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It's a Beautiful Day in the Roommatehood

October 26, 2010

Ida Hoequist ’14

I am no stranger to dorm life. Roommatehood was bestowed upon me my sophomore year of high school, so I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur by now. I have passive-aggressively kept impolite roommates from helping themselves to my pantry. I have assertively barred people outright from my side of the room. I have dealt with snoring. I have kicked out guests who have overstayed their welcome, be they mine or my roommate's. I have lived in dorms where clothes were seen as unnecessary accessories to general daily life, as long as the blinds were closed. I have managed a roommate who was so intimidated by me, without my knowing it, that every conversation became an attempt to impress rather than a normal chat. I have even made it through a mounting cold war in which my needy and slightly unbalanced roommate turned to purposefully trying to annoy me just so I would pay more attention to her, and in which I stalwartly refused to grant her that satisfaction. Armed with these experiences of angsty high school in-room drama, I filled out my roommate form without much fuss after getting accepted to Oberlin, stoked about college life and confident that I could handle any girl the administration threw my way.

As it turned out, I was right to think I had nothing to worry about, but for reasons other than my copious experience with dorms. I was right because Oberlin totally had me covered. My roommate emailed me halfway through the summer (which is good, because I'd somehow missed the "you got paired up!" memo) to introduce herself. I'm betting there was a fair amount of nervousness involved, because the message read: "Hi! I hear that we're roommates!" The end. No further introduction, no information about herself, no signature. I of course emailed back with the essentials: sleeping habits, music preferences, bringing a minifridge, interests, etc. Her reply was much, much longer than her first mail, and an epic saga of elated monster emails that continued until the last week of summer was born then. We discovered many things about each other through these emails, including that we got along swimmingly. I felt fortunate beyond belief to have been assigned a person I was so utterly compatible with.

Then we moved in.

She was shorter than I had envisioned, and slightly quieter, but otherwise wonderfully true to her representation of herself. I still felt like I'd picked up a penny on heads, a four-leaf clover, and reached the end of a rainbow all at the same time by ending up with a roomie this splendid - until I found something that I had not anticipated. All the roommate pairs fit together like we did.

What? All of them?

Yes. All of them.

During our first hall meeting, in which we got acquainted with our RA and the other people living around us and wrote behavioral contracts, there was a pair who obviously belonged to the same branch of geek culture, had almost the same repertoire of facial expressions, and at one point chorused "Fun? High school?" with exactly the same incredulous, sarcastic intonation in response to a remark that our RA had addressed to the group at large regarding planning fun activities, ostensibly "like in high school." Another pair, wearing almost the same outfit, sat in exactly the same position for the first half of the meeting before noticing, grinning sheepishly at each other, and shifting a little. It was incredible. My satisfaction with the person I'd be living with for the next year wasn't a lucky fluke, it was widespread - possibly even universal.

"Preposterous!" you cry. "What about all those gruesome stories of unbearable college roommates?"

...I have no idea. I just sort of assume they didn't happen in the freshman dorms at Oberlin College. (Although I do hear that Harkness is a notoriously smelly place, as I like to jokingly remind my totally non-smelly friend who lives in Harkness.)

While I no longer feel charmed by this particular instance, my sense of profound serendipity hasn't disappeared. It has simply shifted focus from the fact that my roomie is spectacular to the fact that my college is spectacular. And I highly doubt anything is going to make that disappear anytime soon.

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