During the hectic university application process last autumn, I forgot to check whether my dream school would have a co-ed housing system. Right before I started at Pomona, I learned that boys and girls there would be sharing bathrooms, showers, the corridor space, laughter, and midnight snacks.
What would that mean? Immediately, I pictured embarrassing scenes where a teenage girl, covered by a thin towel, and carrying her shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and body lotion, would rush back and forth between her room and the communal bathroom. Meanwhile, her neighbour, a teenage boy, would half raise his eyebrows, and then cover his eyes in despair – when the towel accidentally drops …
I was terrified.
Move-in day arrived, and sure enough, I spotted the “gender-neutral bathrooms” sign in my residence. My room itself is sandwiched between two boys’ rooms, and directly opposite a bathroom.
But having lived in a co-ed dorm for a semester, I have to say that I’m loving this brand-new experience. There were moments when I laughed at how, as I got dressed each day, my male neighbours either side of me could be listening to music or doing a research project on gender, or, like me, just completing everyday tasks.
Initially, I would wear my day clothes until I shut my door and went to bed, and it felt strange to talk to boys right next to the gender-neutral bathroom. Now, I gladly join a midnight study break in my pyjamas.
The co-ed housing system has offered me insight into the ordinary lives of my peers. There is no longer a sense of mystery about people of the opposite gender.
While men and women should be respectful towards each other, we are all humans. We don’t need to behave differently when members of the opposite sex are present. Gender should not be a barrier to people, friendship, or daily exchanges.
Think of this column as an important life lesson if you are about to start applying to universities, and are worried about this aspect of college life. Truly, you will be fine.