Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
My cat, while very sweet and affectionate, has the bad habit of knocking over drinking glasses. Anything that is left unattended will most likely get tipped over. I have a roommate that I get along great with, and she loves the cat as well. Last night, though, she had her laptop out in the living room with a full glass of water next to it. For whatever reason, she ended up leaving both things out for the night, and woke up to her laptop under water. My roommate is very upset and wants me to pay for replacing/fixing the busted computer. While I’m sympathetic, I was up front about this issue before she even moved in, and we had a verbal agreement that we would clean up after ourselves to avoid potential issues like this. I want to (politely) tell her tough luck, and that I’m not paying for her mistake. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
If your dog mauls a visitor to your home, you can’t just chuckle and say, "Yeah, he'll do that,” as you point to your Beware of Dog sign. ("Were you even bewaring when he bit you?")
You are responsible for the behavior of the living things you introduce into an environment. If you bring a cat into the house and that cat knocks a glass of water onto your roommate’s laptop, you pay for the laptop. If you bring a toddler into the house and that toddler knocks a glass of water onto your roommate’s laptop, you pay for the laptop. If you bring Angel’s Trumpets into the house and boil the leaves into a special tea for “Roommates’ Day” and then serve it to your roommate, and your roommate dumps a gallon of water onto her laptop in what will ultimately prove among the milder of the terrifying hallucinations wrought by the ingestion of those boiled Angel's Trumpet leaves, you pay for the laptop.
It’s fortunate that your roommate likes your cat, because an apartment in which "anything that is left unattended will most likely get tipped over,” sounds like it is stressful enough already. My heart aches for you as I picture you creeping nervously into the living room at 6:54 a.m. to watch as dawn's first light illuminates the nighttime havoc your cat has wrought. Tables, bookshelves, carefully assembled Jenga towers: all have been overturned. Every morning, a terrible Christmas.
What was the extent of the “verbal agreement” you made with your roommate before she moved in? If you’re citing it as proof of your roommate’s culpability, it better have been stronger than "FYI, Bastet, has a mind of her own, so be careful, OK? Ha! Ha!"
I'm thinking something explicit, along the lines of:
“We work in two dimensions in this house; length and width are fine, but height is an affront to our Cat God. If you consent to abide by these rules, please give verbal consent and spill three drops of your blood in the cat water dish."
“My cat will literally destroy anything you own. If you have any items that need to remain upright, that’s a deal-breaker. Leave nothing unattended.”
Of course, even then, it doesn’t matter. A verbal agreement is worth less than a pinky promise, because at least there’s implied honor in a pinky promise. And the retail value of a pinky promise is far below the $999.00 required to replace a water-damaged MacBook Air. Unless you presented your roommate with a photocopy of this humorous poster and then bade her sign it before a notary as a binding legal document, you are on the hook for all technology your cat's fury obliterates.
You say you are sympathetic to your roommate’s plight, but in fact you are the opposite of sympathetic. You are blaming the victim. This news may initially surprise and confuse you since, till now, you appear to have believed that you are somehow the victim. However it is your roommate—the one whose laptop is ruined because her roommate’s cat spilled water on it—who is the victim.
Look how desperate you are to make this her fault:
“Last night, though, she had her laptop out in the living room with a full glass of water next to it. For whatever reason, she ended up leaving both things out for the night…”
WHAT A LUNATIC. This crazy bitch left her computer out in her own home! She trusted that the water she had been drinking would remain in its glass prison even though, given how little we know about the universe, gravity is, at best, a gamble! What are the involuntary commitment laws in this state?
Even though you totally warned your roommate MONTHS AGO that cats do the darndest things, it is your responsibility to compensate her for the ruined laptop. If the cat knocks a glass of water onto the new laptop, it’s your job to pay for that one too. You are responsible for replacing every laptop your cat ruins until you learn to keep your psychotic cat locked in your room overnight.
Otherwise, you may very soon find yourself celebrating next year's "Roommates' Day" alone.
My mom compares me to my dead uncle a lot. I'll admit that I do have few traits in common with him, but hearing "(Dead uncle) used to do that!" or something like it so often is beginning to annoy me. I love my uncle, but I'm tired of the constant comparisons. I want to ask her to cut down on it, but need to find a way to do so without seeming insensitive. Is that OK?
Thatz not okay.
Maybe she compares you to your uncle because you both have dead, unfeeling hearts?
There is no way to tell your mom to shut up about her dead brother already without seeming insensitive. If your sentence concludes with the line “…you need to stop yakking about your brother because he's DEAD,” you don’t have to work hard to emphasize the “not” in “I’m not trying to be a dick, but…” in the first half. It will be evident to all that you are not trying to be a dick. You simply have a natural gift for it.
Was your uncle an abusive meth head? Is your mother comparing you to your uncle in his current condition, i.e. emitting a rotting stench as his skin slowly decomposes? If the answer to both of these questions is no, it’s hard to reasonably take offense.
She probably loved her brother (or your father's brother—TWIST!) and sees his positive qualities in you. Even if she’s remarking upon mundane things—“You live in a house with me; your dead uncle used to do that!"—you should just let her get it out of her system. (Since you say it's just beginning to annoy you, I'll assume it's only recently started happening, which would imply a fresh death. If she'd been doing this your whole life, you probably would have gotten used to it by now, or gone insane and murdered her so that she could spend all her time with your precious dead uncle.)
It would be different if, in death, your dead uncle had become the family golden boy and you were always compared to him unfavorably. (“Your dead uncle never asks for extra money 'to make it through the semester!'” “Your dead uncle never leaves the house all lit up like a goddamn Christmas tree while he goes to the movies!” “Your dead uncle manages to stay out of my hair!”)
If you’re old enough to be aware that you need to forge your own identity, you're old enough to humor your mom while she grieves.
You're being neurotic about something stupid. Just like your uncle used to do!