I am a Freshman in college and also an avid reader of EHell. As such, I find myself fussing over little etiquette conundrums constantly because I’m not very socially competent. (In fact, I’m actually really incompetent at making/keeping friends. I tend to get clingy even though I don’t mean it, and every attempt I make to back off just looks spiteful to the other party. But that’s a whole different story and not one to be shared on EHell.)
So, ignoring my pathetic ranting, this is mostly a question due to my own disabilities.
I’ve moved into a dorm with three other girls, and we are, because of the suite-style nature of our dorm room, required to keep our bathroom clean (since a shower covered in soap scum is just not okay). To add to that, we also do dishes regularly, seeing as a good majority of the time, we eat breakfast inside the dorm and on Sundays, the cafeterias are not open. However, due to a skin condition that is normally aggravated by cleaning supplies and most soaps, I’m not allowed by my doctor and my family, to clean dishes or the shower. I do clean the toilet, since that doesn’t require I get down and dirty with the bleach and will happily be the person to take out the trash or some other chore that need not require chemicals. One of my roommates, however, grew up in a home where she did most of the chores and generally takes control, doing the dishes, vacuuming, cleaning the shower, etc. The other two roommates seem okay with this arrangement, but I can’t stand seeing her doing all the work on her own. Even when I offer to help, she generally pushes me off (always with a smile) and tells me not to worry about it. The two of us have taken on the unofficial role of “Dorm Mothers” as well, and generally while she (I’ll call her J) cleans up the dorm, I take care of the other two girls (K and M) when they return to the room on the weekends completely drunk and/or high. (I also go out and buy medicine for my roommates when they’re sick, since I’m the only one who has such a miserable immune system that I’ve practically memorized what every OTC medicine does.) I don’t think it’s as big of a job as cleaning the whole dorm alone, but, as I said, any attempt I make to help is always cheerily pushed away.
I thank her constantly for all her help, since I would never be able to do anything on my own and she really is an angel of a roommate, but I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough to thank her. Sometimes, I feel like she’s gotten annoyed with my constant thanks, but at the same time, I wonder if she’s expecting me to do more to thank her, since I’m absolutely terrible at reading people.
What do you think? Am I being paranoid and nervous about something trivial? Or do I truly have to up my way of showing gratitude? I don’t want to be a boor or lazy, and J is such an amazing person and so nice, I don’t even want to think about making her unhappy. 0930-12
You are offering to help and looking for ways to be of service to your roommates, particularly the one who does the bulk of the dorm cleaning. When she waves off your offer of help, cheerfully reply, “Well, I’ll go clean the toilet or dust then!” What you don’t want is the appearance that your offer is a nice platitude that turns out to have no substance when it is actually accepted and you must therefore promptly decline due to medical restrictions. You cannot offer what you cannot do. Some chores you can include on “able to do” list would be putting away the clean dishes, dusting, vacuuming, window cleaning (using white vinegar and water), proactively decluttering the suite of trash, using a Swiffer Wet Mop to do the floors, even Chlorox makes this shower cleaning pad that goes on the end of pole for easy shower scrubbing with no contact with cleaning chemicals. Perhaps you discuss an arrangement where you cook, she does the dishes and you put away the clean dishes.
As for expressions of gratitude, I am of the opinion that one cannot be too lavish with it. But gratitude can be expressed in other ways than simply verbally. Be sure to do your share of the work to make the dorm suite run smoothly in a timely, routine manner so as to not overly burden her. Running errands such as a fast food trip, asking her if there is anything at the grocery store you can pick up for her, etc.
I would not worry about how your fellow dorm “mom” roommate interacts with the other two lazy roomies. One aspect of etiquette that we don’t discuss enough on this site is the concept of minding own’s business when it comes to being offended for those who are themselves directly offended by others. There isn’t grace for those who pick up the offenses of others. So, if your roommate has issues with the other two roommates, that is between her and those two. You make sure you are doing your best not to offend her yourself and all should be good.