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Rules of bathroom engagement (Feb. 1998)

At the beginning of the fall semester, I woke up one morning to find a creepy-looking pair of cardboard eyes staring at me from the far corner of the bathroom mirror. It was a bit of shock. My suitemates are not especially artistic, and even if they were, Halloween decorations didn’t seem to be their style. I gradually realized that the eyes must have been the work of our female neighbors, with whom we share the bathroom.

Before all the media commotion over co-ed bathrooms initiated by the recent lawsuit by a group of Orthodox Jewish students (“Jewish Students Sue Over Housing,” Nov.), my suitemates and I never gave much thought to the issue. We just wanted a suite that had four singles. And to achieve our goal, we had to agree to share a bathroom located between the suite we wanted and a suite that was to be occupied by six women. No big deal, I thought.

But it was a big deal, if not in the way the more salivating of the columnists imagined it to be. No matter what some people (my mother included) may think, sharing a bathroom with members of the opposite sex has not turned our corner of Morse into a den of iniquity. And this, as I discovered very quickly, is because sex appeal cannot exist both before 9 in the morning and before someone has showered.

Don’t get me wrong: The women with whom I share a bathroom are very attractive—during the day, when they are not carrying the razors they use to shave their legs and when they have washed all the cold cream off their faces. Likewise, I used to be convinced I was a pretty attractive guy. This changed the first morning I brushed my teeth while one of my neighbors was standing next to me washing her face. The wicked queen’s mirror in Snow White told her she was the fairest of them all; my mirror told me that I should either get into the weight room or wait until after I put on a t-shirt to brush my teeth.

Because we shared our bathroom with another group of guys last year, my suitemates and I did not conform to anything but basic bathroom etiquette. At the beginning of this year, faced with the prospect of females, we talked among ourselves and tried to establish rules of engagement for bathroom use. The rules included closing the bathroom stall door when the stall is in use, and always wearing at least a towel and boxer shorts (you can’t be too careful) when we ventured into the bathroom.

Our bathroom-mates weren’t fazed by anything, though. They were constantly trying to be friendly. My roommate was a bit shocked when a woman began chatting him up while he was apparently safe inside a bathroom stall.

So far, we have managed to avoid any really embarrassing moments. The women seem to remain comfortable with our generic male lack of tidiness, and we have come to terms with the fact that their longer hair tends to clog the shower drain faster than ours does.

In observance of the season, my suitemates and I are even planning some cardboard decorations for the mirror on Valentine’s Day.

Filed under residential colleges, 1990s
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