I am a 22-year-old recent college graduate who is lucky enough to have a successful, generous and caring older sister who offered me a room in her recently purchased two-bedroom condo for very low rent. She even let me live in her one-bedroom all last summer and all this summer for free.
While living for free in her old place, I was willing to pay for all the groceries, do all the cooking and generally take direction from her.
Now that I pay rent for my own bedroom, I have asked her to start treating me like a roommate -- someone who pays her rent on time and in full. Unfortunately, my often times bossy big sister cannot seem to remove herself from her sisterly position and see me as an equal in our living situation.
I am the eternal roommate -- I went to camp for years, sharing a small space and chores with up to 11 other girls, and at school I lived in a house with seven other girls and two boys. My sister, on the other hand, lived alone much of the time she was in college and was never exposed to compromising.
I am still getting commands from her regarding cleaning and day-to-day tasks. These commands come in the form of "You must . . . " or "By Monday you have to . . . "
How can I persuade my new "roommate" to drop the "big sis" act, and start treating me like a paying non-relative?
It might help if you were truly paying your way (you're not), but even then your big sister might still feel compelled to tell you what for. She might be a bad roommate, but more likely, she's just being your big sister -- and that's not likely to change.
The good news is that there are many great perks that go along with having a big sister, and those, too, will probably never change. Your sister will watch your back, lend you money and give you a soft place to land when you need it.
Until you establish yourself on your own, you can try to set some boundaries by sitting down together and discussing your cohabitation expectations -- and hers.
Regarding your letter from "Mrs. Smith," who liked for children to address her with Mrs. before her name, I was surprised by the letter and by your response.
The attitude that you and Mrs. Smith had toward the use of a title before a first name, such as "Miss Amy," was disconcerting. You wrote as though this traditionally Southern term was somehow beneath you. I'm from Washington, not exactly the Deep South, and I have always found this practice endearing.
Whereas I do agree that children need to be taught manners, especially in this day and age, each person has the right to choose the way he or she is addressed. I'm sure Mrs. Smith would not care to have children call her by her first name, even if their parents said it was okay.
By the way, a new trend for young people is addressing the parents of their friends with their friend's name followed by "Mom" or "Dad." For example, if your daughter's name is "Jane," then you're "Jane's Mom."
Comfortably Southern in D.C.
I hope that I didn't sound as if "Miss Amy" was somehow "beneath" me. Actually, I said that I don't like it and that it makes me feel like a character out of "Gone With the Wind."
I certainly hope that, like you, I am allowed to not like something without being accused of being somehow anti-Southern.
That having been said, if kids want to call me "Miss Amy," I'm not going to correct them because I want for them to call me something. Anything.
On to "Jane's Mom." Now I REALLY don't like that.
Kids resort to addressing their friends' parents in this way because they are completely confused about what to call adults. When my daughter's friends call me "Emily's Mom," I always try to remind them that they can call me Amy or Ms. Dickinson -- whichever they choose.
Write to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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