Interpersonal Relationships Are Weird

Today I found out I’m an asshole. Or I guess, more accurately, I found out that one of my roommate’s friends sees me as an asshole. I’m not exactly sure how to feel about it, but I figure it’s something that I can try to learn from regardless.

First, some background. My roommate’s friends are basically all smokers, and had gotten into the habit of smoking in my room. Recently I’ve been more and more unhappy with this behavior; I’m not a smoker, and it seems like my breathing has just gotten worse as more people smoke in my room. In the past 2 weeks I’ve tried to ask them to stop, sometimes by asking my roommate to stop, other times by asking his friends to. I’m not sure how pushy I am when I do that, but I don’t think I’m that unreasonable when I talk to George (my roommate); he seems pretty understanding and my voice doesn’t change from an even, quiet tone.

Anyways, today I asked one of George’s friends, Diego, to not smoke, and I must have been confrontational, because he wasn’t understanding at all. Diego immediately tensed up a little, and retorted with a “Why’d you have to be so disrespectful? See if you had asked nicely, I would’ve stopped, but you didn’t,” and continued to light a cigarette and take a puff. He then continued by saying “if you respect me, I’ll respect you,” or something like that. Meanwhile, another friend of George, Christian, was warning Diego to disengage: “Dude he gets pissy about that shit, just don’t smoke in here it’s not worth it. He’s a douchebag.” Christian and Diego then go to smoke in Christian’s room (which is a door over from mine).

I’m not sure what to take from that interaction. There’s a few things that I’m pretty sure are true:

  • Diego, Christian, and many of George’s other friends see smoking as a normal part of life, and not being able to do it is an inconvenience
  • Diego is used to a certain amount of respect and leniency with the things he does. i.e. being able to smoke indoors, mess with peoples’ stuff, etc.
  • Christian sees me as neurotic, and also pissy.

Was I at fault? It doesn’t feel like it. From Diego’s perspective, I think the following thoughts happened:

  • I’m going to smoke
  • Someone told me not to smoke
  • Why can’t I smoke? Who do they think they are?

For sure, I don’t think he was thinking about the health problems of smoking, or how I’m the one that lives in the room, or that he could literally just smoke in the room accross the hall. Additionally, I think Christian was thinking something along these lines:

  • I don’t wanna deal with this
  • Albert’s annoying
  • I better warn Diego

Maybe “annoying” is the wrong word, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard Christian say “neurotic” before, so I don’t think he’d think in terms of neuroticism. Regardless, I think Christian doesn’t like me, and potentially blames me for not being able to smoke in my room as much anymore.

I think there’s a lesson here somewhere; maybe something along the lines of “you can’t be friends with everyone” or maybe something more like “some people are just dicks.” I don’t think I’m to blame for this, and I don’t think I was that much more confrontational to Diego than anybody else would be in my place. I don’t remember raising my voice to ask him to not smoke, but I do remember scrunching my brows in consternation as he retorted back. Maybe I should stop doing that. Regardless, I guess it’s just OK to not be friends with people; you can’t win over everyone, no matter what you do, and sometimes something as small as smoking indoors can destroy a potential friendship. Interpersonal relationships are weird.