- Milquetoast Doormat; the Smelly One
And so we return to the saga of The Worst Roommate Ever, where I, your gentle yet vengeful narrator introduces you to MD, Milquetoast Doormat, friend of B3 (Blonde Bitch Bomber), master of the passive aggressive “nicey nice”, keeper of a dismally smelly room right next to mine, and the masochist to GS’s (Gay Sadist) sadist.
MD came to our lovely flat through the sketchy ministrations of B3, who had finally decided to move in with her boyfriend and then subleted her room. Since B3 had moved in, we’d had three separate vacancies in our four-bedroom abode. Each time, B3, with her huge web of casual scenester/hipster acquaintances, would almost instantaneously come up with a person in need of shelter and would simply offer them the room without consulting the rest of the house–so typical of her Mean Girl BS. These potential roommates tended to be very much like her in that they were of that strata of the hipster “Nightworld” that were the consumers, not the creators of the music, clubs, art and fashion that defined their hipsterdom. They also tended to be the sort that extended their teenagerhood long into their late 20s–but not in a good way. These were the self-professed “kids” who were perennially in their first or second semester of community college, the Art Institute, beauty school, or no school at all. They just floated from party to party, expertly looking the part and heartily partaking of the drugs, hook-ups and late nights like nobody’s business, but completely without any interest in music, art, or the work that went into promoting and running the club nights they attended. Many of them didn’t work–this was the domain of a great number of trustafarians and student loan abusers always one failed class away from loan repayment, and those that did work could be found almost exclusively in retail, salon reception, and spectacularly inept cocaine dealing.
Up until MD, every single one of B3′s hipster wonders, all of them early 20s gay fashion bois that B3 had found to move in, had failed financially in one way or another, and we were left to pick up the wreckage of unpaid bills, partially paid rents, and horribly messy rooms that were abruptly vacated without warning. I was the sole remaining leaseholder left from the dude-house days before B3 and her retinue of unreliable renters–B3 was renting month-to-month from me, the master renter, the only tenant with a relationship with our landlord. Although I collected the rent and bills each month and administered the various deposits and last months’ rents, (there was no way in hell I was going to leave any of those tasks to B3 or any of the bois that she moved in to our flat), B3 had the annoying and usually financially ruinous habit of arranging under-the-table deals without my consent for her buddies to pay the security deposits and last-months rents in payments “over time”. This resulted in ridiculously irresponsible terms for supposed adults like paying $50 a month towards the due deposit and last months rent that was the very reasonable sum of around $1,000, an amount that any adult should have on hand anyways after they move out of their previous situation.
As the master renter, I put my foot down many times, insisting that if B3 was going to choose the new roommates without any of the rest of the flat’s input, she had to leave the finances to me and only me, and I provided standard credit check forms and renter’s contracts. But B3, again with that with typical Mean Girl “forgetfulness” simply ignored me and the rest of the flat and steamrolled her buddies into each vacancy, “informing” me as to whatever inane terms she’d worked out for payment of move-in costs. It wasn’t uncommon to wake up to the sounds of someone known only to B3 moving in, and then professing ignorance about the rent and deposits, mumbling that B3 said they could pay it “whenever”. Our flat is amazingly inexpensive for how nice it is and it’s amazing location in the heart of the Lower Haight and none of the rooms rented for over $675, so the financial
wonders disasters that B3 miraculously unearthed time after time were truly bottom of the barrel, and MD unfortunately proved to be no exception.
MD, at 23, was one of those “kids” who worked in retail, downtown at a faux-upscale women’s apparel and lifestyle store that targeted the same faux-sophisticated ladies who shopped at Pottery Barn, Bebe, Crate and Barrel and Barney’s. He didn’t have any particular passion for fashion, but like almost every other hipster retail worker I’ve encountered, he did have the larcenous knack for employee-based shrinkage. He and GS had both been given their marching orders multiple times at various previous establishments and had relied on their hipster network connections and the laziness of hiring managers to secure yet another opportunity to fatten up their ebay accounts.
