The College Prep And Pack: Boys V. Girls

If you are ever looking for evidence of gender difference, look no further than the college prep and pack.  Although, it's certainly not scientific, all one needs to do is study the looks on the faces of "the welcoming committee" at any college when a van load of girl's stuff pulls up compared to when a boy's drives into the same space.  Proof positive!

Move In Day 2012

This past Saturday, I got to be reminded of it, first-hand, as I watched as my son packed up his car and left for his sophomore year of college in a process that took twenty minutes; thirty tops.  He requested no help, bucked every time I tried to offer assistance and looked ready to strangle me whenever I started a sentence with, "Did you remember, or do you have..."

The Thursday before, he granted me about two hours (and most of the time was used in transportation to and from the store) to get him prepared. He claimed that the only thing he needed was a new comforter since I had stuffed the one he brought home after freshman year directly into the garbage can.  Honestly, I don't think I even let it come into my house from his car. But, once we replaced that, he was done with college prepping and with me.

Somehow, I felt cheated.  All of my friends were out purchasing lots of stuff, making lists, and checking them twice.  They were stuffing, wrapping, and packing things and strategizing the best use of the rears of SUV's.

But then, I remembered.  Oh, yeah, they have girls!  I thought back a few years, and smiled recalling how different things were when we took my daughter.  How soon I'd forgotten.

Over the years, I've packed up two boys and one girl and have noticed some pretty distinct differences in how they pack and how they prepare themselves for the college move in experience.

Here is my top 5:

1.  The Room "theme:" If you've got girls, this theme has been discussed with the future roommate in about eighty texts or emails over a three month period.  What is the color scheme? Towels?  Comforters?  Cute strings of lights?  Wall art?

If you've got boys, there is no discussion.  For example, while recently walking through Walmart with my son, I asked, "Hey, why don't you check with the roommate to see what color his bedding is?"  My son's response?  "No.  Who cares.  It doesn't matter.  Just pick one."  He grabbed a bed in a bag set and said, "Here, this is good." A rug?  "Nah."

2.  What She Needs V. What He Needs:  If you have a girl, she needs everything. A shower caddy?  Absolutely, and it must match her towels.  A desk lamp?  Of course, and one of those colorful ones with a pretty shade is better.  Bed skirt? Well, duh!  Under bed storage bins? Of course, where will all my extra food go?  Coffee maker? This is not even a question.  Shoe caddy? How else am I supposed to fit 32 pairs of them?  Vacuum? Absolutely.  Popcorn popper? It's not college without one.  Colorful rug? Yes, please, and make it pretty.  Decorative calendar?  Whiteboard?  Message board for outside of door?

The answer to all of these questions is yes, yes, yes and more yes.  The prettier the better, the more the merrier. If you have a boy, you are met by stares, shrugged shoulders and "I don't need that.  What for?  Seriously, mom?! No."

Here's what boys need: (or at least my boys)  

a.  TV, with hookups for PlayStation or other game console.  Games in some type of plastic container.

b.  More cables for more crap than you can imagine and a power strip for all of it.

c.  IPod, with expensive headphones and a docking station.

d.  Smart Phone and charger.

e.  2 pairs khakis, 10 t-shirts, 10 underwear, 2 shorts, 2 collared shirts, bathing suit, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair Sperry or other type of dress shoe, (seriously, this is their idea of a dress shoe), 2 pairs sneakers, 100 pairs of socks.(they will somehow only retain 5 pairs by the end of the year.)

f. 1 pillow, 1 comforter, 1 set of sheets, 1 blanket, 1 mattress pad (DO NOT FORGET THIS ITEM). They have no idea what a bedskirt is.

g. Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo (doesn't care what kind), bar of soap.  Yep, that's it for personal hygiene.

h.  Lax gear, skateboard, longboard, bottle opener.

Done...Really.  He is good to go.

3.  Doomsday Preppers V. Survivorman:  Girls plan.  They lay things out, they make lists, they check off lists.  They organize, schedule and coordinate.  They want to have everything they think they need for the end of the world right from the beginning.  They have a designated staging area in your house; most likely, your dining room. Like doomsday preppers, there is almost a competitive aspect to their packing.  If they can manage to think of the one really awesome thing that their roommate/competing prepper forgot, they gain extra awesome roommate points somehow.  "OMG, look, she remembered the bed risers!  Isn't she amazing.  It's going to change our lives here."  Girls are doomsday preppers.

Boys are minimalists.  They shove stuff into cars using Hefty bags and crates. They figure whatever they don't have they will go buy at some point.  As told to me more than once, "Mom, if I need something, I'll go get it.  It's not like Walmart isn't right there."  If it doesn't have an explicit purpose, they have no interest.  Boys are "Survivormen."

To be fair, they are right.  Have you seen guys' dorm rooms?  They don't need bed risers because they build lofts that are totally illegal and they put up ten feet tall Christmas trees using contraband decorations.  One way or another, they get what they need and it ends up to be pretty awesome.

4.  Level Of Pre-Communication With Roommates:  Again, girls are all on board with talking, talking and talking some more to get ready.  "I'm bringing the TV and Katie's getting the rug."  "I'm getting the mini fridge, and Monica's getting the microwave."  (I don't know about you, but somehow I always ended up with the big- ticket items.  My kid always got the TV and microwave, while new roomie, Sally brought the popcorn popper).  All of these discussions are planned out in advance and everyone is aware of her duties.

For boys, whatever happens, happens. "I'll just bring it.  So what if we have two. If we need a rug, we'll get one.  Mom, seriously, don't worry about it.  Worst case, I'll just leave my mini fridge in my car."  (This was an actual conversation.  I am not exaggerating.)

While there is something about this attitude I find admirable, truth be told, I'm horrified.  There is no pre-planning or discussion of responsibilities.  They will deal with it as it comes.  I can't tell you how crazy this makes me.  I'm a girl after all.  I would put money on the fact that they end up with 5 TV's, 5 mini fridges, several rugs, a bunch of kitchen appliances and more than a couple of shower curtains.  I wonder if anyone will remember bed risers, or they'll just build themselves an awesome loft?

5.  Degree Of "Meeting The Roommate Anxiety:" Every kid is anxious about meeting his or her roommate for the first time and learning to live with a stranger. What I've noticed, though, is that the expectations that girls have about their relationships with their future roommate are different than it is for boys. From my experience as a woman, and of having sons and a daughter, I think female relationships have more complex rules and nuances than boys'.  These differences in expectations lead to more or less anxiety.

For example, this year, because of a housing shortage, my son and his friends are all split up and he is going back to school to four roommates he's never met. When he found out, his response was, "We'll all just meet, shake hands and that's it.  It's going to be fine; we will do it just like freshman year."

I couldn't believe his reaction.  I was preparing to call the school, to fight the fight, to make sure that he got to be with at least one person he knew.  I reacted that way because I know if that were me, I'd have been out of my mind and would have called about 800 times trying to change my housing. He never suggested anything of the sort.  He just went with it.  Unimaginable.

Whether you are sending a boy or a girl off to school it's an emotional and exciting time; one that none of you will soon forget.  So, good luck to all of you as you send your babies; boys or girls off to college. Be sure to wave to each other on the highways.  The ones dragging or driving U-Hauls will, of course, be moving lovely daughters, and when you come across an SUV with a family of four and two dogs comfortably seated, I'd bet my life, the college bound kid is a boy.

The real proof will come when you pull into the school and see the faces of your welcoming committee.  Enjoy!

Do you have Doomsday Preppers or Survivormen?

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