I live in a two-story house on High Street, right next to the Yale Center for British Art. Like many other juniors, I packed up my residential college suite and moved off campus at the beginning of this year. In my case, however, moving off was a slightly more remarkable event than usual, simply because I’m a girl who decided to move into a house with three boys.
My parents wondered aloud why I had “no girls to live with.” I received confused questions from friends and sometimes bewildered looks from complete strangers when I told them about my housemates. I was often met with an amused laugh, followed by the phrase “that’s so funny” in a softer voice. Less often, I was asked more directly, “Do your parents know you’re doing this?”
I suspect that, had I been a guy living with all women, I wouldn’t have received these kinds of questions. But I think the proportion of one woman to three guys seemed rather alarming to a lot of people.
I admit this dynamic is an anomaly, based on what I’ve seen on and off campus at Yale. But I knew without a doubt that I wanted to move into the house with James, Paul and Photos — all wonderful people who are now three of my closest friends. I never questioned the gender ratio nor bothered much about what many people said. All that mattered was that I got along well with them.
But while many people found my housing choice strange, others were somewhat intrigued. To some people, living with all boys made me a “unique person,” someone they wanted to get to know better. Interviewers for societies would pay closer attention when I told them I was the only girl in my house. My living situation had become a conversation starter at parties, interviews, sometimes even at my workplace: “She goes to Yale! And she lives with all boys!”
Regardless of how I felt, I was the “chill girl.” Since I lived with guys, people assumed I was many things: fun to hang out with, quirky, different. But at the other end of the spectrum, some people called me outright “crazy.”
Whatever other people’s perceptions may have been, whatever stereotypes they warned me against, they haven’t fully captured my own experience over the past year. Living with the boys has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in college — something I had somewhat anticipated, but not entirely foreseen when I signed the lease.
I was told to expect cold pizza and beer for dinner. Instead, my housemate James turned out to have the cooking skills of a sous-chef. Together, we ate scallops, mashed potatoes, steak — always leaving enough of an appetite for conversations about our days. I was told to expect a messy house with dirty floors. But I was often the one making the mess, while my housemates were the ones who were obsessed with cleanliness.
Don’t get me wrong: There are some clear disadvantages to living with James, Paul and Photos. I don’t readily have someone to borrow scrunchies from, or to share makeup or dresses with. But this has only made me more self-sufficient, and has also increased my personal stock of hair bands and bobby pins. When accessorizing wasn’t a problem, guys that I was romantically seeing sometimes seemed intimidated or driven away by the rather constant presence of three male friends in my home and life. But in retrospect, that was just an efficient way to sieve them out.
Jocularity aside, my housemates are genuine and sensitive people who have impacted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Sometimes, when my parents visit my off-campus house, they laugh about how I should learn from my housemates.
Over the year, the house has become more than just a living space or an accommodation. It’s a dynamic extension of Yale’s residential college system, providing both responsibilities and experiences that I typically wouldn’t have had in a dorm.
One rainy night last fall, I got locked out of my own house. In characteristic fashion, I first attempted to scale the back wall of my house, with no success. Then I tried breaking in by opening my bedroom window from outside, but it was too high. Finally, I somehow managed to circumvent the security of my locked door and window and tumbled into my room, landing on the floor. I lay there with no desire to stand up for about five minutes. And in those moments, smiling sheepishly to myself at my own stupidity, I felt a strange sense of belonging, an almost foolish sense of security and permanence.
Like many fellow students, I think about the spaces that make Yale home, about how unfamiliar places gradually become “home.” Discovering this home — my off-campus house on High Street — was possible only because I didn’t get tangled up in gender expectations. In general, living off campus with the boys has been a trailer to real life: grocery shopping, dish cleaning and breaking stereotypes.
I’m sure that I’m at an advantage. That when I graduate and move to New York City, I’ll be better positioned to live with people of any gender.
Or maybe I’m wrong, and my situation was special, and I’ll just never find anything comparable.
Either way, James, Paul, Photos and I will always have this home to remember.