The Real World: North Philly

Guest columnist Cara Stefchak describes the various types of roommates one may encounter when moving into a new house. My life went to hell with the alleged theft of a $7 container of cashews. Yes,

Screen shot 2012-04-09 at 7.44.41 PMGuest columnist Cara Stefchak describes the various types of roommates one may encounter when moving into a new house.

My life went to hell with the alleged theft of a $7 container of cashews. Yes, people actually pay $7 for cashews, but let’s not get too far off point, this column isn’t about people’s negative life choices.

The downward spiral of my off-campus living situation either began with the disappearance of Rolling Rocks or vanishing eggs and apples. Actually, it was probably the weed stench creeping down the hallway to my room, or the constant doorbell ringing of boyfriend after boyfriend. No, no wait, I got it – it was the dubstep. Fact: Exposure to dubstep for any period of time decreases your overall well-being, 10 out of 10 people who aren’t rolling on ‘Molly’ agree.

My housemate grievances are nothing out of the ordinary. If my middle school self learned anything from her reality television binges it was that when the time came to coexist with others, confrontations would arise. But unlike the cast of “The Real World” or “Jersey Shore,” my housemate battles have not resulted in domestic dispute charges, furniture throwing, hair pulling or fist fighting – at least not yet. But I’m keeping the popcorn and FlipCam ready for the day I get front-row seats to when one of us snaps.

But I don’t even know if you can compare the response patterns of the Jersey Shore’s cast of guidos and guidettes with Cara Stefchak’s real-life cast of indie-esque chicks and their flannel-wearing boyfriends. I mean, maybe if someone cut my perfectly tamed straight bangs while I was sleeping I might retaliate and bleach their Urban Outfitter apparel or break one of the three record players in my house, just as I’m sure Snooki would rip up some sequin party tops and snap some house music CDs if anyone messed with her perfect poof.

When the going gets financially tough, the tough get housemates. That much I expected. But no one ever briefed me on where the tough go when the housemates themselves get tough to live with.

This is the time of year when many students are apartment searching, signing into leases and fantasizing in Facebook threads with their future housemates about how good all the Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria plates will look in their kitchen-to-be. No matter how confident people feel in who they’ve chosen to live with, everything will change after move-in day. The following is a compilation of types of roommates that college students may encounter during their years of shared housing.


This character more often than not will also double as the token compulsive liar in the house. Food will go missing, clothes will be “borrowed,” beer supplies will dwindle, and if anyone questions this housemate, they will become completely offended that you dare suggest they might be behind the vanishing goods.

As I mentioned before, my house got hit hard by the klepto, who has yet to be identified. There were very angsty words exchanged in a way-too-long and hostile Facebook thread I lost interest in halfway through about missing cashews. The whole encounter drove me nuts – pun intended. The cashew culprit still remains at large. Hide your kids, hide your wife.


Realizing a housemate has plans to let their honey overstay his or her welcome can be exhausting. They’ll occupy the entire kitchen cooking elaborate date-night meals. They’ll occupy the living room for couch cuddle-seshes, curled up for hours giggling at rom-coms. They’ll occupy the fridge with their food and the hallway with their bike. They’ll occupy the shower for sexy time. They’ll occupy the front door steps, ringing and ringing the doorbell relentlessly to get in. It’ll all get really old, really fast.

I’m not talking about the “few nights a week” stay-over status, I’m talking about the “let me make you breakfast in the morning and send you off to school like we’re married and I’ll be here waiting with lunch for you when your class is done” status.

It’s even worse if you’ve got an emotionally unstable couple on your hands playing house, unless you’re into listening to the whole, “let’s start drunk fighting at midnight and forget we share a house with four other people who may not want to hear about how rude you were to me tonight.”

There are some pros to living with the couple: handyman on duty 24/7. Also, the more unhealthy the couple, the more secure one can feel about his or her own relationship. There are tons of nights where, as I lay in bed listening to the live Jerry Springer episode playing out above my head I think, “Hey, at least I’m not involved in that train wreck.”


When students move out of residential housing, many adopt in a furry companion, or in Temple’s case, many pick up one of the 10 cats that they encounter on their walk home and claim it as their own. Or in my case, the animals claim your house as their own. Enter: mice.

But un-welcomed rodents aside, living with a domestic pet can be nice and sub-in for the pet you’re missing from home, just as long as the housemate who brought in the animal cares for the animal.

Before we moved in, one of my housemates expressed interest in getting a puppy that she planned to keep in her closet-sized room. The message contained pro-puppy propaganda of adorable pictures. No matter how cute they were, all I could think about was how hard I would want to punt that dog – think Baxter in “Anchorman” – when its yappy puppy barks would interrupt my studying.

So while the puppy idea never actualized, a bunny one did. My Flemish giant rabbit Pancake shacks up in my bedroom, rent free. And while he doesn’t come equipped with a bark feature, he has been known to jump on anything and everything, usually resulting in loud, sporadic crashes in the middle of the night, which isn’t the most appealing for my roommate next door. Luckily for me, Pancake’s presence is too cute to protest. He stays.


I’ve been both a giver and receiver of the “stop being so goddamn lazy and do something productive in this house” passive-aggressive fridge notes. In our housemate honeymoon period, the notes took on a kinder tone, beginning with “please” or “dear housemates” and ending in “thank you.” Now, they begin with “[insert vulgarity here],” and end with “[insert vulgarity here].”

The notes will be waiting on the fridge first thing as you stumble downstairs post-party. “Before I finish cleaning the bathroom and emptying the overflowing trashcan you left full, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t want any of this trash you left laying around the kitchen along with this stack of dishes.”

The notes will be cleverly written to appear like your housemate cares about your well-being, but really the hidden message takes on a slightly more harsh “stop being disgusting” tone.


The only child will have no boundaries. They’ll never have heard of knocking on a door before entering, and probably have very limited knowledge in cooking, cleaning or anything that requires them to lift a finger.

You’ll feel good about yourself that you’ve managed to acquire more life skills than someone else without really trying, but good luck leaving them to do any chore in the house up to a normal person’s standards.


The only way you know the ghost exists is by the fact that his or her food supply is slowly dwindling. You run into them once a month and exchange “hellos,” but have zero idea what that person does on a day-to-day basis or where they’ve been staying all week. They’ll stop back at base camp to pickup more clothes and shower.

The only way I know my invisible roommate has stopped in is from the pot smell that overwhelms me when I open the front door. It let’s me know she’s alive.

While my housemate experiences have been mellow compared to the roommate smack-talk I sometimes eavesdrop in on when on Main Campus, it hasn’t been flawless. I can’t wait for the day when I won’t have to fight for fridge space, the day when I can watch “Criminal Minds” marathons in my underwear without someone’s boyfriend walking though the house and the day when a full-detailed report about a missing container of nuts won’t fill up my Facebook inbox.

And remember, there are these magical places called one-bedroom apartments for those looking to regain their sanity.

Cara Stefchak can be reached at


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