One year ago the week before spring break (cue: trumpet fanfare), the Yale administration gave gender-neutral housing for juniors the go-ahead. One year later, I could not be more grateful.
In my suite, you return every night to a choice of four platonic boyfriends or four equally platonic girlfriends. If you ask (or demand) politely (or grumpily), any one of them will give you a personal massage, braid your hair or listen to you vent as they clip their fingernails or tweeze their eyebrows. We pigpile on the common room couches to watch the weekly episode of “How I Met Your Mother” and try to decide who would be Barney and who would be Robin. When we hold suite parties, each of us has the unusual luxury of multiple wingmen and wingwomen who can be summoned within seconds. Later on the same evenings, we nod off in one another’s beds, often unaware of whether or not its owner is even there.
Chatter about gender-neutral suites often rests on a seesaw of stereotypes. One common concern: cleanliness. Throw away your gender-normative prejudices; the men in our suite are actually the maids, you’d be surprised to know. They sweep after parties, they scrub the shower, they recycle the Solo cups. Their rooms are probably the most neat.
Another misconception: Girls are crazy and cry a lot. Guess what — we can all be a little crazy, and everyone is entitled to a little crying. Both men and women have shed tears on our floor, and the only thing that matters is that we’re all there to wipe them up.
One more: suitecest. Like alligators in the sewer, this could happen, but it probably won’t. After enough conversations where one person is on the toilet and the other teasing out earwax, suitecest becomes a nonissue.
Some of my male friends are completely closed off to the idea of living with girls. There’s a lot of “I just couldn’t do that,” even from guys with sisters. Most girls seem OK with the idea, but also prefer to keep their living realms undisrupted by incessant surges of testosterone and overnight visits by unknown girls.
I understand our proclivity for comfort. I understand the idea of personal space. But there is also much to learn from what might make you uncomfortable. If you aren’t open to sharing a bathroom, a box of tissues or a year of yourself with an unexpected, heterogeneous crew, you’re not living to the fullest.
More than anything else, the two sexes in our suite have taught each other to be more mindful of both how we treat others and how we allow ourselves to be treated, particularly when it comes to messing around with emotions. My roommate described it as having four older brothers, and I imagine we ladies, depending on the day, are the annoying little sisters or the sympathetic, maternal ones.The suite-brother and -sister support systems are unique from one another, however; unlike during the past two years spent in all-female estrogen chambers, my dating complaints are no longer consoled almost exclusively by the words “Boys are idiots.” Instead, comfort from my platonic boyfriend-brothers now comes more often in the form of “Do you want some of my Wenzel?”
Free personal training sessions. Fresh-baked brownies. Interior decoration expertise. Bathroom humor. Menstrual advice, bench press advice, life advice. What more could you want?
Tao Tao Holmes is a junior in Branford College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .