."
The relief was palpable, unless what I was tasting was liquid adrenaline. "Oh, great!" Big breath. "Well, do I do anything that annoys you?"
To be honest, this was more a gesture than anything else. I'm rarely there, I thought. I'm very tidy. I don't really leave food lying around, and though I don't do a huge amount of cleaning, my not being there does, I feel, excuse me from cleaning duties. Sometimes, not always. If anything, I suspected she might be displeased with the amount of time my clothes lie, sodden, in the washing machine. I awaited her reply.
"Well," she said, without a sign of the anxiety I had felt when relating my very rational weirdness about the hair-drying, "you do sniffle a lot. When you're watching TV, or reading. Yes, you sniffle."
There was just nothing to say – and, in the following hour, which I spent watching The Sopranos and, naturally, sulking, I attempted to breathe, very slowly and very calmly, through my mouth. It was near impossible, therefore now I must find new housemates. Kitchen hair-drying fans need not apply.