My Roommate is Just Like Me. So Why do I Hate Her?
Two months after the start of freshman year, Anne Shapiro’s daughter, Beth, wants to switch roommates. Beth simply cannot spend two more seconds with the lying cheating sex maniac who shares the cubby hole her college has the nerve to call a room. Okay, I put the sex maniac part in to make this piece sound, well, sexy. Bryce (not her real name) isn’t really a sex maniac. She simply likes to have sex with her boyfriend in the room at all hours of the day and night. But she does lie and cheat. And I heard something about stolen tostada chips.
Roommate trouble is not big news on college campuses. By the fourth week of school, housing offices traditionally see their fair share of disgruntled freshman requesting, sometimes demanding roommate switches. Often these switches are made with little ado. But the university housing office had little sympathy for Beth. Beth and Bryce had chosen to room with each other in very much the same way singles choose to meet through match.com or eharmony or jdate.
Many colleges now allow incoming students to select their own roommates by filling out extensive online questionnaires. In advance of living with someone, freshmen can now learn prospective roommates’ tastes in music, film, and television. They can find out about religious practices, study habits, politics, fashion preferences, allergies, eating habits and more. When I went to school I was able to choose a nonsmoker.
I’m all for the convenience of the Internet, but really? Why bother leaving home to go to college if you’re going to live with someone who is exactly the same as the kids from your own neighborhood? Save the money and commute to a nearby school.
This is what I told my youngest son when I insisted he allow his school to randomly select a roommate for him. He could have roomed with any one of his seven high school friends who had been admitted to the school. But I explained that the value of a college education is not simply to be found nestled in the pages of a textbook or spewed from the lips of an esteemed professor. It is also to be gained by living among a diverse group of thinkers and people with lifestyles quite different from your own. An anatomy teacher can show you where the tibia is, and this information will help you get along in a medical environment. But a bad roommate can teach you patience, negotiation skills, and communication tactics that will help you immeasurably in the big, diverse world that awaits you outside the protective walls of academia.
My freshman roommate was a mercurial theater major. I had declared a major in speech pathology. I needed a quiet place to memorize the anatomy of the vocal tract. She needed a place to emote. Somehow we managed to accommodate each other.
I was raised in a suburban Jewish neighborhood in upstate New York. On paper, I have absolutely nothing in common with my dear friend Sylvia, a Lithuanian Lutheran from Valparaiso, Indiana, except for a mutual love of deep- dish pizza. Nevertheless, we have loved each other since the day we met in college more than three decades ago.
During sorority rush, my soon-to-be best friend Leslie, who had been raised in Kansas, asked me if I had ever seen a cow. I responded by asking her why she wasn’t in braids and gingham, and whether or not a house had ever fallen on anyone she knew. We enjoyed a good laugh, and have been laughing and crying together for 38 years.
My son listened to my stories, and was assigned three roommates whose interests were widely divergent from his. The three young men were able to create a living environment based on mutual respect, and Zack has thanked me for helping him broaden his horizons.
On its website, eCampustours.com lists the seven most important qualities to look for when choosing a college roommate. They are: trustworthiness, respectfulness, willingness to cooperate, friendliness, patience, compatibility, and communication skills. Do people actually reply “no” when asked if they are trustworthy? Do they admit to being unfriendly or impatient? I’m willing to bet the lying cheating Bryce didn’t reveal her dark side on her roommate questionnaire.
Chemistry between humans is not the science it is between elements and mixtures. If it were, there would be no serial match.com daters. We would all get it right the first time. Kids who seek out those most like themselves are denying themselves the beauty and surprise of a friendship forged through mutual experience rather than mutual upbringing or interests.
Far more important is the impact this will have on society at large. Aren’t we, as a nation, divisive enough? Turn on any news station and you see an assortment of cantankerous middle-aged louts pontificating to people just like them. This is not going to change for the better if college freshman are randomly assigned roommates as used to be the case. But, if our young people in great numbers seek to “live with same,” if they are not encouraged to meet and get along with a diverse student population, I’m afraid things could get frighteningly worse.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 7 ‘A/S/L’ Most Asked Question At Kaplan Online University Reunion
- 8 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage
- 9 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test