Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Attack of the Dry Erase Board

When I was preparing to move out of my house for my junior year of college, I didn’t tell everyone what my living situation was going to be. When I did, people responded with a little shock. It’s not all the time that a female college student responds to a roommate ad by two guys.

I was interested in the apartment because of the cheap price, and the ad said that they would take a female roommate. When we met and when out to Noodles together, I knew it was the right fit. Even if it did seem odd, our personalities matched, and they were even both journalism majors. I thought of some of the advantages I would have living with guys, such as making up for not having brothers, or having more emotional space, and I started to think that they might actually make better roommates for me than girls.

Looking back on the last school year of living with Matt and Kyle and comparing it to my new situation with girls, I can say that my hypothesis proved correct. Fond memories include that of pizza being the only smell that coming from the kitchen, the sound of gleeful impersonations during Monday night wrestling, and charming, yet unsightly decorations that kept popping up around the apartment (“Star Wars,” anyone?).

The only rude awakening came when Kyle’s cleaning methods were revealed. I remember asking, “So, Kyle, I think Soft Scrub works better for the bathtub. What did you use?” Kyle looked up from his computer. “Oh, I mopped it,” he said. I didn’t bother to question my oblivious roommate. I just cleaned it myself the next time.

But somehow I would still prefer annoyances that come from living with guys because they often turn out to be amusing, if you are lighthearted. The annoyances that I have found this year as a female living with my own sex have been much more cumbersome.

The most obvious advantage to living with guys is that they are more laid back. Last year, we split the chores evenly by category. I took care of the kitchen, Kyle the bathroom and Matt the vacuuming and garbage. If I felt guilty about not getting at the dishes, I told Matt that I would do them the next day when I was done with a paper. “When ever you get to it,” he would reply.

My first set of roommates didn’t bring up or care about any petty issues like this one. This is because guys usually aren’t as contentious.

That’s a good thing.

It has been a different climate living with girls. It started with a dripping faucet.

I thought it was annoying when my female roommate knocked on my door to tell me that I didn’t turn the bathroom faucet off all the way. It’s something that I probably would not do next time anyway.
Later, her request turned up on a dry erase board that she purchased. Studies have shown that women are socialized into using indirect aggression. I would say the dry erase board is an instance of this. When my old roommates and I had a problem, we would just talk about it – in a direct manner. They never even noticed problems like dripping faucets.

The next best thing about living with guys was that it made the kitchen a much more pleasant place. My roommates didn’t have as much food, and as typical college guys, they didn’t cook, so I had plenty of room in the fridge and the dishwasher didn’t hike up the electric bill.

When I came back to my apartment after visiting family this August, my new roommates showed me that they reorganized the fridge – that is, Mara’s stuff on the top, Heidi’s on the middle and mine on the bottom.

I guess we needed to be organized if there is more stuff in the kitchen, but this seemed slightly undemocratic to me. Again, it’s harder to deal with this when you are with girls who are less direct. Maybe Matt didn’t rinse his dishes off, but at least there were no chances of having any larger kitchen conflicts.

The main objection to a co-ed college household is that things may get strange because of romantic feelings. I didn’t have this problem because Kyle was into his girlfriend and there were enough difference between Matt and me that we would never be interested in each other. I’ll illustrate:

Matt: I got this beer glass at a brewery tour. I really like it.
Tasha: Yeah.

Tasha: I like my Shakespeare class. I think a lot of themes in the plays relate to life.
Matt: (Silence)

Male roommates, do, however, provide options for dating people other than them. At both of their birthday parties, for example, I was obviously out numbered. I also liked hanging out with their friends because it provided a balance to my circle of female friends. When they didn’t include me, I didn’t feel as bad as I would with girls. With girls, there is more social pressure to be good friends and it would hurt to be rejected.

There may be more closeness with female roommates, but when all girls live together, there is also likely going to be more dissonance. Since there is a natural distance necessary to feel comfortable when two genders live together, there is also less chance that you will get in each other’s hair.

Maybe a “Rolling Stone” magazine cover with Darth Vader wasn’t the coolest thing to have on the wall, but I am starting to miss it when I look at the newest message on the dry erase board.

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