Like a first lover, a first college roommate is someone you never forget. When two (or more) strangers are thrust together in dorm rooms often smaller than the space allotted a family dog, a closeness -- or enduring enmity -- is bound to develop.
Some become bosom buddies, others bitter enemies and a few turn into collegiate odd-couples -- total opposites who thrive on a love-hate relationship.
But whatever their relationship, sharing the dizzying days of freshman freedom and the agonies of Growing Up make that first roommate a Very Important Person.
Here, mostly from the vantage points of higher education, are some remembrances of roommates past:
Linda Purdy, resident director Thurston Hall, George Washington University :
"Back when I was a resident assistant at Michigan State I had just checked this guy into the dorm when he and his mother both came running down the hall, totally freaked out.
"He was so shaken he could hardly talk, but after a minute he managed to blurt out, 'I think there's a girl living in my room.' There were dresses and lacy things hung up in the closet. His mother, who was also real upset, said, 'I knew this was a coed dorm . . . but I had no idea college has gotten this liberal.'
"It seems this woman had been asked on her housing application if there was anyone she'd like to room with. So she wrote down her cousin -- who was male. aApparently they got along really fine, nothing sexual and the computer somehow let it pass.
"They got put in a triple and had moved in when this guy discovered his first college roommate was female . . .
"She was reassigned to a female floor that afternoon."
A freshman counselor :
"The summer before my freshman year at a small private women's college they sent me to a two-page 'roommate-compatability' questionaire. It asked everything from 'Do you like to sleep with the window open?' to taste in music, study habits, neatness and clothes preference.
"Although I remember lying slightly -- I considered myself messy, but really didn't want a messy roommate -- I figured I'd get a roommate who'd be just like me. But it turned out she couldn't have been more different.
"I was rather naive and sheltered, and she was, to put it mildly, advanced. She was beautiful and very bold. She constantly missed curfew, had tons of boyfriends and experimented with drugs.
"We became great friends. I was the one she called from the police station the night she got busted. At first I thought she was joking. She left near the end of the semester -- before she got kicked out.
"Last year I heard she was in D.C., so I called her. She told me she had become a vegetarian, was into Zen Buddhism and yoga. We talked on the phone for awhile. But we never did get together."
Carolyn Payton, dean for counseling and career development, Howard University :
"I started at an all-girls college when I was just 16, and my mother had arranged it so I'd be rooming with my sister. We weren't the best of roommates. She was going to be 18 and used to wear my clothes -- to which I objected strenuously.
"We used to have matching 'sister outfits, and one time she took my outfit, without asking, and loaned it to her girlfriend so they'd match. When I discovered that I got so mad I locked her out of the room.
"She pounded on the door, but I wouldn't let her in. So she moved in with someone else. That was my emancipation."
John Scruggs, assistant director of "the hill" residence hall community, University of Maryland .
"My freshman roommates were a white guy named Ed and a Puerto Rican guy named Jose.With me black, we were a pretty colorful trio. We got along pretty well, but Jose didn't want to be in a triple so he moved out.
"Ed and I wanted to keep the triple room just for ourselves, so we began intimidating anyone who wanted to move in. We'd yell "This is our room, so you'll have to conform to our rules.' We discouraged three guys that way. y
"In the meantime we became really tight. Since most of my best friends were black, I had looked at the situation in an open-minded way, thinking this would be a good chance to see what Ed was into.
"We were similar in many ways. He was poor, putting himself through school like I was. He threw me my first surprise party away from home. We became co-editors of a dorm newspaper. We had planned to stay roommates in our sophomore year, but he became resident assistant and moved into a single.
"We haven't really kept up, though. But I ran into him when I was visiting the old campus at Montclair. We talked some, and it was good to see him. But who knows when we'll see each other again."
NEA president Willard McGuire :
"I started college right after the war, when they were very short on rooms. So I had 89 roommates. They bedded down 90 people in a gym till the dormitories were finished in mid-year.
"It was more like the military or camping out than college. We each had a bed, footlocker and iron pipes for hanging clothes. In a way it was a good start to college life because you had to learn to mix with a variety of people. sBecause you became friends with those in your immediate proximity, you could pick and choose who you wanted for a roommate when the dorms were ready.
"Since I travel a great deal I visit some of the guys who were one or two beds over from me in that gym. I've kept in touch with quite a few of those roommates."
Ann Webster, director of housing, George Washington University :
"My freshman roommate was a real fine person, but after talking with her for 10 minutes I could tell we had absolutely nothing in common. But it never crossed my mind to try and change, since the whole idea of college was to have learning experiences.
"I was in school 100 years ago when they had "lights out" and didn't permit smoking in the rooms. So I used to cram after hours, smoking, in the closet. sBut she never turned me in.
"She had her friends, and I had mine. We stayed roommates for our one year, then I got a single."
Syracuse University graduate :
"My roommate showed up at 9 p.m. on check-in day -- the last person on the hall to arrive. Naturally everyone was very curious about her. She came with her parents and looked so quiet and proper.
"They set up the room and tucked her in. She didn't want to stay up and talk with everyone on the hall because she was sleepy. We wound up talking about her a lot and decided she was a big baby.
"But when her parents left, she really changed. The next night she stayed out all night. She was a real hell raiser and really moved in the fast lane. Her social life was so heavy that she got a single sophomore year. We're still friends."