Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I took a stand today

I took a stand today. Just a little one.

I was in the kitchen squeezing the soapy grey water out of my laundry. An older woman was unlocking occupied rooms and showing them to two girls. I think I've seen the woman before, but I don't know who she is.

"You're in the private room?" She asked.


"I'm going to show it to these girls." She threw another door open. There were scarves on the unmade beds and open books on the floor. Dorm rooms never have desks.

The girls peered into the room. I looked away. I know the girls who live there. "Nope. It's occupied."

"We're going to go see it now."

"No. I live there."

"I'm showing them the dorm."

"They don't need to see my room. I'm not moving."

"No, I'm showing it to them." She puffed her chest out and glared at me. This could go on and on.

"It's not clean."

"Oh." They went and looked at more rooms.

I left my wet clothes in the tub, went back to my room, and locked the door behind me. I left the key in the lock.

This is the first time in three years that I've had any privacy. It's not that I couldn't afford my own room before, just that dorm supervisors would never allow me to have one, regardless of how many rooms there were and how few residents. We were not allowed keys to our own rooms, and subject to search at any time. Anyone could invade my space at any time, and I couldn't stop them. And so I spent two, nearly three years basically a houseplant, not talking to anyone, not writing, barely even thinking. I got myself into a bad situation and couldn't escape, so I withdrew.

I finally managed to pry myself loose and got out. I found this tiny room, and I pay more for it than some of my friends in other towns pay for their apartments, but I don't even care. It used to be the men's washroom - the dorm supervisors say it didn't, but the tiling and the sawed-off plumbing and the fixtures and the painted-over sign on the door and the women's washroom right next to it reveal their lie. I don't care.

Because it's mine, and I will not let anyone invade my space if I can help it. Little power struggles like this are just one more way that dorm supervisors - and older women and people of higher status in general - impress on young women that they have no control over their own situations and no right to refusal. It's a lot like prison.

So when something large and heavy slammed into my locked door, I smiled. The door handle rattled violently, and metal scraped against the keyhole, but my clunky old skeleton key didn't even budge.

I expected the woman to pound on the door and shout at me to open it. I was going to refuse, and throw myself against the door if need be, and probably be evicted.

But she went away silently. I won't win them all, but I won that one.