MD was gay, but a new kind of gay I’d not encountered before: the best I can categorize MD is a twee indie-rock bear cub. Weird, right? If you asked MD, and I did, he called himself a “bear cub”, and affected the look with a kind of icky and bushy/pubic long beard, unkempt mustache and sideburns coupled with a crop-1 shaved head that only partially hid his prematurely receding hairline, along with plaid flannels, jeans and boots.
But MD’s bear”skins” were far more trendy than your average bear: his flannels were of the tapered and fitted vintage-y style plaids favoured by hipsters; his jeans of the skinny variety and his boots decidedly not bearish work boots. MD was also extremely thin, unlike the typical bear tub-o-lard manly-men, and he affected a fey manner of speech and posture that was much more in keeping with the twee indie-boy flavour of hipster. Of course, like so many of his type of hipster comrades, he didn’t actually listen to twee music–or really any music for that matter, but he and twee Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian shared the same uniquely gay/twee lilt to their voices; MD’s minus the Scottish burr.
MD was not a particularly attractive man, with a narrow, pointy head that did not take its buzzcut well, small, close-set eyes, a weak chin and a too-long nose that, together with his cringy poor posture defined the “M” in “Milquetoast”. I was always reminded of Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener character–that should resonate to all you American Lit majors. Also in the milquetoast mode was MD’s personality. Upon first meeting MD, I actually quite liked his quiet, seemingly polite twee manner, and he had what at first resembled a dry sense of humour about the superficial topics that were of interest to him and B3; chiefly fashion, going out, and gossip gossip gossip.
MD occupied B3′s sublet room, and she had left her gothy black-painted furniture and blood red walls clean enough, and since she didn’t smoke in the room and left the three huge bay windows open, the room was clean-smelling. Alas, this cleanliness did not last. For MD smelled. I’ve read that it is part of bear culture to bathe irregularly in order to celebrate the male odor au naturel. Perhaps in a house full of bears this might be a wonderful thing. But it was anything but wonderful living in the room that shared a wall with Mr. Stinky. Just passing him in the hall or sharing the kitchen with MD filled your sinuses with a musty combination of old sweat, scalpy smell and that unique odor of unwashed crotch. This funk was strong enough to penetrate his clothing and follow him around like a hipster version of Pig-Pen from Peanuts. Imagine then, the concentrated power of stink that emanated from his door, which he, of course, would leave wide open. I surreptitiously snuck a Febreze plug-in behind a dresser only to have him discover it, remove it and wordlessly put it outside of his door. Curious about his hygiene, I would sometimes clock his handwashing after using the toilet and–you guessed it–he never even once did the deed during all the times I monitored. (And yes, I’ll admit that checking up on your roommate’s handwashing habits is kind of OCD, but I’d never encountered someone with such vile hygiene, and Enquiring Minds Want To Know!!!)
MD was one of those lemming types who was so easily led by the nose that it had long ago reached the point where it had become a character flaw, and he was just waiting for a charismatic sadist like GS to come round and enslave him. Without the influence of a controlling sadist, MD was very anodyne and practically devoid of opinion. He wasn’t overtly rude but neither was he particularly polite; he was just kind of ‘blah’. An example of a common behavior that he exhibited time and time again was his feigned interest in polite conversation.
For example, we’d both be in the kitchen, and I, not having an iota of anything of interest in common with MD, would attempt polite, utterly inconsequential smalltalk, the sort in which all polite adults engage from time to time when they don’t want to experience awkward silence. MD would paste a very stiff and exceedingly false smile on his face as he, with much intentionally obvious effort, kept up his end of the conversation with brittle, robotic sentences that quickly devolved into painful one-word answers. We’re talking about standing in the kitchen and perhaps discussing avocado recipes, a MUNI horror story or observations about the new ice cream shop down the street–all rather shallow topics but the kind of things that two people who share a household should be able to politely discuss rather than occupying the kitchen for 20 minutes without saying one word–that would be the height of social awkwardness.
