I wrote this post on June 14, 2017. It appears here mostly as/is. Names, certain locations, details, and dates have been changed to protect the guilty. A follow up post from June 15, 2017 is available here.
Sometimes, when I get bored, I go into “obsessed fan” mode. For some reason, last night I decided to look up my very first roommate at Longwood College. After some determined sleuthing, I found her. Apologies in advance, because this is going to be a long post.
I mentioned this ex roommate a few years ago, when I discovered that my final college roommate, Latissia, had died of a heart ailment. It was probably because of my experience with my first ex roommate that Latissia and I lived together. Latissia had decided to move on campus because she could no longer afford to pay rent off campus. She ran into a bunch of rejections by potential roommates on campus. She claimed it was because she was black. For all I know, that very well may have been the case. Racism is still alive and well in Virginia.
Truth be told, I didn’t want a roommate for my final semester in school. I like living alone (or with Bill). But thanks to ex roommate #1, a hideous woman I’ll call Margaret, I relented and agreed to live with Latissia. That turned out to be a good decision. Latissia was a nice person and a considerate roommate. I’m truly sorry she died so young. She may have had heart disease, but she also had a big, warm heart.
I distinctly remember my very first day at Longwood College. It was August 1990. I had talked to Margaret on the phone. She was coming from Richmond, although she had graduated from a private boarding school. Her parents were wealthy. She and her brother had both been adopted by their attractive and well connected parents. Margaret’s father had graduated from the University of Virginia and had grown up in Charlottesville. Margaret told me all of this during our first communication, in between asking me what appliances I intended to bring with me and letting me know that she was bringing a 25 inch TV, a fridge, and a microwave. I also learned that Margaret is exactly 10 days older than me. That’s probably why we got paired by the housing office.
We were assigned a room in Curry Hall. At that time, most freshmen were being housed three to a room because Longwood was short on dormitory space. Each of the rooms in the high rise buildings had bunk beds, and a single bed in them. For some reason, Margaret and I did not have a third roommate. Curry was, in 1990, one of the newest dorms at Longwood. It had been constructed in 1970 or so and was air conditioned. Next to it was an identical high rise building called Frazer. Because Virginia summers are insanely hot, in 1990, it was considered a good thing to get to live in Curry. More dorms and apartments have since been built at Longwood. It’s probably downright cushy now. (ETA: Both Curry and Frazer have since been gutted, renovated, and renamed, since their former namesakes had ties to racism.)
So there I was in August 1990. I opened the door to my dorm room. There was Margaret. She was about 5’10” and morbidly obese. Besides being very large, Margaret wore braces. She had frizzy dark hair that had been bleached and badly needed a touch up. It was pushed back from her face with a padded hairband. I remember my mouth dropped open at the sight of her. I know it’s unkind to write this, but given the way she ultimately treated me, I think it’s fair. She was downright ugly, both inside and out.
Margaret had already claimed the single bed in the corner of the room. I took the bottom of the bunk bed. I had brought a horse blanket (it was never actually used on my horse, since I already had one for him) that I won in 1988 and draped it over the vacant top bed, so I had a makeshift curtain. Margaret had also put her huge TV on my dresser.
At first, Margaret was nice to me. She liked James Taylor, as do I. She had what was then Taylor’s latest album, Never Die Young. I distinctly remember her playing it, followed by “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley. To this day, when I hear songs from Never Die Young, I think of Margaret. Strangely enough, I like that album despite the negative connection with my least favorite roommate of all time.
I remember we sat around and chatted a bit. It seemed like we would get along. She told me that her mother had just spent a couple thousand dollars on her wardrobe. I remember thinking the clothes weren’t all that special– certainly not a couple thousand dollars worth. Perhaps the money went toward the sheer volume of fabric required to make them. I don’t know.
Margaret also told me that she’d been hospitalized for some reason, and that had cost her parents a lot of money. But, she added, they had plenty of money, so it was no problem. Money, it seemed, was Margaret’s main contribution to any relationship. Money, and food, that is. Later, when I said I didn’t feel like going to the dining hall, Margaret said we should go because that was our dinner. Then, I’m pretty sure she ordered a meat lovers pizza from Pizza Hut, which in those days was still pretty good.
