Almost everyone who went to college has a freshman roommate story. But often as not, the relationship begins and ends with a couple semesters of sleeping in the same space — in the years afterward, you drift apart, to different cities, careers and friends. The roommate stories are what remain. Some roommates, though, resurface with a vengeance, taking the national stage as a celebrity, or more upsettingly, a political figure. It’s then that the people who shared a mini-fridge with them 30 years ago may feel compelled to tell the world about their masturbation habits.
This week, for example, embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s freshman roommate at Yale gave a statement to reporters now probing allegations that Kavanaugh engaged in sexual misconduct at that time. In it, he says that while he and the future judge didn’t have much of a social relationship, he was witness to the effects of Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking — which made him “aggressive and belligerent” — and believes Debbie Ramirez, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself and thrusting his penis in her face at a party.
Far less seriously, but still relevant considering his anti-masturbation stance and porn habit, Sen. Ted Cruz was shamed last year by his former Princeton roomie for constantly crankin’ the hog while both of them were in the bunk bed. Clearly, if we want any credibility on the national stage, we need to make sure the people who met and lived with us at the age of 18 don’t have the dirtiest dirt on us.
Case in point: When I asked people on Twitter to preemptively snitch on their old roommates, just to get a sense of how youthful reputations can haunt us for life, I wasn’t prepared for the response — and I came away both humbled and horrified by the variety of human experience. I’ll present this wealth of data categorically; anyone who wants to peruse it for themselves is encouraged to read the hundreds of replies and quote-tweets. But basically, if you ever run for office, your ex-bunkmate will have one of these takes:
They Were a Saint / We’re Still Friends / I Was the Shitty Roommate
This, if you’re looking to get elected or appointed to high office, is probably as good as it gets: You and the roommate got along so well that the two of you still talk regularly, or one of you officiated at the other’s wedding. Makes it seem like you can create a deep, lasting connection with anyone, anywhere, even at the mercy of an indifferent student housing bureaucracy. Bonus points if the roommate is now self-aware enough about their depression/alcoholism/poor hygiene that they commend you for valiantly putting up with it for an entire year. These are the people who should be leading us.
We Barely Interacted / They Left School / Don’t Remember Much
In politics, no revelations are good revelations. It’s not quite the ringing endorsement of “They saved my life by forcing me to eat a vegetable when I’d been surviving on ramen for three months straight,” but neither is being remembered as inert or inoffensive a campaign-killer. If anything, it ups your cipher status: People can believe anything they want about you! Quiet, shy or generally absent roommates have never been an issue.
Well, There Were Some Red Flags…
Now we’re getting into the good stuff. See, everyone comes to college with their specific background, along with a related baseline of assumptions that don’t always hold up in the real world (if college even counts as that). They may harbor curious religious beliefs, practice bizarre habits or lose all self-control when granted the freedoms of a campus thousands of miles away from their parents. They might not have known how to do laundry. Are any of these juvenile behaviors or blind spots truly disqualifying for prestigious jobs down the road? That entirely depends on your appetite for eccentricity.
No Complaints, Apart From the Music
When the half-formed personalities of teenagers collide, the friction is frequently pop-culture-based rather than a matter of diverging temperament. Sometimes the roommate’s favorite music, movies and TV shows become shared pleasures (my roomie Conor and I used to go to sleep listening to Sigur Rós), and sometimes they’re a big headache. At worst, bad choices of entertainment reflect a temporary lack of judgment.
Living With Them Was an All-Out Shitshow
These are your classic “nightmare roomie” scenarios. Trying to survive night after night of cohabitation with such violent, abusive, kleptomaniac, blackout-drunk or drugged, trash-hoarding, having-sex-with-you-in-the-room, pissing-in-your-bed trainwrecks while pursuing your own higher education is a tremendous challenge. And, quite frankly, any of these anecdotes ought to give us great pause in the midst of a confirmation hearing. I don’t believe any of the people who did this shit are capable of genuine change, sorry.
Full-On Racist, Homophobe, Misogynist or Likewise Hateful Piece of Shit
The worst of the worst, the scum of the earth. Sure, the shitshow roomies are psychos, but they’re typically focused on self-annihilation, with a few bystander casualties. The hateful roomie is far more likely to carry their toxic ideology into a stable career where it can flourish in plain sight. Just look at who works at the White House these days! Anyone who shows up to school with Nazi gear deserves to answer for that forever.
We Were Both Weirdos and/or Dirtbags
Honestly, my favorite outcome, and the purest. I’d like to think this is how my old roomie felt — although I was actually more of an absentee, holed up at my girlfriend’s dorm with her DVD collection and plentiful weed. The double-dirtbag, twin-weirdo pairings were exactly what college thrived on: harmless pranks, collaborative mischief, gentle debauchery, the occasional roasting, and underneath all that, lots of love and support. It’s not to say that either of you would be comfortable seeing the other in congress, but really, what’s the worst that could happen? At least they’re not a goddamn sociopath.
That’s it: the full guide on how to judge a person solely from what their freshman college roommate remembers about them. I guess you could use other metrics and information when choosing who to back in an election, but why bother? The answers are all here.