Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flat"mate"

So, I just realised that one of my ex-flatmates from Nice unfriended me on facebook. This is fine because I really, really disliked her, and it just confirmed for me that her gushing farewell to me was as fake as everything else about her.

So, formerly, I was careful never to say anything related to my flatting experience in Nice, because, after all, I had to live with the girl and although I didn't think she read my blog, it was a possibility since it was linked off my facebook and off the assistants forums. But now I feel I can finally unburden myself.

This might come across as spiteful - although I'm fairly certain she'll never see it - but I'm not writing it for that reason. I haven't decided yet whether I'll even publish this post. I'm writing this because I really, sincerely regret that I ever flatted with her. It would be going too far to say it completely ruined my time in Nice, but I really didn't have the experience I would have liked and expected, and it really was due in large part to not getting along with her. Note: I'm not saying "it was her fault", I'm saying we didn't get on, and yes it takes two to tango.

Before I got to Nice, I swore to myself that I would live with French people - not because of any particular dislike of the non-French amongst us, but in order to avoid living in an English-speaking ghetto. However, it didn't work out that way. I realised through the assistants forum that I was booked at the same hostel as another assistant, E, and I agreed to go looking for flats with her and another girl, just to see what was out there. It didn't take too long to decide that having company on the flat-search was much more reassuring and less stressful than going it alone. We found a flat that looked good, but there was just one problem - the third girl thought it was too far out from town. E and I got along really well, we liked the look of the flat, and most of all we just wanted to get settled. So we decided that if we could find a third flatmate, we'd take the place.

On the evening before orientation, I had to go into town to do something, and when I came back to the hostel where everyone was now staying before orientation, E presented me with something of a fait accompli - K, who was literally fresh off the plane and only too happy to step into a flat where the leg-work had already been done. From the start, I wasn't crazy about her - she was really loud and talked incessantly, mostly about herself. But it wasn't all bad, she told some amusing anecdotes, and I tried to keep an open mind.

In the beginning, the three of us all hung out quite a bit - it was all so overwhelming, moving to France and having the stress of finding the flat, moving in, setting up all the admin things like our bank accounts and social security, starting a new job with no experience etc. So at first we would all be home by about 5 pm, watch TV together and talk, and be in bed by about 9, exhausted.

Already at this stage there were things that grated on me. Such as her thinking she was the hottest thing on two legs. Sure, she was pretty, but hearing every day "oh my god, I was jogging around the park and these old men could NOT stop looking at me, it was so gross!" or sitting next to her and getting eyed up by guys in a passing car: "ew, gross, did you see how those guys were staring at me?" - yep, "me", not "us" - or "my students all keep hitting on me, it's disgusting". I'm not denying these things happened, but when you bring it up every single day, it's hard to believe you actually find it that intolerable.

Worse than that was the way she talked about other women. We would often watch game shows in the early evening, things like Wheel of Fortune for example, and she would say things about the contestants like, "oh my god what are you wearing!?!". Well, that's normal, right? We all make fun of people on TV a little bit, it's fun. It wasn't that that bothered me, it was what inevitably came next - "whore!" Or "brush your hair, bitch", or - about a contestant on a celebrity look-alike show "well you have one thing in common with Britney Spears, you're both fat".

I would say "god knows what she thought of me if she thought that girl/Britney Spears was really fat", except I do pretty much know, thanks to her little passive-aggressive remarks. Like "oh my gooood, Gwan, I just don't know how you eat pasta so much!" Pretty much the last straw as regards my tolerance for her was when I invited her out for drinks with a friend of mine, in an effort to be nice. After spending pretty much the whole night going on about how all the ugly French guys wanted her (and, according to her, every guy in France was ugly), we decided to call it a night, but had missed the last bus home. We all had a collective whinge about not wanting to walk home, an uphill walk which normally took me about 45 minutes (and yes, I did the walk regularly), when suddenly K changed her tune and started having a go at me for not being too keen on the walk. I should point out at this stage that I was wearing high heels and she was not. Allow me to quote from an email I sent the day after:

"so I made some sort of comment about how it was a long way in heels (I was the only one in heels although she claimed her boots 'had a slope to them' - not the same thing) and so this unleashes all her comments "I know I exercise a lot more than most people, but this is nothing for me". I pointed out that the walk per se wasn't the problem, but that I was in heels, and that I actually walk up the hill about 2-3 times a week "oh, you need to be doing cardio 4-5 times a week girlfriend" and then periodically she kept saying things all the way home like "I walked about 8 miles today, this is like a cool down for me" "If you're struggling with this walk, you have problems y'all", "It should get easier for you around this corner" (why, is a magical fairy going to come and give me better shoes?). I'll point out that me and S walked so much faster than her that we had to stop at one point for her to catch up, and she finally comes up going "little legs! little legs!"