On that first day, Margaret told me she had traveled a lot as a child and wanted to spend her life traveling. She was majoring in political science. Her dad worked a lot in South Carolina and had a home there, as well as in Charlottesville. Margaret had also been accepted into the University of South Carolina. She had decided on Longwood because, according to her, “Anyone can get into USC.” Then, she said she’d like to go to the University of Virginia, but was willing to “try to fall in love with Longwood.” Funny that I eventually went on to earn two master’s degrees at USC– a school that “anyone can get into”.
In 1990, all new freshmen at Longwood had to take a class called Longwood Seminar. Introduced in 1987, it was a college orientation course. In 1990, Longwood was still a very residential school and most students, even the seniors, lived in dorms on campus. Most people got to know their roommates and hallmates pretty well. By the time I finished college at Longwood, I knew most of my classmates.
Longwood Seminar sections were divided by residence halls or, if you were a commuter, you’d go to a section with commuters. Everyone in my Seminar class was from our floor in Curry. Margaret and I were in the same section. There was another woman in our Seminar group I’ll call Marie. Appearance wise, Marie was everything Margaret was not. Tall and slim, she had big brown eyes, adorable dimples, porcelain skin, a giggly Marilyn Monroe-ish voice, and beautiful strawberry blonde hair. I remember she was striking, very friendly, and popular with the men. She lived across the hall from us with two roommates.
Somehow, in the very first couple of days of our college careers, Margaret and Marie befriended each other. Marie was suddenly inviting her new bestie, Margaret, to attend fraternity parties with her. I stayed alone in the dorm room and went to bed early. One night during our very first week of school, Margaret and Marie went to a frat floor (there was one next door in Frazer) and stayed out until about 3:00am. They barged into the dorm room, turned on the overhead light, and very rudely and unapologetically woke me up.
Although it would have been wise for Marie to go back to her room for some sleep, it became clear that these two bitches intended to stay up and party some more, even though we had classes in the morning. Later that day, Margaret boldly proposed that I move out of our room and into Marie’s, so Marie could room with Margaret. I remember being absolutely floored at her nerve, expecting me to move out just days after I’d moved into a room that was rightfully as much mine as it was hers.
Naturally, Marie’s two roommates also didn’t want me moving in with them because, like all of us, they were in a room that had originally been intended for two. If Marie was moving out, they wanted the room to themselves. I can’t blame them for that.
I remember chatting with the peer advisor on our floor, a nice girl I’ll call Samantha. Samantha’s job was to help freshmen settle into college life. She tried to smooth things over between Margaret and me, but it became very clear that our rooming situation was not going to work. Margaret wanted to live with Marie and had made it very plain that she expected me to leave. If I didn’t leave, the two of them were going to make it their mission to make me miserable. Marie made some crack about my dated tastes in music, then very frankly told me how much her twat itched (this part of the story is not made up). I couldn’t help thinking that her itching was probably due to her extracurricular activities on the frat floors.
Days into my college career, I went to the housing office, which was overwhelmed with trying to deal with all of the new students. I explained the situation. They told me I should try to stick it out with Margaret. I don’t remember exactly what I said, because it seems to me that it was a policy that freshmen weren’t allowed to switch rooms so early in the year. I probably cried, because I cried easily in those days, and I was definitely frustrated and overwhelmed by the situation.
The housing people gave me a list of names of upperclassmen in dorms who didn’t have roommates. They told me I needed to go see if one of them would let me move in with them. There I was, my first week of college, knocking on doors. Naturally, none of them wanted me living with them. I distinctly remember one woman I talked to, a pretty black woman who lived in Frazer, telling me honestly, but somewhat kindly, that she didn’t want a roommate. But, unlike the others, who wouldn’t even deign to talk to me, she did say that if I couldn’t find anyone to live with, I could come back and we’d discuss it. Of course, having been told to my face that I wasn’t welcome, I didn’t relish the idea of crawling back and begging to be allowed the dorm space that my parents had paid for.
I went back to the housing office and explained that none of the people on the list wanted to share a room with me. They said quite firmly that those people were going to have roommates eventually, which gave me small comfort, but still didn’t solve my problem.
Then, after a little searching through their files, the housing officer said I could move to the second floor in Tabb Hall. Tabb was considered one of the “worst” dorms. It was not air conditioned and had communal bathrooms. Because of the bathrooms, everyone on that floor was female, while there were guys living on the first floor. I wasn’t too thrilled to move to Tabb, but the housing people did tell me the room I was getting was vacant. The woman who had been living there had applied to move to another room and supposedly had left.
