I began this blog as a way to assuage the rumblings of the many hearts that this Fall find themselves with children, or who ARE children, suddenly thrown into the college mix, wherein, for likely the first time, they are in a room for the coming year with a total stranger. I wanted to express to those readers, that despite what may seem like clashing theories in personal hygiene and housekeeping, that things do tend to balance out, settle down, and indeed, usually are…. okay…… in the end.
Upon the conclusion of my first draft, I realized that ,college be damned, these are lessons anyone can experience, at any time and any age, as I myself learned this summer.
Recently, I have garnered a plethora of roommates. My boyfriend of a zillion years moved in, as his own son was leaving for college, and the time seemed right for the adults to finally start living their own lives and merge. My daughter, a high school junior, shares the floor plan with us, together with my son, a now, college graduate, who is returning to home after years at school, rounding out the populous.
Stop and reread that last paragraph…..”A high school daughter….a now….college graduate”….and two adults in their 50s. Trying to find the commonalities of those attendees, is like mining for the black diamond level of a video game.
My partner and I have a very staid life. He enjoys evenings breathing on the sofa, and I enjoy taking up space almost anywhere that is decently decorated. We have a somewhat staccato heartbeat between the two of us. We understand each other. We recognize the “I plan on falling asleep while I watch this” channel selection we each will make. We have worked out the minor details of who makes the iced coffee for the morning, and who oversees the dog’s feeding dishes. We live in a harmonious place because we “get” it. After years of being with other partners, but mostly with ourselves, we have arrived at the reckoned realization of who we each are, how we each do things, and how completely insane the other is not to recognize that each of our ways is best. This unspoken understanding is our routine, our friend. We invite him to join us often to keep things running smoothly.
My children, our other roommates, have their routines as well. My daughter is currently fine tuning her act as a vampire. For almost days on end this summer, she rarely vacated her room or opened a drape. The only thing that assured us that she was indeed alive, was the burgeoning pile of laundry outside her door, and the stacks of used dishes we would mysteriously find in the sink before nightfall. If you ask her, she is “living the dream”, taking time off from the demands and stresses of school and kicking back with cyber friends with whom she is not required to dress (except from the neck up) or apparently bathe.
My son, recently returning from a four-year stint in his own apartment in Boston while attending college, is currently caught in the cross hairs of his mother’s ”this is my house” radar, where he is expected to behave like a considerate human being with a bent on cleanliness, and an eye on the clock. Gone are his days of young adult lament and social circumstance; the all nighters; wearing the least offensive dirty shirt to work, and sleeping with things like empty milk containers in his bed.
Read that last sentence again…”and sleeping with things like empty milk containers in his bed”.
Feel me now?
So this is a snapshot of where I currently stand. Trapped in a universe somewhere between people who live in their dirty laundry and people who fold their dirty laundry.
Read that last sentence again….”people who fold their dirty laundry”. I know this only because I was caught, unwittingly, attempting to put away the folded dirty stuff on behalf of my roomie. But that will be another blog….
Anyone who has ever watched It Happened One Night knows about the Walls of Jericho, and the humor one can experience in sharing spaces unexpectedly. For me, in my house, it would be perfectly okay if the walls didn’t come tumbling down. In fact, keep the walls. Walls are good. So are boundaries, lines in the sand and closed doors of any kind. I have also become a huge proponent of locks, whether they be sliding, latching, or my favorite, double bolting, they effectively keep out what I don’t want, or can’t tolerate and keep in what I love- privacy, peace and the temporary illusion that I know how to live correctly. Once I unlatch the solid separator between me and “others”, is exactly when the shitstorm starts.
I have a simple life. I work. I come home. I work and come home. It’s a relatively plain formula and one I am able to duplicate without issue day after day. I enjoy both worlds immensely, for each has been hand designed to meet my exacting standards of organization, my quips and blurts of humor and my natural rhythm which is, at 51, ”slow to medium dead”.
I enjoy a good putter, a sprawl on the sofa and a brisk walk once and awhile between the front and back doors. Whoa to the person or persons that try to waylay, what has become to me, my innate sense of duty to this standard; my internal “marching orders”.
When I do move, I find myself as the lucky recipient of the only “hands” in my household. These magical mysteries of design, are apparently the only ones that can vacuum, clean a toilet, do a laundry switch or push the old food scraped off of plates down into the sink’s disposal. These hands are good and, if we are all to survive, have to hold their tread and strength. For the sake of Life as we all know it, I will keep these hands.
All of this of course, makes all of my other roommates of the past look especially good. But isn’t that always the case when reminiscing ?
For eighteen years I lived with my oft separated, rarely stable,thrice divorced mother, an obsessive compulsive bi-polar whose idea of a good time was color coordinating her pantry. A Virgo and Gemini respectively, we shared small and large spaces alike, with little grace, even less patience and a dichotomy of life approaches so estranged you could ride a river raft through them.
Skip ahead to my college roommates. Due to economic state cutbacks and austerity programs, I was caged in a room with not one but two other girls, at Purchase College of Performing Arts. There, we slowly evolved into our own little triangle of terror: an overweight dramatist, a Jamaican underage virgin and a ballerina who only consumed celery hearts and possessed an exemplary panache for vomiting. We struggled through years of togetherness in our 10×10 room until one night, when having forgotten my class notebook, I walked in on the virgin and her not so underage boyfriend butt naked and coiled in a bed much too close to mine for comfort and DNA safety.
Next came my husband, with whom I lived through a house renovation, a town relocation, two children, a dog and nearly 24 years of growing pains on both our parts. In many ways he was the best roommate, because he was around the least, accepted with ease the fact that when I’m depressed I like to rearrange furniture, cook or re-paint rooms. I can only say in retrospect, it’s a good thing he wasn’t blind or he would still, despite our divorce, be feeling his way around his own floor plan trying to find the sofa.
My point is this: If you find yourself in college with someone you can’t tread evenly with, if you are answering the calls from your university son or daughter aghast at what they have to endure, living with another they barely know, or if you, like me, find yourself rubbing elbows with waaay too many people in a space that used to be your own……keep going. Things will change, common ground and contracts will be struck and you will survive.
People are different. Some possess different skill sets, hygiene or living habits. The bottom line early on or even later in life like me, is to learn to tolerate, forgive, acquiesce,work it through or look away. Living with others, whether strangers or just plain strange, is part of our existence, part of our test, part of the heartbeat that becomes our life. It will get better. It will work itself out, and one day you will look back and laugh.
As it says on the magnet on my fridge:
And, right now, that’s probably a good thing…..