I honest to god wanted to punch her. It was quite amusing that the next time I met up with my friend S, weeks later, she enquired how K was - "still getting a lot of exercise?"

It got so bad that I just couldn't stand to be around her at all. Just the sound of her voice became like nails on a chalkboard to me. Every little thing - every time she would pointedly wash her 5 dirty plates but leave the one knife I had left in the sink, for example - would be a source of intense irritation to me. I was always civil to her when our paths crossed, and would say hello (sometimes, without getting a hello back), and sometimes engage in chitchat, but I would try to limit my contact with her to the extent that I would just stay in my room if I could hear her walking around the kitchen or whatever. Sadly, while when we first moved in E used to complain about the same things as I did about K, they somehow became the best of friends and so refusing to hang out with K meant isolating myself from E as well. And it also meant not joining in/being invited to the nights out they had with other assistants. Frankly, I had met the other assistants they hung out with and didn't think it was a big loss in any case, but, while I made friends of my own in Nice, it was still sad. One night, K and E invited a bunch of other assistants over to dinner, in our flat - and didn't invite me. K even told me about it to my face i.e. "I hope you don't mind, but we're having some people over", and didn't invite me. Sitting in my room listening to them talking and laughing was a real low, and I think a really nasty thing for them to do. I had envisioned having this instant, awesome network of friends in my fellow assistants, like I had with my CELTA classmates in Prague, and like I've read about on the blogs of other assistants, who had the time of their lives and made great friends for ever. I ended up only hanging out with one assistant regularly, the other assistant at my school, and became good friends with one other assistant who unfortunately lived in a different town, so I didn't see a lot of.

Is this K's fault? No, of course not. It's my problem that I found her so draining to be around, that I couldn't stand her fake gushing when I knew she actually couldn't care less about me, her endless stories that I would end up hearing at least three times - told to me and to various people on Skype, her negative bitchy comments directed to me and to others, the fact that she spoke at the exact same (LOUD) volume whether you were right next to her or in another room, or whether it was 1 pm or 1 am... It's my problem that I let all that get to me to the extent that I didn't feel at home in my own flat and I hardly socialised with other assistants (fyi, even in the early stages when I was still making an effort/hanging out with K, there was really a lack of things going on amongst the Nice assistants, which really surprised me). But it just seems such a shame that, while I still had an okay time in Nice, it fell so far short of what I had hoped from my assistant experience.

Anyone reading this will probably think I'm crazy to have been affected so much by her. I don't think these little vignettes can explain how much she rubbed me up the wrong way, and of course I'm quite willing to admit that minor things became major irritations for the mere fact that I disliked her so much. But still, I think the decision to live with her - and it wasn't really even a decision I made - was one of the most unfortunate of my life to date, and I can't help but wistfully imagine the experience I may have had if I hadn't ended up in that situation. I was just so, so happy the day I left the flat in Nice - to that gushing goodbye from K, where it was literally like she flipped a switch inside her and turned on that fake charm one last time, despite the fact that clearly she intended that to be the last time we'd ever talk to each other just as much as I did.

Thankfully this time I have a flatmate who is actually nice (French, by the way) and although it is, as ever, hard and a bit lonely being in yet another city where I don't know anyone - and this time I don't even have the theoretical benefits of an instant network like with the assistantship, I am starting to make some friends & hoping for a better overall experience here than I had in Nice... *Long* post, I expect the only people to read it will know all this already, but it was good to get that whole disappointment off my chest anyway.

3 comments:

  1. Time to stop worrying about someone who was so insecure, self-centred and ignorant as to behave like her. She was obviously so jealous of your abilities as to try and denigrate you whenevr possible.
    Next time don't even thimk about it just punch them in the gob.

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  2. That is a crazy mess, i'll tell ya. But here's the positive points: you still live in France, whereas she's probably back in her small southern podunk town (you quoted her as saying "y'all" -- only people from my region say that.. lol) and her adventures are probably over. You're still here, living the dream, and all that good stuff.

    I also had a horrible assistant experience, not to the degree that you did, but I only made friends with one other assistant, and we were at the same schools. I don't regret that at all -- i'm the one that still lives here, the rest of them were just here to have a gap year and get drunk, and I'm making a life for myself. In the race for success, we win :)

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  3. Jo! I've had different, albeit equally agonizing rooommate situations. I know how delicate those predicaments can be, and there are few experiences that allow for the prolonged discomfort as living with someone you loathe. I can see, clearly, how that affected your overall experience. I kinda wish I could just live alone in France, but I doubt it will be fiscally feasible. I've played roommate roulette for eight years.. so tired of it. I hope I end up with friendly people!

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