Women’s colleges had strict parietal rules when I went to Smith College in the 1950s. Weeknight dorm curfews at ten fifteen. Friday and Sunday nights at twelve. One a.m. on Saturday. A student on watch to check you in and out and a housemother to enforce the rules.
In the fall, I’d climb the stairs with my parents; my mother and I carrying lamps and bedspreads, my father holding the suitcases. I’d call out “Man on third,” as we rounded the corner.
I can’t see coed dorms and coed bathrooms as progress. Anyway, it doesn’t matter what my generation thinks, we don’t have to live it. Except at reunions when, as old married folk, we share dorm rooms and bathrooms.
Some colleges still segregate bathrooms. Not Smith. At my fiftieth reunion, having showered before bed, I headed out of the bathroom in my robe, turned the corner, and noticed a man, also robed, hugging the wall.
“Where can I take a shower?” he whispered furtively.
“The bathroom’s right behind me,” I said
Someone opened the door to the sound of running water, flushing toilets, and cheerful female conversation.
The man looked pained.
“Try coming back after midnight,” I said.
Photo credit: mattbuck, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons