Let's Stay Together

Officially, coed living shenanigans are sternly frowned upon. But mixed-gender rooming can be legitimate under exceptional circumstances. According to the

Officially, coed living shenanigans are sternly frowned upon. But mixed-gender rooming can be legitimate under exceptional circumstances. According to the Handbook for Students, it all has to do with appropriate number of bathrooms and the judicious installation of locks in suites where “the configuration of space ensures a large degree of privacy.” Bottom line: couples who want it bad enough can usually figure out how to live together with the blessing of the administration, if not their parents.

After sharing an apartment together last summer, Matthew T. Fox ’02 and Celeste L. Ng ’02 were so happy with the experience that they decided to do it again. Luckily for them, they live in Leverett Towers, a haven for coed bunking where certain bigger suites meet the appropriate bathroom quota for legitimate mixed living.

“There are so many people around us that it’s not at all like married life,” Ng said. The two share a room within a suite that connects to many of their blockmates. Because they have been together since their first year, their newly official situation is not much of a change. “We’ve been essentially living together for a while,” Fox said.

Being locked into sharing a room with one’s significant other has its dangers, but Fox is not worried. “If breaking up was a concern, we would never have considered this set-up,” he said. “We’ll probably get married.”

Others have learned from experience that breakups do happen, even to the most official of roommate couples.

“When we talked about rooming together, [breaking up] was something we discussed,” says Chanda R. Prescod-Weinstein ’03, who lived with her (now) ex-boyfriend William L. Fash ’02 last semester. “We weren’t moving in together because we decided we were ready, but for convenience.” After splitting up, they kept living in the same room for two months.

Their joint occupation was basically an accident, according to Prescod-Weinstein. Fash and his blockmates had wanted to live in a quad, but when that plan fell through they decided to join with Prescod-Weinstein and her blockmates. This allowed them to procure a coed quint in which the two shared a room.

Fash describes the experience as “a very exciting thing for us at the time.” The couple’s peers were not always supportive. “A lot of people were very skeptical,” he says. “Their concern seemed predetermined by expectations of the worst that could happen.”

And then it did, but perhaps because they were always aware of the importance of personal space—they bunked their beds from the start—their time living together after the break-up went smoothly.

Those who choose to live dangerously and try unapproved mixed-gender arrangements may face official wrath, even if their intentions are platonic. Matthew A. Romero ’02 and Susan P. Long ’02 tried to share a nest in Pforzheimer this fall, when rooming problems and sexuality issues within their blocking group led to it seemingly being “the only feasible arrangement.” Unfortunately, their resident tutor happened to live right across the hall and he immediately put an end to the violation. Romero and Long were made to move their belongings into single-sex rooming with the admonition that “if there was any suspicion we were still living together, we would be kicked out of Pfoho housing,” Romero says.

“Our Masters were sympathetic,” he says, “but it is sad that the rules are so outdated and that the Masters were forced to abide by them.” He and Long and another gay guy-straight girl couple who were living together unofficially at the start of this year are now on a crusade to change the regulation.

“We are working with them and the House Masters to make sure that people with sexual orientation issues can discreetly talk to someone in the House and get coed rooms,” Romero says. “Often a guy can feel uncomfortable living with other men, if he’s gay. Or two gay guys might not want to live with each other.”

Romero had better luck working the system last year, when he roomed officially with two girls. The threesome got a walk-through double with a bathroom across the hall. The housing officials put locks on the suite’s doors, turning the common room into a bedroom and registering the room as three singles.

“But, obviously, I didn’t get the middle room to myself,” Romero says. “It was the common room.” He says he considered doing the same again this year but decided against it. “How unfair to get crappy senior housing due to sexual orientation! We just wanted what everyone in single-sex housing is allowed to have,” he says.

Of course, same-sex couples can follow the letter if not the spirit of the rule. Michael A. Schuler ’02-’03 lives full time with his boyfriend, Samuel H. Perwin ’04. The arrangement means Schuler can now use his actual room as an “office,” as Perwin calls it—quite a luxury for campus living. And though the couple’s phone message includes both their names, it is possible to keep such arrangements secret from parents. “I’m really not sure that my parents know,” Perwin says. “They always call my cell.”

But the couple has been growing up fine without parental guidance. “When you live with someone for the first time, there are lots of things you have to figure out,” Schuler says. “We’ve had space issues but those are unavoidable. It’s been hard but it’s been wonderful.”

“It’s been nice to be able to come home to someone,” Perwin agrees.