The words bedfellow, bunkmate, roomie and, if you're British, flatmate, all describe some of the most important people who share our lives in college – roommates.
Along with inhabiting a small space with us, our roommates are the people who get to – or maybe have to – see us at our most vulnerable.
Choosing roommates in college can be a tricky process, especially during your freshman year.
Random roommates tend to run the gamut for compatibility; some may immediately become best friends, others only cordially civil, and still others abhor each other. After freshman year, most students choose who they will live with next from their newly-established friend groups, and that's when the real fun begins.
Living together either ruins your friendship or strengthens it, but most don't really seem to give thought as to why this relationship is a make or break deal, they just know it.
The real reason is that they are allowed not just a window into our lives, but a view of the full spectrum of our lives.
Roommates see our true selves.
Before college, being roommates is something that's only reserved for our parents, siblings and someday far in the future, a spouse. Our bleary-eyed, coffee-deprived and pajama-clad selves are very different from the one who walks into class and whom the rest of the world sees.
Self consciousness ceases to become an option, as roommates are privy to all of our personal habits. Quirks and idiosyncrasies can no longer be hidden – the way we like to brush our teeth for at least five minutes, or insist on drinking only the mini-size Sprite cans.
Witness our phone conversations, our holey socks, our faces without makeup.
Whether we are obsessive about sweeping the kitchen and scrubbing the shower regularly, or choose to let dishes sit in the sink and laundry to ferment in our rooms, they know.
Food – whether we embarrassingly subsist upon only frozen dinners and peanut butter sandwiches or eat a full-fledged eggs, bacon and grits breakfast every morning. There's really not a lot we can hide from our roommates – we're kind of stuck with letting them really see us and at the same time seeing them too.
All of these little habits and oddities, we notice them, accept them and they stack up, one upon the other, until we know them all by heart – sometimes they even become a part of our own routine.
And we are vulnerable with our roommates. Whether we tell them or not, they observe our day-in, day-out struggles. They know things that not even our closest friends may know.
They are there for both the days that we come home upset and crying, as well as our triumphant, on-top-of-the-world days. When we live somewhere long enough, our deepest dreams and darkest fears, they live there too.
Roommates also share in the parade of people we choose to bring into our home. They see the embarrassing family members, crazy friends, faithful boyfriends/girlfriends and even possibly the random hookup.
People become another kind of fixture in the apartment.
Scientifically, the roommate bond is even close; the small quarters and joined spaces, same toilet, shower and sink, all lend themselves to an extreme microbial level of sharing. The dining table chairs we sat on in our underwear, the forks put into all of our mouths, and the skin cells, hair and germs littering the apartment, more a combination of all, than one.
Roommates see the you that walks out into the world; they open the door for the you who comes back. And if they can love both, they're more than roommates – they're keepers.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.