So, that weekend, the residence education coordinator (REC), an affable guy I’ll call Joe, helped me move my stuff out of Curry and into Tabb, which was across campus. When Joe got a look at Margaret, he asked me “Was that your roommate?”
“Yes.” I said glumly.
Then he said, “Wow. A little bit of her goes a looong way.”
That comment cracked me up! So many years later, I still haven’t forgotten it. Joe later nominated me for some leadership training in Virginia Beach that I unwisely passed on taking. I’m not sure why he nominated me, but for some reason, he liked me. I probably should have taken the training. Maybe my ultimate fate as the Overeducated Housewife might have been changed.
Anyway, I opened the door to my new room, which was smaller and less modern than the one in Curry. I was puzzled, because the person who was supposed to have moved out clearly had not. She had gone home for the weekend, though.
I looked on the wall, where she’d taped her schedule. To my shock, her name was also “Margaret” (not her real name), although she spelled it differently and went by Maggy. She also had the same last name as the first Margaret, although they had different middle names. I remember thinking that was a freaky coincidence.
Sunday evening, Maggy came back to find me sitting there in the room she had previously occupied alone. Although I know she wasn’t thrilled with the situation, Maggy made the best of it. Like Marie, Maggy was physically everything Margaret was not. She was thin and very attractive, a second semester freshman who had designs on joining a sorority. Maggy also smoked. But unlike Margaret and Marie, Maggy was not mean to me and even hung out with me at times. Once, she and one of her pledge sisters even took me to her house in Chesterfield. We were not best friends, but we were mostly civil to each other until we parted ways.
Maggy joined one of the most popular sororities on campus and her time was taken up with her Greek activities and hanging out with her boyfriend. Because of her popularity and activities, I pretty much enjoyed a room to myself that fall. Then, during the Christmas break, Maggy moved into Stubbs, which was the sorority dorm. She left her crappy black and white TV, which she later tried to reclaim the following year, but never actually picked up. No one else moved in during the spring, so I had my own room.
As for Margaret, I soon noticed that she stopped attending our Longwood Seminar class, as did Marie. I later heard that they were constantly partying and had basically given Longwood the finger. A few weeks later, my parents and one of my sisters came to visit me for parents’ weekend. We happened to pass Margaret. I had told my sister all about her, so when she saw her, my sister immediately recognized her by my description. She elbowed me and whispered, “Oh my God… is that her?”
I nodded affirmatively.
“She’s disgusting!” my sister said. “And even if she wasn’t huge, she’d still be ugly. I mean, if you lost some weight, you’d be really cute. Losing weight would not make her look better.”
I make no apologies for my sisters’ unkind and very frank observations about Margaret and me. I mean, yes, I know it was a mean thing to say, but what she said was truthful. Margaret was not only physically unattractive, she was also an unpleasant, inconsiderate, and very entitled person. She did not have inner beauty to compensate for her hideous appearance. Moreover, my sister wears a size two and is unabashed about fat shaming. She’s done it to me my whole life.
Margaret eventually left school– I’m not sure if she was gone after the fall semester. I later heard from our peer advisor, Samantha, that she had moved to Charlottesville and attended community college. Then, after a semester or two, Samantha claimed Margaret’s father got her a spot at UVa. I remember thinking that was pretty shitty, since she had pretty much flunked out of our less prestigious school and UVa’s standards were supposedly very high. I do know that Margaret’s dad contributed a lot of money to UVa. It’s possible they altered the standards for her. On the other hand, maybe she just led Samantha to believe she was going there. I don’t know.
I also heard from my former suitemate that they’d all hated living with Margaret because she was very inconsiderate and evidently smelled bad. The former suitemate, a very snooty sorority girl who sang with me in the college’s Camerata Singers, also told me that she hadn’t liked me, either. Fortunately, she only had to deal with living with me for a few days. After she made that comment, I couldn’t help laughing to myself that she’d been stuck living with Margaret and Marie. I also never spoke to her again.
Last night, I got curious about whatever became of Margaret and Marie. I went looking for both of them and managed to find them. I learned that Margaret now lives in South Carolina, having previously lived in Dublin, Ireland. It appears that she often works from home. It looks like she currently isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids. It’s possible that she has at least one ex husband, though I can’t confirm it (and don’t really care, except to pity the poor guy). I have seen her listed by at least two other last names.
