Nothing in recent memory has made me feel as old and cantankerous as the images of dorm rooms circulating through the arteries of the internet today. Since Tuesday, when Buzzfeed posted photos of a meticulously color-coordinated and luxuriously furnished room at the University of Mississippi, college Twitter has been swooning over the dorm room’s matching pastel bedding, fuzzy white area rug, tufted headboards, and adorable ottomans.
Apparently, this is a thing at Ole Miss. “It’s really competitive,” one of the room’s occupants told Buzzfeed. “So I was like, we definitely have to make ours look good. A lot of them here are done up.” She and her roommate, both first-year students, met on social media last fall and decided to live together. They’ve been planning their décor from their respective homes in Illinois and Mississippi for the better part of a year.
This room, and others like it, make the living spaces of my college career look like dumpsters full of moth-eaten Ed Hardy T-shirts. Throw pillows occupy all surfaces normally reserved for sleeping, doing homework, and making visitors sit for listening sessions of the entire Sufjan Stevens discography. Color-coordinated patterns repeat on curtains, dressers, and lampshades. Headboards and bedskirts, all custom made, compete for the honor of Least Necessary Thing in Any Room, Never Mind a College Dorm Room. And the monograms! Oh, the monograms. Everyone’s got at least one enormous monogram, making what could have been the most distinct part of a room the least personal of all. Spend an hour or three going down this black hole, and you will either end up with a portfolio full of dorm goals or a throbbing sensation of all-encompassing nihilism.
These dorm rooms inspire vivid fantasies in me. Not fantasies about decorating my own apartment like one of these grotesque perversions of the time-honored double dorm room, but fantasies about being the randomly assigned first-year roommate of someone who wants that kind of ripped-from-the-catalogue look. We’d correspond over the summer, posting PB Teen images to a shared Pinterest board, and finally land on a color palette (gray, goldenrod, and a splash of turquoise). She’d arrive for orientation, lugging three enormous Rubbermaid bins full of home décor, and I’d already be set up with my side of the room outfitted entirely with novelty purchases from Hot Topic. Slipknot wall tapestry, Nightmare Before Christmas comforter, boob-shaped nightlight, me sitting on the bed in JNCOs. It would be great!
OK, no, that would be mean. These young women have admirably mature tastes—look at that judicious use of neutrals!—and are setting themselves up to have a calming, organized sanctuary from the hectic mayhem of college life. But come on. Where are the embarrassing poetry books and piles of toiletries? What purpose does an ottoman serve when the bed is lofted four feet off the ground? Why is there a tiny curtain to camouflage the microwave? Where do all those throw pillows go when the girls have to go to sleep? On the floor?
Let me tell you about dorm room floors. Early in my time at college, I returned home from an evening out to find that my roommate, who was nowhere to be found, had vomited on the carpet. I’m pretty sure we just wiped it up later with some wet paper towels. We weren’t too concerned, because the dorm room’s standard wall-to-wall carpet was probably already caked in layers of ancient vomit from the days when women weren’t even allowed at our school.
That was just fine with us. One of the best parts of a college dorm is knowing you can totally trash it and no one will ever notice because it’s already a pit of cracking, peeling, leaking, flaking, creaking, festering slime. My college dishwashing strategy went like this: Eat Easy Mac from bowl; place dirty bowl on windowsill; let Easy Mac remnants dry to crust over period of weeks; wash bowl whenever it’s Easy Mac time again. And I was only about the 467th grossest person in my dormitory. How will these young people ever learn the most essential lessons of homemaking—that industrial Berber carpeting magically absorbs spilled Everclear, that a healthy teen can survive mold exposure for an entire school year, and the best way to cover a hole in the wall that might contain a mouse nest is to sticky-tack a Kurt Cobain poster over it?
My one hope is that Buzzfeed follows up with some of the aspiring interior decorators at Ole Miss during May finals week to see how their rooms held up over their first year of college. If I don’t see at least one ugly shower caddy, I’ll scream.