A young woman of my acquaintance, a rising college freshman, has just done a roommate match online. She plugged in her basic info (sleep habits, music, academic intentions, etc.) through her college’s website and another girl responded with interest. After texting back and forth over a few hours, they decided to e-mail the housing department at their college and request each other. Though the housing people make no guarantees, you’d think they’d prefer to have roommates start out on a positive note rather than thinking – and saying – “WTF?” to a bureaucracy-selected match.
How different from the past, even the very recent past, when roommates met as strangers. E-mail helps, as does low-priced long-distance service. “Who brings the fridge?” can be decided in a few minutes. If you find that one roomie is a fashionista who can’t abide pink, but you’re a pink-loving girl from toes to crown, you can either agree to disagree (same with politics – cue James Carville and Mary Matalin – and thank God for iPods, which eliminate Bach-versus-rap disputes) or say “no go” and go online to search for a roomie who’d rather pink than dye.
I’ve heard roomie horror stories involving freshmen who arrived brand-new on campus ready to: set up an in-room, drug-dealing enterprise (warning her new, clean roommate that, if the cops found out, roomie would be dead meat); crank up the TV volume to record highs on a consistent basis, because, as the only daughter in the family, she’d always had her own room; sprawl his stuff all over the small double, taking up physical and emotional space; act better-than-thou because she came from a high-spending family. Any of which ought to be a deal-cruncher in real life with spouses or grown-up roomies. Unfortunately, it occasionally took weeks of negotiation (roommate plus resident advisor) to get those difficult living situations on the right track. Which sometimes involved the offender moving out, and, in the case of the dealer, police staging their own variant of an intervention.
With a bad-match roomie, don’t fool around hoping things will get better all by themselves. Speak up and get help. There are friends, neighbors and resident advisors to run to your aid. Also available is your university’s counseling center. First semester of college, with its transitions and hard work, is challenging enough. No one needs extra stress. Especially when the stressor snores ten feet away.
Oh, and snoring!