My freshman year roommate, according to our early Facebook correspondence: a studious poli-sci major who liked Coltrane, slept regular hours, was occasionally disorganized but never dirty, and had been valedictorian of his high school class.
The person I discovered occupying the other bed in my room after arriving on campus: a maniacally insomniac Soviet-film enthusiast who shed Greek salad tins, coconut husks, and beer bottles the way 18-wheelers burp exhaust. When I volunteered nervously that we’d all gone through a Metallica phase, he looked at me with quiet aggression, stating bluntly, “more like a Metallica life,” and his mother apologized to me before leaving me alone with her son. Did I mention he had a girlfriend starting the first week?
Listen to me, O impressionable Westchesterites heading off to the shortest, gladdest years of life: when your future alma mater tells you that it picked a good match to live with you, it’s probably lying. Perhaps you’ll live in a dorm room where you don’t have to raise your voice to talk through the walls where some swilling mustache-cultivator considers any closed door sufficient to block out the noise of those oh-so-necessary 4-am-Monday-morning marathon listening sessions of bands called things like “She Wants Revenge” (their hit single: “Tear You Apart”). Hypothetically.
The surprise twist here, though, is that, for the part of our graduation ceremony four years later where we got to choose our own seats, there was no question Jesse and I would be plopped down beside each other. After all, we had, by that point, lived together all four years. So how did we make it work (aside from the usual communicating and stopping acting like the entitled younger siblings we are)? Mostly, it went like this:
• Earplugs and headphones. Studying and wishing you could sleep more are pretty much what college is about Sunday through Thursday, while their antidotes (success and sufficient sleep) are torpedoed without these two cheap appendages. Imagine a cranky black bear failing Math 120b: multi-variable calculus and living four feet away from you every time you neglect to use them.
• Get to know the real person. Especially in those first few weeks, shy or quiet can come across as judgmental, while loud and obnoxious can be a cover for low self-esteem.
• Give people a few chances. I showed up to Room 308 with my middle finger immobilized in the flick-off position from an injury. Trust me: it’s a good idea to try to avoid an unshakeable judgment of people for a month or two. To that end, remember that almost everyone loves chocolate and “Don’t Stop Believin’” and thinks they love Pulp Fiction more than everyone else.
• Sharpie. Believe that, living with Jesse, I considered (and, okay, occasionally committed) craven acts of vandalism and theft, but Sharpie, for labeling your stuff, is the better route. While it may not make a bromance of a blood feud, it will solve a few arguments and ensure you don’t ruin any built-up good will in the move-out. Plus, who knows when two roommates will show up with the same toothbrush?Saying “yes.” College—get ready for some advice you’ve never heard before—is about new experiences. I left college with my own love of Greek salad, beer, and “Tear You Apart”; late hours, Metallica, and Stalin-era avant gardist Dziga Vertov do nothing for me. Perfect accord is rare, but so is perfect discord. If you’re lucky, you’ll be just different enough from your roommate to grow and learn from him or her. As long as you never grow a mustache.
• Saying “yes.” College—get ready for some advice you’ve never heard before—is about new experiences. I left college with my own love of Greek salad, beer, and “Tear You Apart”; late hours, Metallica, and Stalin-era avant gardist Dziga Vertov do nothing for me. Perfect accord is rare, but so is perfect discord. If you’re lucky, you’ll be just different enough from your roommate to grow and learn from him or her. As long as you never grow a mustache.