Parent: Fighting the stigma of being (in a) single


Illustration by Lily Ogburn

This is “Transfer Ticket,” a column covering the college transfer student experience.

Tabi Parent, Columnist


The summer before my freshman year of high school, I kicked my little sister out of the room we’d shared since she was old enough to sleep in a bed without a railing. I was freshly 14 and a big girl now, so it was only fair that I had my own space to paint my nails, FaceTime boys and conjure spells like all of the rest of the teenage girls of the world. 

With the help of my parents, we removed my sister’s twin bed from the room and replaced it with a new rug à la Pottery Barn. My dad put up new peel-and-stick wallpaper while my mom and I critiqued his technique. We hung posters and arranged bookshelves until my room had transformed into a sanctuary of super-secret teenage girlishness. 

For all four years of high school, I was blessed with the privilege of my own room — of throwing my dirty clothes on the floor, leaving makeup strewn haphazardly across my bed and having solo dance parties whenever I desired. So when I signed my housing contract for my freshman year at Boston College, it barely occurred to me that things could change so drastically when living with another person.

But a few weeks before I left for college, I was out running, taking my time on the trails in Golden Gate Park and drinking in the last few weeks of San Francisco summer when I got The Email — “Boston College Residential Life: Housing Assignment & Roommate Information Now Available.” 

I requested a double, somewhat reluctantly, but I was determined to do the whole college thing by the books — to have a roommate, a communal bathroom, a shower caddy and a closet space far too small to hold my winter coat. At BC, where everyone seems to have the incredible social stamina of a kindergartener after a double chocolate chip frappuccino, I was told that requesting a single would kill my social life before it had even begun. 

I paused in the middle of the trail and opened the email. “Booking Assignment: LOY-431-3, Room Type: Triple Room.”

I refreshed the portal. 

The screen reloaded, and the word “triple” repopulated on the screen, almost bolder and more menacing than before. It almost dared me to refresh one more time, and I did. 

Eventually, I came around to the idea of a triple. Or at least, I began to tolerate it. I Zoomed with my random roommates, who were lovely people, and we discussed how we would decide which bed each of us would claim when we arrived at school. Coins were flipped, straws were drawn and a plan was made.

But when I walked into my sweaty triple on move-in day in 101-degree weather, sweating like a San Franciscan in Boston, it was clear that the flipped coins and drawn straws meant nothing. My roommate had moved into the bed that was meant to be mine. 

It soon became clear that whoever designed the algorithm for the BC roommate matching survey had missed a few fundamentals of computer science classes. While I went to bed at midnight, my roommates had been asleep since 8 p.m. When we couldn’t open our windows for three days thanks to a blizzard, one of my roommates decided it was a good time to make stew in her contraband Crockpot. And when I came back to my room looking for some solace from the BC buzz, at least one of them was always just … there. 

The little things began to add up until I was spending more time doing homework in the hallway after my roommates had turned the lights off than actually sleeping in my room. 

Needless to say, when I decided to transfer to Northwestern, I knew I couldn’t risk being exiled to the hallway because I needed to do homework with the lights on past 9 p.m. ever again. So I ranked as many solo dorms as I could on the housing preference form and hoped that maybe there was a god of single dorms somewhere up there who could answer my prayers.

I was running when I got The Email™ Pt. 2, this time from NU Residential Services. I skipped over the name of the dorm and the floor information, and finally, my eyes found the word I had been hoping for: single

And now, I’m staying in my single on North Campus, lying on my rug surrounded by a protective circle of Cheez-Its, Scandinavian Swimmers and peppermint tea — a position I never would have assumed in my dorm at BC. I would have interfered with my roommate’s 5 a.m. exit to the gym. 

People are sympathetic when they hear that I live in a single. They assume I fell victim to the fate of hundreds of transfers before me who have been crammed into the multi-colored walls of Foster-Walker Complex. The thought never crosses their mind that maybe I picked my dorm deliberately.  

After a year of living with two other people in a cramped pre-1970s dorm, I truly believe that every human deserves to have their own space and that said spaces should also be decorated with whatever peel-and-stick wallpaper that you can get your dad to put up for you. 

I’m not lonely in my single. I’m just alone, and I love it. 

Tabi Parent is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.