My first reaction when I saw the Washington Post’s story on “designer dorm rooms” was that the piece underscored a trend that did not exist. It’s not unheard of for big-time newspapers such as the Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times to take unusual occurrences and blow them up in to full-fledged trends, in a bid to get ahead of the curve.
Alas, after reading the story, and hearing and seeing repeated examples of increasingly large numbers of materialistic minded high school- and college-age youth, fed by cues from their parents, I have no doubt the story is all too true.
According to the Post, one of the latest (obnoxious) trends is hiring a professional decorator to transform dorm rooms into “cozy retreats.”
“The average dorm room — even at some of the most elite colleges and universities — is not only tiny but also ugly: white paint, standard-issue furniture, fluorescent lighting and nothing that requires nails in the walls,” according to the publication. “It’s a challenge for many millennials who have never shared a bedroom or bath and aren’t accustomed to roommates or going without.
“Helicopter parents are not inclined to drop their darlings at the dorm entrance with two suitcases and cheerfully wave goodbye,” the Post added. “Instead, they’re turning to their own interior designers or professional organizers …”
Two thoughts come to mind: When I left for college, I loaded up my 1963 Chevy pickup, which was 20 years old at the time, and I drove myself to college four hours away. My dad bought me a good set of craftsman tools, my parents wished me good luck and that was it.
When I transferred to a school across the country two years later, I drove the same pickup more than 3,000 miles by myself. After a week on the road, I called them from Kalamazoo, Mich., to let them know I was fine. I contacted them when I made it to my final destination. They couldn’t have been any less “helicopter-ish,” for which I’m eternally grateful.
Point No 2: If my parents had come in and redecorated my room with some outlandishly expensive decor, I would have been the laughingstock of the dorm, and rightfully so.
Of course, I arrived at college with little more than a few beer posters, a couple of baseball pennants and a clock radio. That I, a guy, had a dearth of items to “decorate” my dorm room wasn’t surprising then, nor would it be today, apparently.
According to the Post, the upscale dorm room trend appears to almost entirely a female phenomenon, “fueled by social media and increasingly sophisticated marketing to college students.”
“Boys don’t really care what their rooms look like – they just want the TV and other electronics,” according to the publication. “Girls, on the other hand, create mood boards with pictures of their perfect space and trade ideas on Facebook and Pinterest.”
If that weren’t enough, it seems some aging women are living vicariously through their daughters.
“… more mothers and daughters are doing this together, often with professional help, to create the first dorm room – one way of easing the separation anxiety,” the Post noted. “The same baby boomers who slapped a Bob Marley poster on the dorm wall and called it a day are now willing to pay big bucks for coordinating duvets, pillows curtains, rugs and other symbols of a well-appointed dorm for their children.”
Here’s a word of warning to mothers intent on indulging their daughters: You’re fueling hugely unrealistic expectations. Your children will be in for a rude awakening when they find out the hard way the world largely doesn’t give a rat’s arse about what they want.
You’re also setting them up for difficulty down the line when it comes to relationships, because girls raised to think the world revolves around them tend to have a difficult time on the matrimonial front when tough times happen, as they do in all marriages. Because they’ve relatively unfamiliar with the concept of compromise, you’d better make sure you have the name of a good divorce attorney, so you can bail them out of that jam, too.
College is supposed to be a time of development and growth, not a materialistic cocoon.
If you want to ensure your child has a tough row to hoe throughout life, keep on coddling them with such extravagant excess as designer dorm rooms.
(Top: Example of a designer dorm room. Spoiled college student not shown.)