Dear Prudence

Help! My Roommate Keeps Stealing From Me … and Admitting It.

Read what Prudie had to say in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored.

Each week, Prudie discusses a tricky letter with a colleague or friend, just for Slate Plus members. This week Jenée Desmond-Harris and Paola de Varona discuss Prudie’s response to: Anxious Grad Student.

Dear Prudence, 

I live with my best friend (who is a 32-year-old adult). We are both solidly comfortable in terms of funds (and honestly, though my salary is slightly higher, I have pretty substantive loans/debts that she doesn’t have to worry about). Two years ago, my mom gave me a wine of the month club gift for a month, where you get to mix and match a case of wine for a pretty steep discount. Since then, I buy a case of wine a month because it’s actually pretty economical. I understand that this is a bit of booze, but it’s actually a very useful tool for me in keeping my alcohol intake to a certain limit and it’s cheaper.

Since I started doing this, my roommate has decided it’s OK to drink my wine, something she did not do when I was just buying one or two bottles at the store at a time. She has never offered to pay me for this because she “only drinks one or two glasses per bottle” so it wouldn’t be fair. I disagree. I have been fairly annoyed by her unwillingness to chip in, and have brought it up a few times, but I do drink more than she does and at a certain point, I can’t be bothered to fight the same fight about her paying even 10-15 percent of something I buy for myself that she treats as an apartment utility. We have been friends for too long to fight about her stealing my booze (or my food, which she also often does) despite how much I hate people stealing my stuff.

However, I recently bought a few very expensive bottles of wine (like $90-100 bottles) to give as gifts to family members for whom a fancy bottle of wine is the perfect gift. I told her they were presents and stored them slightly separated from the other wine I bought for the month. I went out of town for a week, and she decided to open and drink some bottles of the wine that I bought while I was gone, and drank two of the very expensive bottles of wine. She is refusing to pay me back or buy replacements because “I always share” and she “shouldn’t have had to remember which were special” and I should have kept the gifts far from the “communal wine.”

The thing is, literally none of the wine is communal, because I am the only one buying it and I have been very upfront both about how (1) those bottles were gifts and (2) I really want her to start paying for the wine or just not drink it. I’m super angry and we had a pretty nasty fight. Am I being unreasonable? Did I train my roommate to walk all over me? Am I being a child because I won’t share? Is my friend being awful? Am I crazy? How can I make her understand that I need her to pay me back?

—Anxious Grad Student

Read Prudie’s original response to this letter.

Jenée Desmond-Harris: I just can’t even imagine a situation in which one friend says “Hey, could you pay me back for the wine you drank?” and the other friend just goes “No.” Out of control! A normal letter would feature the LW asking how to raise the issue with the roommate, which might be a tad awkward. But now that the roommate has refused… I just don’t even know if there’s anything that can be salvaged between them.

Paola de Varona: I was planning on saying the exact same thing. I can’t even picture this happening in real life—I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who is this shameless! We have this phrase in Spanish that says someone is a “caradura” which kind of gets at this idea, and it’s the only thing I could think of as I read this.

Jenée: * Googles Caradura* To be a “caradura” means not to feel shame and to behave inappropriately in a given situation.

Oh, this is perfect. This is exactly it. The roommate has decided that they don’t care about interacting in a normal way. All bets are off! Which is actually sort of frightening. I mean what comes next?

Paola: Yeah, I was trying to picture what kind of script you’d give the LW in this kind of situation—and what do you say? “You owe me money for those bottles. This is not up for debate. My purchases are not up for grabs?” I wonder if they’ve always been like this in their “friendship” and it just has reached a breaking point. Because how are you friends with someone for X amount of years that behaves like this and manage to never have a nasty fight until now?

Jenée: There must be more to the story. Or, I have a theory: The roommate has recently developed a problem with alcohol, which explains both the way she couldn’t resist the wine and her unreasonable reaction.

Paola: Oh, that is a great point. I hadn’t even considered that. And it might make sense if she drank more than two bottles in one week—though, I don’t drink much so I’m not sure what the normal “average” is.

Jenée: I feel like that would be right on the border between “I realy like my wine” drinking and “problematic relationship with alcohol” drinking. Maybe a reader will correct me. The behavior is the real tell, though. I think she was drunk when she refused to pay for or replace the bottles!

Anyway, this is just one of the toughest kinds of questions: When someone is stuck with a terrible roommate. Breaking a lease is not easy. Living with someone who feels like an enemy is not easy. I guess I should have included some advice about putting the wine in a locked bedroom from now on. But man, what a terrible way to have to live!

Paola: Agreed. There are few things that are worse than a terrible roommate, especially if you’re now actively hostile toward each other. I’m incredibly conflict-averse so my advice to her would be to keep things in her room and spend as much time in there or outside of her house as possible. Both of these things suck!

Jenée: The more I think about this, the more I’m surprised there aren’t couples therapists for roommates.

Paola: That’s what your friend group chats are for, I’ve learned. I’ve played therapist a number of times for dirty dish wars.

Jenée: I wish the LW had you around to diplomatically order the roommate to stop being a caradura and pay up!!

Paola: I bet sicking a Spanish-speaking mom on them would remedy this situation STAT.

Classic Prudie

I’m a guy and I got into a heated argument with my boyfriend a few days ago. I became silent and nonresponsive, and out of frustration, he flung his coffee mug in my general direction, though quite far away from me. This is the first time something like this has happened, and we generally communicate well with each other. He regretted it instantly and was profusely apologetic afterward. We resolved the issue in the moment, but I have since felt angry about his violent act.