Nineteen years ago (NINETEEN! YEARS! AGO! Time, time, time.), bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for anything, I stuffed everything I owned into my 323 hatchback and left small-town Newfoundland for college in Nova Scotia. When I got there, the first new thing I encountered was dorm life. The walls of my room were green. But it was readily apparent that they had also been blue, peach and tan at various points in their storied life. The screenless window had a rotting wooden frame that jammed often (probably because all those layers of paint had added an extra quarter-inch to it all ’round). My desk had a homemade Ouija board scorched into it. My mattress was …. well, a dorm room mattress. I tried not to look at the stains while changing the sheets, because I wasn’t emotionally prepared to speculate as to their origin (I’m still not). It didn’t take long for me to make it home, though. A collection of photos on the cork board. One of my grandmother’s patchwork quilts on the bed, and a Beavis and Butthead poster above it.
A little later, there was a potted cactus on the windowsill and a hamster named Cottonball on the Ouija board. On top of it all, I had discovered the heights of student sophistication: jamming a black taper candle into a Baileys bottle.
Less than six feet away from me, there was a duplicate bed and desk. These belonged to my roommate Amanda*. She had her own hamster, Bandit (whose cage she cleaned once an equinox), and her own purple taper candle in a Baby Duck bottle. She was a long-awaited adopted only child whose parents worshipped the ground she complained on, and she was not easy to live with. Her boyfriend, Darren*, came to visit her every weekend. He drank beer after beer, and threw the caps on the floor. Words can’t express how I adored blindly stepping on those scalloped metal edges on my way out of the room first thing in the morning. At night, while I pretended to sleep, they bumped uglies. Loudly. One night in November, nearing the breaking point, I jumped out of bed, flipped the light on, and started calling their plays like “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. (Oh, Meatloaf …. You are so delightfully sweaty and meaty and loafy.) Amanda stopped talking to me, and Darren visited less often, after that. At the end of the semester, Amanda flunked everything and dropped out. Though I have not heard from her in years, I like to think she and Darren are still out there, together. Burping the alphabet, perhaps, or supporting each other in their struggle to comprehend the comics in the Saturday paper.
When Amanda left, I had the room to myself, and I kept it that way for the rest of my four college years. I enhanced my living space greatly by acquiring a second hamster and three guinea pigs, which made it smell ever-so-slightly of barn. I took my closet door off its hinges and laid it flat across the two desks, to make room for my computer. As a finishing touch, a loveliness of ladybugs burrowed into my windowsill and fruitfully multiplied until I opened the window (and left it open) in an effort at population control.
So, you can imagine my reaction when I read this blog post about the beautifully decorated dorm rooms at Ole Miss. Apparently, female roomies collaborate and pool their money long before they move in, and they come up with this:
(No, the girls don’t come with the décor. But they look like they do, don’t they?)
Their dorm rooms are so beautiful that there’s a competition for most beautiful dorm room. That’s actually a thing. Because money is something I think about alot, the first thing I wondered was how students could possibly come up with the cash. What a waste. How privileged are they, to be able to drop a grand on ottomans and monogrammed wall art? Nothing I’ve ever lived in – or ever will live in – is as pretty as these giant jewelry boxes for young ladies. Wow. Those girls have their ducks in a row – they know what’s really important. They’re making one of the biggest moves of their life, and matching bedspreads is all they can come up with to mark the occasion? Gosh, wonder how booze stains and vomit wash out of faux fur rugs …. Everything about this trend made me want to smack the insipid faces of the little divas posing with their Target haul until they did something ill-bred, like dropping their smug game-show-host smiles for a few seconds.
Then, I wondered how these girls and their pimped-out dorm rooms could make me so stabby. Why did I care what a handful of girls I’ve never met are doing with their dorm rooms I’ll never visit? Why was I being so mean?
For those who read BethBlog regularly (thank you), you’ll know I’m no stranger to nastiness. I snark on people who take and share too many pictures, people who enrol their kids in an overwhelmment (there – I just created a new collective noun) of activities, and people who celebrate holidays in stupid ways. People who shop Black Friday sales like its their last chance to buy anything, ever, just ahead of the cornucopia of Christmas, annoy me. I think people who overthink, overdocument and overshare everything are ridiculous. I find people who curate and present their life as if it were a style mag, self-help book or visual life coach, unbearably snotty. People who spend a disproportionate amount of time daydreaming on Facebook have earned my disdain. As have people who drive minivans, pour too much of themselves into their lawn, and schlep their babies to classes of any kind.
In other words, I’m a seasoned bitch, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Some things in life simply call for a bitch, need a bitch, and I’m on it. I think alot of people live life in such a ludicrous fashion that they deserve a stink-eye topped with a raised eyebrow, with a side of curled lip – served cold. These girls, though? They’re eighteen and taking pleasure in decorating the room they’ll live in for the better part of a year. What do I expect them to be doing? Solving world conflicts? Ending famines? Stopping climate change in its tracks? And how do I know they’re not doing their part in those struggles, too? Their way of expressing themselves isn’t my way – so I’ve dismissed it as idiotic, and derided it as vapid and valueless. Many women do what I do, over and over. We make fun of women who cook or bake beautifully. Who has time for that? Hello! Pizza delivery exists for a reason. We assume women who are fashionable don’t have anything else to think about. We defiantly wave our dollar-store craft kits in the face of women who make lovely things out of odds and ends, and are bold enough to post a pic. I’ve got better things to do – you must have no life if that’s how you spend your time. And, yes, decorating. It’s ok to have a nice house, but you’d better not have an adorable house. Otherwise, we all know you’ve got throw pillows for brains – and you are clearly a cold fish if your house is clean. You can keep your pristine palace, I’m too busy making memories for that.
Why? Why we feel the need to put each other down over things that don’t affect us? Are we so unhappy with our life that we must take down everyone around us to even the score? Are we focussing so intently on the tall poppy that we forget that we have a garden of our own? Do we not understand that breaking someone else down won’t build us up? We tell our kids to live and let-live. We say “everyone’s different, and that’s ok”, to teach them acceptance of others. Then we rain judgement on others for the crime of having different priorities and executing them with style. If a handful of teenagers making their rooms pretty is all it takes to piss us off (and many a lady rager got her knickers in a twist over this – I’m not the only one), maybe we need to dig deeper for more confidence and contentment.
* No names have been changed because these people have mercifully faded from my life, and I hope never to hear from them again.