Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Woman's Need to Outdo Everyone Annoys Roommate

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in New York City, and I am sure you know that rent is crazy expensive; therefore, I have a roommate to help out. She was a friend of mine prior to becoming my roommate. It seems that living with her is a lot more difficult than just being friends. She is always trying to outdo everything I do as if there is some competition. If I say that I want a certain bag or if I am dating a great guy, she always has to try to one-up me. I don't know how to address the issue without sounding harsh or mean. Could you give any advice on how to approach her? -- Mocked, Staten Island, N.Y.

DEAR MOCKED: It is heart-to-heart time. Sit down with your roommate and tell her you want to talk about something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Point out that now that you live together you have noticed that she likes to copy everything you do. Give her examples, such as the bag or even the date. Suggest to her that if your roommate relationship is going to work, you both need your space. That includes space to express your individuality without feeling that your roommate is going to steal your style or your friends.

One thing to note, though, is that roommates often share items, clothing and friends. You need to decide together where the boundaries lie. Bringing it out into the open will help to dispel any discomfort that exists.

DEAR HARRIETTE: The letter from "Tolerant" said that the woman on the cellphone on the train "was causing no more disturbance than a person carrying on a conversation with someone sitting next to her." However, what is annoying about listening to someone on a cellphone is that she usually talks louder than when she's having a conversation with someone sitting next to her. That is why people, myself included, get so annoyed. The person on the cellphone is in her own world and forgets that there are others present who are forced to listen to her conversation. -- Annoyed, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR ANNOYED: You have a point. Many people do speak louder when they are talking on the phone. What is fascinating about this letter and the reaction to it is that so many people have comments. My mailbox has been flooded with input from all over the country.

Here's a bottom line about someone talking on the phone on the train: It is a public, yet confined, location. This means that others who are around the person talking do not have the opportunity to step away or tune out the conversation. This is the same for someone having a face-to-face conversation that is loud enough for all to hear in a public setting.

We all need to be more conscious of those around us and more mindful of whether we are taking them into consideration when we are sharing space with them.