Co-ed rooms in college and other dirty stuff

Reading my Sun-Times today and found out that the University of Chicago is now allowing men and women to room together in its dormitories, a new policy that 50 students will take advantage of, so to speak.

I’m trying to imagine what my father’s reaction would have been if I wanted to room with a boy in my college dorm.

I’m wondering how it would have gone if he had let me.

In all likelihood, it would have been no big deal, though at some point I imagine it would get tiring having to bring all of your clothes to the bathroom every time you wanted to change – which is how one girl interviewed said she was going to work it — and you’d just tell your roommate to turn around.

Then, pretty soon it would get tiring having to tell your roommate to turn around and you’d just change clothes in front of him.

Eventually, you’d start living like a regular married couple, walking around in your less-than-gorgeous underwear, nagging each other to make the beds and pretty soon you’d have a bunch of 20-year-old kids vowing never to get married at all.

The girl interviewed said she had a boyfriend, so no one had to worry that her roommate situation was “a romantic thing.” But then again, there is no fooling-around box to check if you want to room with the opposite sex at the U. of C.  If you want to room with your boyfriend or girlfriend, they can’t exactly legislate that.

If this is a shock to anyone, then they never went to college.

My roommate my sophomore year in college had a boyfriend whom she lived with – in their hometown 20 minutes away from campus. In other words, I didn’t really have a roommate, which worked out nicely for me until my roommate’s mother decided to catch her in this little scheme by calling every morning at 6 a.m. to speak to her.

Telling her that her daughter was at the library didn’t work so well. And she didn’t buy the shower excuse after the fourth or fifth time either. The goofy thing – which even at 19, I understood – was that of course the mother knew exactly what was going on and it really wasn’t necessary to wake me up every morning at 6 to prove it.

I remember when my sister Susie went to college, they were not only not allowed to have boys in their rooms, but they couldn’t have men in the building unless they signed in with the house mother.

“It could have been a dad, it didn’t matter,” Susie recalled. “But she’d call over the loudspeaker, ‘Man in the house, and we’d have to close our doors or cover ourselves up or something. “

Like all the women in my family, my sister tends to exaggerate, so it’s quite possible that the part about covering up and closing their doors was thrown in to make the story better.  She was madly in love with Marty Biviano at the time, so she can be excused for not remembering every detail clearly except that she had to stop making out with Marty and go back in the dorm in time for the 10 p.m. curfew each night. That, she remembered.

I also remember my sister, 12 years older than me, being horrified to learn that our parents allowed me to have a boy – a longtime buddy – in my bedroom in high school, where we watched M*A*S*H reruns and ate popcorn and my parents would usually fall asleep before he went home.

I’m not sure it was because my father had somehow mellowed since Susie was a teenager. I just don’t think, given my desire to play basketball and watch Bears games, that my father thought of me as a future woman at that stage.

Unfortunately, this stereotype followed me into adulthood.

Once, when I was working at my first newspaper job out of college, I was asked by my boss to share a hotel room with a male sportswriter on our staff to save money on a trip to cover a college bowl game. I was maybe 24, 25 years old, the guy happened to be about my age and I didn’t want to say no to my boss.

Of course, my colleague, a real wise guy, got a kick out of seeing my expression when I woke up the next morning to find his shorts and t-shirt on the floor between our two beds.

“Sorry, I can’t sleep with clothes on,” he said with a mischievous grin while still under the covers.

“No problem,” I said, tossing his clothes into the hall, “and you won’t mind if I straighten up a little.”

The U. of C. girl might want to keep that in mind if her roommate tries any funny stuff.



  1. Mike

    Great post Missy:

    It made me think back to the Iowa days when I thought it was a big deal to have girls in the same dorm. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My son is three years away from college. I can only imagine what that might be like. Keep up the great work.

  2. Jon

    Melissa- I like the way you write. cute, amusing style about topics people can relate to.

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