Right after winter break, the leaks in the dike were almost imperceptible. I’d sit down at dinner and overhear someone wonder aloud about the pros and cons of living off campus– in the abstract, of course. Friends would shrug, mumble something about Taft Apartments roof parties and return to their spanakopita.
However, the once-serene waters soon rumbled against the levee. Mother Nature grew restless. “Hey, how many suites do we get in Durfee next year? Do you know who’s going abroad? I know this kid who had both roommates leave, and now he has a bedroom, a study and a love den”
About two weeks ago, the dam burst.
“So, have you figured out rooming for next year?”
It matters not that New Haven streets remain covered in mud-sand slush, midterms have only just begun, and we’re still looking forward to months of militant a capella jam season “if you don’t pay $9 and sit through the same 4 hours of my group’s self-indulgence that you endured last year, you’re a rotten friend!” harassment.
Who cares that it’s the middle of February. Rooming fever is upon us.
So far, I’ve resisted the temptation to get sucked into any intra-entryway drama. After all, I learned the ropes during Rooming Frenzy 2000.
I learned just because someone doesn’t want to live with me probably does not mean they think I’m a grossly unclean person. I learned that Room Draw is the time when the Mole People of my college emerge–entire entryways filled with them, just yards away, that I have never seen before nor since. And I learned the boys on my floor are, in reality, very tall and inordinately hairy junior high girls.
I’ve figured out the rules of the game: every man for himself. Avoid entangling alliances. If your dean tries to organize a mid-March meeting to take care of those fools who still don’t have their acts together, remember, never appease dictators. Exercise caution; a floormate to whom you make premature promises may become a balking powderkeg come spring. And if you want to guarantee yourself a single, just go around campus speaking only in 20th century diplomacy cliches, and it won’t be a problem.
Besides, rooming is not a life-or-death decision. With the possible exception of the design team responsible for that clever and not at all disturbing “Chikken Feet” sign hanging over Elm Street Gate, most Yalies are interesting, affable people. I could live with anybody.
That’s a bucket of lies. It is true I get a kick out of my classmates. I love to chat with them regularly over pretentiously-named coffee drinks served by XandO’s waitNazis. But there’s a difference between going to the zoo once in a while to point and laugh in the primate house and bringing home your very own bonobo as a housepet.
Finding the right roommate is a weighty matter for obvious reasons. You’ll be spending 8 months taking each other’s phone messages and picking each other’s stray hairs off the bathroom soap. There’s no room for monkey business.
But furthermore, we get worked up about rooming because somehow it seems that the living arrangements we make determine what kind of people we will be.
If I live off-campus, I will be a grown-up. I will burn my own grilled cheese sandwiches on my own stove every night for dinner and replace my own (two-ply!) toilet paper. I will also have to walk more than 15 feet to see my friends, so I will become a hermit.
If I choose Durfee, mine will be a room of six swinging bachelorettes, nestled in the warm bosom of Old Campus, steps away from shrink-wrapped sushi and Old World German Chocolate frozen yogurt. I will be too busy filling my newly-renovated love nest with innocent freshman boys, ID cards swinging from their dewy necks, to do any homework.
Or I could stay in my college and remain within arm’s reach of Jonathan Edwards’ thoughtful amenities — from the windowless, 95-degree, bomb-shelter weight room to the dining hall’s diverse assortment of frozen novelties. See? There’s a lot at stake here.
Some of us mock the commotion about rooming as yet another result of control-obsessed, melodramatic Yalies’ inability to just relax. People aren’t like this “at normal schools.” At normal schools, they probably set up one of those deli counter ticket machines on the first day of the year, you take a number, and that’s your dorm room. And it’s just fine, because everyone’s really laid back and normal there.
That’s garbage. All of humanity across time has been and continues to be ridiculous when it comes to personal living space. This is where you sleep, woo the occasional lucky screw date and procrastinate on Audiogalaxy. Your room is the locus of your college existence. You are entitled to fret about it.
Of course, come Spring Break, the waters will recede. Most of us will have comfortably nailed down next year’s living situation. And if you still remain alone, flopping in the damp grass and gasping for air, don’t worry. Your dean will scoop you up and plop you into a pleasant, mildly-chlorinated, temperature-controlled psycho single.
Molly Worthen is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Her columns appear on alternate Mondays.