My roommate’s quarantine partying is putting my life at risk

Group Chat is In The Know’s weekly advice column, where our editors respond to your questions about dating, friendships, family, social media and beyond. Have a question for the chat? Submit it here anonymously and we’ll do our best to reply.

Hi, Group Chat,

My roommate (she and I are both 22) is not taking quarantine seriously and is absolutely putting my health at risk. Even though our state is currently being ravaged by the coronavirus, she has decided that it’s perfectly fine to throw indoor parties with 10-plus people, despite my complaints and protests.

These parties have become a weekly occurrence, and I’m scared not just for my own health, but also for the health of everyone attending. What can I do to talk some sense into her? I’ve considered calling the cops, but I’m worried that will only escalate things and ruin our friendship beyond repair. I just want to feel safe in my own home again. What can I do?

Sincerely, The Good Roommate

Credit: Getty

Dear TGR,

Justin Chan, who refuses to let anyone come into his apartment without wearing a Hazmat suit, says — Whew. Let me first start off by saying that I’m glad I live by myself because this is the sort of nightmare that I’ve happily never had while living solo for almost 10 years. Your roommate needs to understand that if you’re also paying the rent, you have as much of a say as she does in terms of who can come in and out of your residence.

Tell her that beyond the fact that these parties are putting your health at risk, she is also being inconsiderate of the people who live around you. Worst case scenario: If she still doesn’t listen, notify your landlord before calling the police. That will give your landlord the chance to address the situation before resorting to the authorities. 

Amissa Pitter, who believes your health and well-being should never be put on the back burner, says — Okay, this is a tricky one given the person putting your life at risk is your roommate and friend. I’m appalled with the lack of consideration and awareness, so I can only imagine how you feel. I wouldn’t call the cops just yet, though. It’s obvious your complaints and protests aren’t getting through to her, so you may have to give her an ultimatum. What’s more important to her? Your friendship and health, or partying in the space you both occupy? 

Ten-plus guests in your space during COVID is way too many. What if she lessened the number of people and the frequency of them coming over? (For example, two to three people every two weeks or so). Sometimes finding an in-between solution works out best for all involved. But in all seriousness, thoroughly explain how her throwing indoor parties during a pandemic is selfish and unsympathetic, and how it makes you extremely uncomfortable. I’m sure you contribute to the place just as much as she does, so she has to respect how you feel. Maybe throwing some facts out about people contracting the virus after large gatherings can help you state your case more clearly.

As a last resort, I would suggest filing a complaint and looking for a new roommate if she doesn’t budge. I hope she listens and both of you can come to a reasonable agreement. 

Kelsey Weekman, a writer whose beat is literally keeping tabs on rogue influencers who won’t stop partying amid these deadly times, says — One of the reasons why people are partying so hard through a literal pandemic is because they feel like they are unable to put their lives on hold for an indeterminate amount of time. Objectively, it is not fun to constantly hunker down inside — but it is necessary. The young celebrities who are still attending massive gatherings are doing so to feel some sense of normalcy, and to keep providing content for their fans.

Whether your roommate is famous or not, that’s what putting photos of a party on social media is doing, essentially — entertaining your followers. That’s a form of pressure on her.

That pressure works both ways, though. When people see her partying and putting so many people at risk, they will judge her. You’re currently judging her, and that’s actually a good thing. Harness all your judgmental energy for good, like a 19th-century nun keeping rogue convent members in line during a crisis. Make sure she knows that even if she doesn’t care about the people she might be infecting, her reputation will be tarnished forever if she keeps acting like this. Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned public shaming.

Tyree Rush, who believes what you’re not gonna do is feel unsafe in your own home, says — Having a roommate is tough and navigating boundaries in a shared space is one of the most difficult things to balance. Still, it’s totally necessary to both set and enforce apartment rules in order to maintain your own mental health at home, especially at a time like this.

You have to reiterate your concern about your safety in a firm and compassionate way. Maybe also suggest an alternative to meet her halfway (like having guests over but keeping the party entirely outdoors, or having a COVID-19 questionnaire for all guests before allowing them over). Ultimately, though, your safety is what comes first and if that can’t be respected, you may just have to look into breaking the lease and finding somewhere else to stay for your own peace of mind. 

Morgan Greenwald, who hasn’t been to a party since B.C.E. (Before Coronavirus Era), says — I’m sorry that your roommate is putting you in such an uncomfortable situation. In an ideal world, she would simply heed your warnings and stop inviting people over. But, if you’ve already voiced your concerns and they haven’t relented, it might be time to consider taking matters into your own hands.

The reality is that at the end of the day, the only person you have control over is yourself. It’s obviously not ideal, but have you considered staying with your parents for a while (assuming that’s an option)? You might also want to consider breaking your lease and finding roommates who you know will respect your boundaries and self-imposed restrictions. If your roommate is a true friend, then they’ll understand why you’re leaving, and they’ll respect that you need to go somewhere where you feel safe.

TL;DR — You can lead your friend to coronavirus prevention information, but you cannot make her follow it. Unfortunately, the odds your roomie is completely oblivious to the risk she’s taking by throwing parties is low, given the sheer amount of COVID-19 horror stories in the media. If begging her to stop partying is fruitless, you can talk to your landlord about a next course of action. But if she isn’t violating any specific building or state rules with her get-togethers, your best bet may be to break your lease and fly the coop.

If you liked this article, check out our last Group Chat, and click here to submit your own question.

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