A Friendly Photo War

An ordinary day in an un-ordinary university household

I can sum up my roommate situation with two words: friendly hostility. Maybe ‘hostile friendliness’ would be more appropriate but it doesn’t really matter. The point is: we’re friends with one another and we have (what some full-grown adults might see as) a unique way of expressing that friendship.

It’s been pretty much the same since I came to university three years ago, when I roomed with one guy I knew from high school – Luke. The next year, we moved into a house with another guy named Connor who lived next door to us. All three of us live in a confined space and all of us thrive on the life force that sustains university boys long after the Kraft Dinner has hardened against the pot: laughter.

These laughs often come at the expense of one of the other two roommates. What makes these laughs different than the good-natured chuckle one might enjoy at a wine and cheese is that these bellowing bursts usually erupt after a comment of a certain nature; namely, one that would reduce an outsider to tears or compel him to punch the commenter in the face. That happens sometimes. Just today when I came home from school, Connor greeted me with a friendly, “What’s up c**sucker?” I responded with a tired, “nothing much.”

But, looking at that example, I think most other roommate situations are the same – friendly vulgarity is common, I think. What’s different about us is that the funniest moments happen when boundaries are crossed, when taboos are broken, when one of us is embarrassed (an increasingly rare occasion after 4 years), or when an onlooker is utterly shocked by a comment. That’s what makes it really funny…most of the time.

So a new dimension was added: public humiliation. We would wait for a time when one of us was in a particularly vulnerable situation then snap a picture. We would then share that picture with as many people as we could. The hung over, half naked shots of us trying to crawl under the cover of our bed sheets are the most coveted. Too often, one of us is too slow.

We built up stockpiles of these and other embarrassing images to use at the opportune moment. That moment came about a week ago.

I can’t remember what started it but Luke and I got into a back-and-forth over Black Berry Messenger. In case you haven’t used it, it’s an instant messaging application that allows you to choose a display picture and write a “status” that all your contacts can view.

Soon, each of us was displaying one embarrassing picture after another accompanied closely by an artfully clever comment in our status. I would update mine, he would respond by updating his. Neither one of us willing to concede defeat. Everything about this is just as petty and childish as it seems…probably even more, actually.

The status that accompanied each photo ranged from innocent and cheeky to suggestive and sexual. We attacked each other’s manliness (for the record, he drinks coolers – not that there’s anything wrong with that) and each other’s sexuality (I may have been caught being “snuggled” by one of our male friends during a particularly painful hangover – not that there’s anything wrong with that either). Our friends began to comment and even start little back-and-forth’s of their own – the poor amateurs.

One girl was even cheering us on, asking if she could have Luke’s access pin so she could see the pictures he was posting of me. By then, the update feed was flooded with half-naked pictures of sloppy ‘dudes’ and statuses laced with pop culture references. This photo war lasted a fun-filled day and a half. Yes, we have that many pictures of one another.

Unfortunately, neither one of us thought to check what kind of contacts would be seeing these statuses. I knew a few of my aunts and uncles would see it. “No big deal,” I thought, “I’ve probably made one or two semi-appropriate comments at family events anyways.” Then a little further down I saw an old work contact from my fairly reputable summer job at a bank. She is a middle-aged Filipino lady with kids.

I thought it would be best to send her a quick apology since I knew those updates would be readable in her feed for at least a while longer. I tried to explain that’s just the way we talk; that seemingly offensive comments help – nay, are necessary – to sustain our hostile little friend triangle. In hind sight, I probably shouldn’t have sent that apology. She read it a little while later and didn’t respond.

I explained the situation to Luke. I told him I couldn’t keep posting statuses or pictures of him ‘deliberately’ eating a Twinkie. He told me the only thing I would expect a good friend to tell me: “That means I win.”

A Friendly Photo War