Mr. Right Next Door

Elizabeth Campbell

The walk of shame is short for some students.

Instead of a red-faced trek down Sheridan Road, it’s a brisk jaunt up the stairs or around the corner.

Who needs the Keg or a frat party up North when a potential hook-up or even a date is a couple doors away?

An informal Daily survey of 477 students from more than 15 dorms revealed that Northwestern students are hardly immune to the ease of dormcest. According to the poll, about 42 percent of students have hooked up with someone in their residence halls this year.

Extreme dorm dating

Communication freshman Brian Coleman experienced the paragon of dormcest barely a week after moving in — when he began dating his roommate.

“In some ways, we had the ultimate roommate relationship but quickly that went to the opposite pole, and we had the worst roommate relationship possible,” Coleman said, adding that the couple broke up after a month and a half. “It wasn’t like you were living with someone who was a complete stranger. You’re living with someone who knew you all too well.”

The couple continued to live together on the first floor of Jones Residential College, the fine and performing arts dorm, for seven months after their breakup.

Coleman described the aftermath of his relationship as “hell.” He became the “Jones refugee” and slept in suites and lounges throughout the dorm to avoid his living situation.

“That relationship gave me a crash course in what not to do in a relationship,” said Coleman, whose new beau lives two floors up.

While Coleman’s situation is not the norm, the Daily survey revealed that about 20 percent of students have had an exclusive relationship with a dormmate.

Getting friendly with the neighbors

Medill sophomore Nicole Price Fasig dated the boy next door — literally — when she lived in the International Studies Residential College last year.

She said relationships like hers aren’t that uncommon. In fact, she said she’s seen a “marked increase” in the number of intra-dorm relationships at ISRC this year. She attributes it to NU’s social structure — lots of small communities instead of one larger community.

“(Dormcest) is just another manifestation of the small community theory,” Price Fasig said. “People connect to smaller groups here, and that’s how you find your place at NU.”

Dorm dating appeals to busy students.

“There’s the guy who’s cute who you flirt with in French class,” said Communication freshman Jen Horne, who is in her second inner-dorm relationship. “But the likelihood that you are going to see each other outside of class is lower than the guy who you flirt with who lives across the hall.”

But in the end, the convenience can be detrimental to intra-dorm relationships.

“It’s easy, but maybe relationships shouldn’t be (easy),” Horne said. “And maybe you should have to make more of an effort, and that’s what makes it special.”

Too close for comfort

Sociology Prof. Bernard Beck said the dorm environment can actually put a strain on relationships.

“It may be hard to get the kind of privacy that often fosters developing romantic relationships,” Beck said.

Communication sophomore Meredith Forlenza met her boyfriend when they lived on the second floor of the Communications Residential College.

“We got comfortable with each other sooner,” Forlenza said. “He saw me when I looked like crap.”

But being together all of the time got to be too much for the couple.

“It was almost like being married,” she said.

The couple broke up for a few days in November. After getting back together, they made sure to have parts of their lives that didn’t include each other.

For Weinberg freshman Jake Loos, who dated someone in his dorm, North Mid-Quads Hall during Fall Quarter, too much time together is the problem with dormcest.

“Sometimes, personally, I need to just hang out with my friends and be away from my significant other,” Loos said. “When I’d go do that, I’d run into her. Gradually that’d get on my nerves and I’d want more personal space.”

The easy way

But students often prefer hooking up with people in their dorms instead of trying to date them.

“With hooking up, there isn’t as much need to have the perfect, ideal person because it isn’t going to be part of your status, part of your future life,” Beck said. “There aren’t going to be long-term implications.”

The “casual sexual connection” of hooking up doesn’t bring the same complications as official relationships, Beck said.

Although random hookups aren’t unusual in the college scene, the stakes change when two people see each other on a daily basis.

“It’s like that old saying ‘don’t shit where you eat,'” said Kendall Stolley, a Weinberg junior who has experienced dormcest. “Generally, it just complicates things because most relationships don’t last.”

Yet some students claim that the fallout of dorm hookups is the same as ending any relationship.

“Northwestern’s a small school, (post-hooking up) will be awkward with anybody,” said Isabel Espaldon a Communication sophomore, “They don’t necessarily have to live in your dorm.”

Most couples insist that proximity is just one reason people get together in the dorms.

“For me, it’s not the location of the person,” said McCormick sophomore Brian Lesperance who is dating a girl on his floor in ISRC. “It’s just the person.”

Reach Elizabeth Campbell at [email protected]