As a National Merit Finalist, I got priority admission for the dorms at UT which always had waiting lists to get in. However, as a freshman, there was still limited availability. While I requested to be assigned to a female dorm, I was instead placed on a co-ed floor at Jester Center, a dorm that holds between 3200-3300 people. After a pre-K-12 school of less than 600, it was a massive living space that was rather intimidating for many reasons.
At that time, the only matching algorithm that UT Student Housing used was smoking or non. As you can imagine, that did not create good odds for ending up with a roommate who was a good match. I checked off non-smoking. My first roommate also checked off non-smoking even though she was a smoker because she did not want anyone smoking in the room. So right off the bat, the matching algorithm was a completely failure.
"H," my first roommate, was a from a small town outlying the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She had been at the top of her class at her small rural Texas school but she arrived totally unprepared for college. She was there to party. By contrast, I was there to get an education. H hit it off with a woman in an adjoining room. After H broke up with her steady boyfriend back home after learning that he was already sleeping around only a few weeks into their long distance relationship, H and the woman next door quickly made their way to Sixth Street with the explicit intention of getting laid. They managed to get drunk that night but somehow failed to procure willing men.
H rapidly became the roommate from hell. We were not a good match in any way. I was a morning person. She wanted to party all night. I had fairly Catholic values at that point; despite having been baptized just that summer as a born-again Christian, H's actions and values were questionable. She wanted to start smoking in the room; I refused to allow it since it was a designated non-smoking room. We had agreed to share various chores in the room, though it rapidly became clear that she was not going to do any of them, and she tore into me for asking her to do her part. Yet at the same time, she felt free to borrow my clothes when we hit a cold snap and she hadn’t brought her winter clothes down from home yet. Her only interest was herself and her needs. Once again, I had found myself living with a narcissist.
A male high school friend of hers and his roommate set up a secret competition: They were trying to see who could get her to have sex first. The friend was in our room one night giving her a backrub on her bed while I was studying on my bed. He announced, “This bra is in the way. I’ll just take it off.” My Catholic school girl self was mortified and completely unsure what to do. Were they not clear on the fact I was sitting right there? Was the proper etiquette to leave? Yet at the same time, it was my room, too, and I really didn’t want to walk across the street to the library to study. (I have no idea who actually won the competition but I’d be really surprised if one of those guys didn’t succeed by the end of the semester.)
Within a few weeks, H had decided that I was the worst roommate ever. She dragged her mattress into the woman next door’s dorm room and proceeded to live there. The smell of pot constantly waifed out of their room. H came in our formerly shared room periodically to get clothes and give me an evil eye. She was not happy that she had to live next door in order to smoke and party all the time.
After the school year was about six weeks old, another woman on the floor came knocking door to door to get information for something or another. She asked me where my roommate was, and I told her that H had moved next door because she hated me. The woman doing the survey went next door and talked to H. The next thing I knew, H was announcing to me that she and the survey woman had decided to swap roommates. I would be moving into the other woman’s room and she would be taking my space. I was given no option, but considering the current status of things, I figured it could not be much worse. We made the switch immediately, and then applied to Housing to make it official. Our resident assistant did a “counseling” session in which she tried to work out our differences which was rather amusing. Once we convinced her that there would be no positive resolution, she applied for and received the official permission to get us to switch rooms. We signed the paperwork, swapped keys officially, and moved on with our lives.
The woman I moved in with had also decided things couldn’t be any worse than what she’d experienced with her first roommate, so she was fine with me moving in. While she was a night owl and tv addict, we were able to be respectful of each other and make it work. Within a few weeks, we were great friends. Meanwhile, gossip on the floor was that H and the survey woman hated each other with a passion. I have to admit that I was amused at that given how the two of them had treated my new roommate and me. By the end of the semester, rumor had it that H was just leaving a bottle of Jim Beam on her nightstand. She left UT at the end of the semester to move back home and go to a UT branch school, but supposedly there was a notice in the dorm mailbox that she was officially on academic probation after her less than stellar performance in her first semester at UT.
Those first few weeks of college being partnered with someone I had almost nothing in common with were really rough, but the friendship I ended having with my second roommate was fabulous. Tomorrow’s blog post will talk more about that relationship.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC