When does being “comfortable” go too far?

Lately there has been a lot of attention in the media about college-aged women and their sex lives. If you are a normal person you probably already said, “Wait- stop right there. Why should we care?” And you are exactly right, why should we care? Unfortunately, there are many reasons why we should care that go way beyond your personal morals about sex. Barnard College, a prestigious women’s college in New York, is one reason we should care. When students arrived back to campus this Fall they were greeted with a new guest policy that they were never warned about. The new guest policy states that no student is allowed to host an overnight guest “no more than three consecutive nights and no more than six nights total in any 30-day period.” Their guests actually have to sign in (and sign out) with security guards located in each dorm- another reason we should care. The college claims that this new guest policy came about from other students being uncomfortable with their roommates guests- one more reason we should care.

I see so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to begin- it’s actually kind of infuriating. Being a recent graduate of a women’s college this strikes a very personal cord with me. Let’s take it piece by piece. First, the wording and implications of the new guest policy really irks me. Why do they care how many TOTAL nights a student has a guest a month? Six nights doesn’t even cover all the weekends in a month. It seems to me that they are insinuating that when a student has an overnight guest they have sex and they are trying to control that personal choice. I just don’t see any other reason for it. If it was solely for the roommate’s sake they would have stopped at the “three consecutive nights” rule. Yes, even that part seems a little unfair but at least I understand it. It’s uncomfortable to have someone you barely know staying in your room and they certainly shouldn’t over stay their welcome so that part is totally fair. In life you have to give and take a little. But there is absolutely no reason any college or university should be concerned with how many times a student chooses to have an overnight guest. Another reason I feel this new rule is mostly about sex is that it pertains to all students, even those students living in singles. These students are not bothering anyone when they have a guest so why should they be restricted? Why should it matter? I realize that it’s hard to have a rule that only pertains to certain students but that’s one of the many perks of single living or of being an upper classmen. If the roommate issue was the only reason behind the new policy there are many other ways Barnard could have went about it.

Next, I do understand that many colleges have guests policies but how much they are actually enforced is a different issue. I do believe in some sort of guest policy because it’s necessary for the safety of the students but once again, Barnard has gone too far. The fact that these students have to sign in and out their guests with a guard stationed at their dorm is beyond me. It’s like your literally displaying your personal life to the public. I completely understand why students would feel like their guard is constantly judging their personal decisions, even if the guard could actually care less and is just doing his or her job. Every time you bring the same or different person back you are wondering what they are thinking. It’s uncomfortable and a private decision that shouldn’t be logged on a piece of paper. Not to mention that this is occurring in a place that celebrates all the freedoms women have gained and all the successes we have made. But how can you stand for that when your actions say the exact opposite?

Lastly, and the the biggest problem I have with this whole thing, is that this is resulting from the roommate’s “uncomfortableness.” Are you kidding me? How old are we again? Do we know how to use our voices? Apparently not. If these students can’t function in a safe, sheltered, single sex environment there is no way they are making it in the real world. What ever happened to working through your own problems instead of running to administration or a higher power? It’s an essential life skill that these women seem to be lacking. If you don’t speak up your roommate is going to assume you don’t have a problem with her guests so she is going to keep doing it. If these “uncomfortable” roommates could nicely express their concerns I bet 98% of these students would take those concerns into account and be more considerate about their guests next time. There are always going to be the few who don’t care about anyone else or their feelings but that’s what your residential/student advisers are for, not the administration. If three intelligent and grown women can’t work through their problems and differences I really do feel hopeless for the future. Once you bring your problems to a higher power you are then making someone else feel uncomfortable and are invading their privacy and two wrongs never make a right.

This controversial debate couldn’t of come at a better time for my blog, right when I’m talking about being in “uncomfortable” places. So naturally I feel inclined to throw out a few tips about how to talk to your roommate (or anyone for that matter) about something they are doing that is making you uncomfortable:

*Talk to your roommate in private. Not when your or his/her friends are in the room or when you are in a public place. Also, make sure it’s a good time for them to have a serious talk. If they are going through something super stressful they aren’t going to be as understanding as they normally would be.

*Be specific. Don’t just say, “I don’t like when you have guests overnight.” Tell him/her why. Is there something that they do that annoys you? Does it prohibit you from doing what you have to do? If you don’t give them something to work with they aren’t going to be able to fix it.

*Once you voice your concerns, you need to listen to theirs as well. What’s important to you may not be important to them and you aren’t going to be able to change that. You are going to have to find some even ground that you can BOTH live with.

*Whatever you do, don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell them that what they are doing is “wrong.” Make it clear that this is your personal preference, not a matter of right or wrong.

*If you need to, make a list of each of your needs and expectations then compare and contrast. Find a solution that meets all these needs.

*If all else fails, get a trained student involved. Talking to someone else who recently probably went through the same thing you are could be really helpful for the both of you.

*And sometimes you just have to suck it up. That’s what adulthood is all about, welcome to the real world.

College is an essential time for students to grow on their own, think for themselves, make their own mistakes, and learn from them. In four very short years you are supposed to become an adult, a full functioning adult. It’s scary and not easy. But guess what? You have to do it. Rules like these do not exist in the real world but problems like these certainly do. If you can’t learn how to handle them in a safe environment I’m not sure you ever will.

Here are a couple interesting articles about the this new guest policy from The Daily Beast and The Nation.

