So earlier in the semester, I had the delightful experience of sharing my uncle’s basement with two foreign exchange students. I started out this experience feeling somewhat anxious. What if they didn’t like me? What if they didn’t speak English very well? What if, what if, what if—at that point, I often had to stop worrying so that my head didn’t explode.
Needless to say, by the time September 5th rolled around, I was feeling pretty nervous. I drove the 4 and a half hours from my home in southern Wisconsin to St. Paul, trying not to think too hard about it. After all, we would all probably be great friends! We could go to the mall together and watch movies and do girly stuff. Or so I tried to convince myself.
It started off well enough. I felt pretty grungy from the drive up, dressed in my TARDIS t-shirt and jeans and not having showered since the night before, but I convinced myself that I looked just fine. I mean, I didn’t. But in my mind I looked marginally better than I really did.
After unloading my stuff and putting it in my new bedroom downstairs, my uncle and I went to pick up the foreign girls from the Mall of America, where they had spent the afternoon. I was nervous on the car ride over, and kept mourning my self-proclaimed socially awkwardness. When we finally rolled up to where they were waiting, my stomach clenched in fear. They were pretty. Damnit. I was immediately intimidated, as girls like me have been intimidated by girls like them for years and years and years.
Still, I was friendly. I said ‘hi’ to both of them and we exchanged pleasantries all the way home. I held tightly onto Lucky, my uncle’s little black dog, for safety, like he was a large, squirmy teddy bear. I only turned around when spoken to, and smiled and nodded. When we got home, I wanted nothing more than to settle into my new room, unpack all my things, and sleep. However, my uncle had different plans.
We ate dinner, first of all. These girls ate like birds. They ate a lot of little bites of cheese, grapes, and hors d’oeuvre, which meant I ate the exact same way. There’s nothing like being faced with two tiny skinny girls who eat like they couldn’t possibly. After ‘dinner’, we all had to play this game my uncle knew, it was charades or something, and then we played a game of Trouble. After that, I was finally allowed to retreat into what was already my sanctuary.
I thought that perhaps this might set the standard for the rest of the year, and in a way, I was relieved. Their picky eating habits would surely rub off on me, and then by the end of the year I would be European Thin too. Also, it was kind of idyllic, all of us playing board games together after dinner. It was the family experience I had always wanted!
Sadly, I had drastically miscalculated. Over the next few weeks, it became clear that the first evening had been the exception, not the rule. To begin with, those two ate SO MUCH FOOD. They were constantly eating! Always! And rarely did they have the consideration to leave any tasty morsels behind for me. So I basically never ate snacks. There was nothing to eat.
Secondly, they never came out of their rooms. As soon as they came home from school, they would retreat immediately into their bedroom and commence with the giggling and loud music until dinner, at which point they would come upstairs, gobble their food, and practically run back down afterwards. I was given no choice but to do the same, and so our life was sadly compartmentalized.
For awhile, I thought that things were going smoothly. It turned out that they weren’t, however. Europe, as I often referred to them as a unit, was quite an inconsiderate neighbor. Loud music, loud talking, banging of doors. The bathroom was almost never empty, and there were many mornings when I was barely afforded time to brush my teeth before heading out the door to school. Also, being (barely) sixteen and (almost) eighteen, they were immature. They pouted if they didn’t get their way. They were rude to my uncle and my younger cousins, and they made no effort to be a part of the family (and then had the audacity to complain that we didn’t treat them as such!). All in all, the experience was miserable, and they moved out two weeks ago. Thank goodness I was home in Wisconsin when they left, because I have a feeling I would have shouted something along the lines of, “Auf wiedersehen and au revoir, bitches.”