Margaret’s dad is apparently still wealthy and involved with UVa. I see that his son, Margaret’s adopted brother, works with their dad in Columbia, South Carolina. He is married and has kids. Amazingly enough, although it’s very clear that Margaret’s family is very pro-Republican, Margaret’s dad was once a Peace Corps country director.
I was blown away by that realization, especially since I was a Peace Corps Volunteer myself and I am absolutely certain that Margaret would have never made it as a Volunteer. Not only would the lifestyle have been too hard for her, she would not have been medically cleared due to her extreme weight issues. But then, I also know that many country directors live in plush circumstances and sometimes those jobs are political. My own Peace Corps Country Director lived and acted like a queen, even though she had twice been a Volunteer herself.
I also learned that Margaret’s brother, despite having attended a posh boarding school in Virginia, got his degree from Midlands Tech (basically a community college in Columbia). Although I have nothing against Midlands Tech, I am kind of puzzled as to why he went there when his family obviously had the means and was image conscious enough to send him somewhere more notable. Maybe it was his preference, though.
Looking closely at Margaret’s recent pictures, it appears that she may have had weight loss surgery. She is noticeably thinner than she used to be, but has the appearance of someone who lost a lot of weight very rapidly. Although we are ten days apart in age, she looks a lot older than I do. It also looks like she might be wearing a wig. Her hair looks unnatural. If she had weight loss surgery, that would make sense. I know hair loss is one side effect of not getting enough protein, which often happens in people who have surgery to lose weight. It’s not that I would necessarily criticize her for having surgery, by the way. She would have definitely been an appropriate candidate. On the other hand, it’s possible that she lost weight for another reason. My guess is that she went under the knife, though.
I looked at old pictures Margaret had made public. In her younger days, her mother was a very beautiful woman. I remember her telling me that her mom was of Balkan descent, although she was born and raised in the southern United States. In the late 60s and early 70s, she definitely looked like a Greek goddess. She was thin, exotic, and very elegant… again, not at all like Margaret. I kind of wonder if maybe that was why Margaret and her brother went to boarding schools. In fact, maybe that was why Margaret turned out to be so shitty. Maybe her parents were disappointed in her. I can relate to that to some degree. Maybe Margaret was treated badly by her family and peers and that’s why she was so unabashedly nasty to me.
My experience with Margaret and Marie definitely affected me. When my final Longwood roommate, Latissia, came knocking on my door senior year, I decided not to give her a hard time about being my roommate. She moved in and we ended up being pretty compatible. It was actually a pleasure to know Latissia. She was a good person with a kind heart. Margaret was not.
I see that as she had predicted, Margaret travels a lot, but it looks like she mostly does so alone to very expensive places in Europe. Margaret and Marie (whom I also found last night) are clearly no longer besties. Marie is still pretty, but it looks like she’s had a few marriages. She now lives in Ohio. Curiously, I see that she both worked for a church (in sales of all things) and managing a bar. I could see Marie managing bars, actually… and in a Jessica Hahn-ish sort of way, I could also see her working in a church.
As for me, I still have friends that I got to know while living in crummy Tabb Hall. One of my friends is a guy who lived on the first floor. Over thirty years later, we’re still good buddies. When we were sophomores, first and second floor Tabb saved a hall in adjoining French Hall (which is no longer a dorm). We all lived together sophomore year, which was also tumultuous due to my roommate(s) that year. I doubt I would have made such good friends if I had stayed in Curry. There’s something about having to share a bathroom that builds friendships. In fact, I’d say that living in what was supposedly the “worst” dorm on campus probably turned out to be a coup. I even grew to like Tabb for its convenient location and character.
It occurs to me that I might be sitting in prison today, because I might have been driven to kill Margaret. She was an astonishingly rude and inconsiderate person who is likely abusive to her friends and family members. I am pretty saturated with abuse, so I doubt I would have been able to stand it for long. On the other hand, Virginia is (thanks to Ralph Northam– was) a big death penalty state. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten life.
Anyway… I suppose the point of this long-ass story is that things usually work out for the best. It all turned out fine and this was probably the way it was supposed to be in the long run. I’m glad I don’t know Margaret anymore, although it’s weird that our lives are kind of paralleled. I hope our lives stay parallel and we never run into each other again. The REC was right. A little bit of her goes a looooong way. I’ve had enough to last me the rest of my life.