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Adventuring to Uncomfortable Places…

There are many different places with many different rules, codes of conduct, and expected behaviors that once can find themselves. That’s what makes being confident 24/7 so hard. In one place one thing is expected/acceptable and in the next place you find yourself it’s well…. not at all. It can be overwhelming to keep all these expectations and “rules” in order and straight in your already very busy head. This feeling often results in uneasiness or the feeling of being out of place which in turn sends off a signal to other people around you. A signal that says maybe you aren’t comfortable with who you are, that maybe your confidence could use a boost. This certainly isn’t the case, right? Your just uncomfortable because you aren’t sure what is deemed appropriate or not. You find yourself becoming a little quieter, jumbling the words you do manage to get out, hesitating before you make any movement, and possibly you notice that you are even a little shaky. These are all completely normal reactions to an uncomfortable situation. But why should we let these little cues define who we are in that moment? Just because we feel that way doesn’t mean we need to show it. Just knowing one of two things that are expected of you at any given place will give the person next to you the “wow, this person knows how to act” kind of impression, and that’s just what we want even if we aren’t feeling that same impression ourselves.

Over the next a couple weeks I am going to try to take you places where expectations/behaviors might be a little different from your everyday life. If you just take one thing away from each blog post I promise you will feel more comfortable and confident the next time you find yourself in that place (well, at least the people around you will feel that way). First up is the dreaded hospital. No one likes going to the hospital. It’s often times depressing, sterile, and unfriendly. But at one point or another we will all have to visit someone there whether it be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, or co-worker. It’s one of those places that sometimes you need to force yourself to go to because it’s the right thing to do. Fortunately, there are some readily available tips and guidelines to help visitors feel more comfortable and well, confident with their visit.

*Don’t be afraid to call ahead. It’s always good to double check if visitors are allowed, what the visiting hours are, and what types are gifts/food are permitted. Every hospital is a little different. This is especially helpful if you aren’t completely sure what the patient’s current health status is or what type of diet they are on.

*Try to avoid visiting in large groups. I know you probably don’t want to go alone so it’s o.k. to¬† bring a friend of two but your whole pack of 12 girlfriends probably isn’t the best idea. Large groups of people can be very overwhelming to someone trying to recover and get better- it’s just plain tiring. Also not to mention hospital rooms are usually on the smaller side and your visitor might even have a roommate…

*Try to leave any small children at home. I know that sometimes this is impossible to do but try to find a time to visit when someone else is free to watch your children for a while. Hospitals are scary to adults, imagine what they seem and look like in a child’s eye. Children are also unaware of how to act in a hospital setting, their innocence can turn into a disruption to another patient.

*Consciously try to talk in a slightly softer voice than normal. The people you are with or visiting should still be able to hear you at a comfortable distance, no need to whisper, but you need to keep in mind that there are many other people in neighboring rooms or possibly in the same room that are trying to sleep/rest.

*Minimize cell phone usage. Only pick up incoming calls in the case of an absolute emergency while visiting the hospital. If you must make a call step out of the room and go down to the lobby where noise level doesn’t matter as much.

*Keep your visit short. I think the ideal visiting time for a friend or co-worker is 15-20 minutes (trust me, this feels like a lifetime) but for family feel free to stay a little longer if you want. It takes a lot out of a recovering patient to visit with someone and the reality is you probably aren’t the only visitor. Just knowing that you stopped in for a few minutes will brighten that persons day.

*Don’t assume physical contact is o.k. I know it’s a natural reaction to want to hug a friend in need but before you do so ask if it’s alright. You don’t know where the patient is feeling pain or how easy it is to move. Once you get permission- hug away!

*If your the patient, nurse, or doctor asks you to not visit then it’s simple- don’t visit. There is probably a good reason or the patient simply just wants their own privacy. Even if you plan on just stopping in for a few minutes, don’t do it. It’s rude and inconsiderate even with the best of intentions.

*If you are sick, even if it’s the slightest cold, don’t visit someone at the hospital. Even if your sickness isn’t a threat to them, it’s a threat to someone else staying in that hospital. There are a lot of very sick and elderly people in every hospital and the last thing you want to do is spread a nasty germ around.

*If you are visiting while a nurse or doctor comes into the room, politely step outside the room until he or she is done. This creates more room for them to work and gives the patient a feeling that you respecting their privacy and are really just interested in visiting them, nothing else.

*That being said, don’t pry into private questions or test results. If the patient feels like sharing, they will share. But it is good to show an interest. Ask how they are feeling, what their symptoms are, what they are doing to get better, etc. Take an interest in their disease, surgery, etc. It’s nice to know that the people who you care about also care about you as well. Taking an interest in someone else’s life makes them feel important.

*Don’t talk about negative things such as work drama, the failing economy, or huge blowout fight within your group of friends. The patient shouldn’t have to have anything else on his or her mind besides getting better. They will find out who got fired for what or who isn’t friends with who anymore once they get home. But you should talk about how much they are missed or funny things that have happened. It is very easy to start to feel isolated especially with longer hospital stays. If you can make the patient still feel somewhat connected (in a good way) to the workplace or your group of friends that’s awesome.

*Try not to sit on the bed or play with equipment. The bed and it’s settings are made just for the patient. There are often one or two chairs in the room meant for guests. If there aren’t any chairs you can manage to stand for 20 minutes- at least you aren’t the one in the hospital bed. Also be wary of the medical equipment. Try not to bump into it or move it. Even if the patient asks you to press a button or adjust something tell them you would feel more comfortable if a nurse did it and offer to page someone for them. You don’t want to be responsibly for messing something up or administering too much medicine, etc.

Nothing will make a hospital visit easy but they are certainly ways to feel more comfortable and confident with your visit. If you just abide by a couple of these “rules” no one will be able to tell just how nervous and uncomfortable you really are. Half the battle of confidence is knowing how to pretend.

I wonder where next week will take us……….