I got annexed. But that was hardly the concern. The concern was that tucked up away in the lofty fifth floor of Vanderbilt, my suitemates and I would all get singles.
Sorry — what?
Yeah, that’s usually the reaction I receive. I repeat: I was worried that I would get a single.
At this point you probably think I’m a bit delusional, or, at the very least, missing some key social screws. The bane of housing is always deciding which two schmucks are going to get stuck in the double, doomed to breathe and fart in the same intimate air chamber, discover one another’s unforeseen yet extraordinarily irksome tics and play the hopefully only occasional sexile card.
But by now, my fateful roommate — assigned to me in the mail almost two years ago — has grown quite accustomed to the fragrance of my personal winds, while I have been spared, as she is far less flatulent than I admit to being. Seventeen months together and counting, and we are acutely aware of one another’s habits, from her early mornings in the computer lab to my erratic midnight runs.
Yet this awareness extends far beyond knowing who and when we Skype, how often we call home and what we eat at 2 a.m.; it is a deep and sensitive awareness of every aspect of the other’s life at Yale, from fears, anxieties and disappointments, to relationships, aspirations and those little daily victories. There is something unique to pillow time in that shared, enclosed space which nurtures the greatest honesty, trust and security that I have encountered at Yale.
Perhaps I just lucked out. Perhaps not everyone’s pre-assigned roommate is, as Wedding Crasher’s legendary John Beckwith would coo, the soul’s recognition of a counterpoint in another. Perhaps not everyone will grow to love his or her roommate in the way I do. In that sense, maybe it’s better that the two new residential colleges, slated to go up within the new few years, will offer only singles. But I don’t think so.
Having a roommate is one of the most valuable experiences I’ll take away from college. I can’t speak on behalf of those who’ve been cursed by the roommate from hell, but they must learn something from that blight, as miserable as it might be. At Yale, it’s easy for us to become wrapped up in ourselves, whining about this and that meeting (all voluntary, of course), fretting about how much we have or haven’t exercised, glorifying the extent of our sleep deprivation. Mid-February, we obsess over résumés. Some of us practically morph into walking cover letters. Yalies excel at getting inside their own heads, and then forgetting to get out.
Going back to a box all to yourself doesn’t help. It doesn’t remind you every day that your problems aren’t special, or that they hardly qualify as problems at all. It doesn’t remind you, in the form of another desk, another bed and another mess of laundry spilling onto the floor, to stop thinking about yourself and focus on someone else — someone who, no matter how much you drink, who you hook up with and how much you fart (within reasonable terms) will still be there when you wake up, an amorphous yet reassuring lump of comforter on the other side of the room. Every night you get to sleep with someone, but in this case, you don’t have to be glued together by sweat in a matchbox twin bed.
In our double, when a relationship with a guy sours, there will be flowers on the desk. On particularly bad days, there will be bright-eyed sticky notes on the door. On special nights out, there will be an outfit to borrow on the bed. And on any and every day, there will be an ear to listen and a hug of support.
Maybe you still don’t buy it. Singles, of course, have their fair share of benefits. But when I read about the feelings of anxiety, loneliness and isolation which seem unsettlingly common among Yalies, I can’t help but wonder whether a roommate — one who knows too much about you ever to judge, who will remain a constant fixture among the maelstroms of stress — might ease the ills.
My roommate and I were equally and joyfully relieved to find out that we’d have a double in our octet next year. Otherwise, I don’t know how we’d function. We keep each other sane.
Next year, your suite might have a double. You probably won’t want to take it. But think about it — it could be the best, and healthiest, decision you make at Yale.
Tao Tao Holmes is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact her at email@example.com.