MD would develop a pained yet snarky smirk on his face, as if he would rather be doing anything else than engaging in conversation with moi, the peon. This crappy little manœuvre shot me right back to those junior high days when the Mean Girl decreed who was and was not “OK”, and would make her pathetic harem of attending girlfriend slave-lets behave appallingly to the unlucky odd girl out. Only I was having “it” done to me by none other than MD the lemming, with GS, who despised me with a passion I’d never before encountered, pulling the strings.
MD’s personal hygiene proved to be an excellent model for his household cleanliness–slovenly. MD and GS shared a bathroom, as we had two in the flat. Their bathroom was a sensory experience I hope to never encounter again in my lifetime. Imagine the unique MD funk accented with mold, urine and turd wafting over a tableaux of a grimy room almost entirely coated with the leavings of MDs electric shaver with which he shaved his receding hair. Toilet paper had become a luxury too dear for MD or GS to purchase, and I’d taken to hiding the TP used in my shared bathroom after nearly constant pilfering, so exactly what they used for their, um, ministrations remains a mystery to me.
MD cooked a lot, and was always frying up stuff in a too-hot pan, leaving burnt oil spattered everywhere and ruined pots and pans. GS and B3 were also great ruiners of kitchen equipment, and cooking is one of my real passions, so I put my “good stuff” out of easy reach, and left them to a cupboard full of truly awful cookware leftover from the dude house days. We had a dishwasher, and thank the lord for that appliance, otherwise dishes would have been a major issue. MD would throw his greasy, burnt pots and pans directly into the dishwasher without the benefit of a rinse in the sink, and as a result, all of “their” kitchenware was in a permanent state of crusty ick.
MD also never wrapped up food before putting in the refrigerator, resulting in quickly spoiling plates and bowls (never tupperware–resulting in a constant shortage of tableware) of his fried crap in great numbers. As an avid cook, the state of our refrigerator was important to me, and his large amounts of decaying food were unacceptable, so I would periodically make a clean sweep of things. In classic passive/aggressive style, MD would actually remove the rotten food from the trash, put it back on a plate, and place it once again in the refrigerator, unwrapped of course. The first time he did this little stunt, I asked him if he was really going to eat the spoiled food he’d rescued from the trash. In his wispy, prickly voice, he replied that maybe he would–he wasn’t sure if the food was bad or not. I was left speechless. I should also mention that the spoiling food that made it into the refrigerator was only a fraction of the treasure trove of rotting victuals he hoarded in his smelly bedroom.
Bills and rent were another irritation. MD worked part-time, and was fond of calling in sick after partying around the clock, further curtailing his hours. Although he nicked a fair amount of merchandise from his retail job, he wasn’t very organized about turning his ill-gotten gains into cash, and like so many childish hipster/scenesters, he spent an inordinate amount of money on partying that he couldn’t really afford. All three of the Troika had this little trick of paying their rent and bills well past bedtime on the day that the bill or rent was supposed to be in the hands of the account receivable. I’d hear the swish of an envelope sliding under my door after my lights had gone out and they thought I’d gone to sleep. And this tricky stuff actually represented a “good month”. Bills in my name regularly went partially unpaid well into 60 days, and I had to keep scrupulous records of who paid, how much they paid, and how much each A-hole owed instead of simply having paid-up, current bills each month–like normal adults. Rent was sometimes not paid until the 10th–and this meant that our landlord was calling ME every day dunning me for his due. I started to corner MD each month with the specific date that I needed each bill and remind him that rent was due on the first, like it was some surprising new bit of information. No matter–MD was horribly bad at finances and caused me no small amount of stress each month.
So this is the stinky, passive/aggressive, unsanitary, late-paying slice of milquetoast that was MD. As I mentioned before, he was a classic masochist, just waiting for the perfect sadist to get things going. And that, gentle reader, was where GS came in, and the whole psychological nightmare that was my household situation began. Stay tuned for an introduction to GS…
- Bartleby the Scrivener: MD’s literary doppleganger