Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2004 / 17 Elul, 5764

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Extreme makeover: You should see the dorm room now | Each and every room has cinder block walls, two skinny beds and one square window. The most frequently heard question is, "What would Martha do?" It may not be a federal penitentiary, but in terms of looks and feel, a freshman college dorm can run a close second.

I don't know what the diva of decorating would do to a room like this, but I can tell you what freshman girls do. They move in box after box of clear-plastic storage tubs with goods that exceed the capacity of the room by an exponent of 44.

Make that 45. The back of my head was just grazed by an extra-large under-the-bed storage box filled with purses, shoes, styling gels and six boxes of Cheez-Its.

From these gigantic plastic boxes, girls pull an array of bed skirts, matching coverlets, coordinating towels, area rugs, and on occasion, younger siblings they have drafted into service. They spend hours transforming dorm rooms from square institutional-looking cells into lovely English Tudor-style homes with four bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a cottage garden and attached garage. Well, maybe not, but it never hurts to try.

The one must-have decorating accessory for every freshman girl is the Leaning Tower of Pictures. Girls bring to campus every photograph they have every collected during the past 18 years of life. These are distributed around the room or placed in frames that say things like Good Friends, Better Friends, Best Friends and Former Friends in case they forget how all these people once fit into their lives.

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One particular college freshman we have been watching unpack has plastered pictures of the people important to her on a bulletin board, closet door and desk shelves. There are scads of pictures of girls from high school whom she has not talked to in three months. There are no pictures of her father and me who listened to her chatter the entire drive to campus.

There is a mound of pictures of boys who brought her corsages made of two small roses and a spring of baby's breath, but not one picture in sight of the man and woman who gave her life.

There is a picture postcard of some beefy guy from Florida. As far as I can tell he doesn't have a name. Then again, he doesn't even have a head. The picture is of his chest and abs. A nameless, headless beach bum made the bulletin board, but her father and I did not.

When I point out what I am sure is an unintentional oversight, she becomes flustered and says she is sure we are in here somewhere. Two stacks of pictures and four albums later she is still flipping pages saying things like. "Oh look, Max from next door. Wasn't he the cutest dog?" Two short naps and three bottles of water later I hear her yell, "Here you are!" "That postage stamp?" I say.

"No, that's Dad," she says. "I cut his head out of another picture. Here, use the magnifier. You're over here."

"Where?" I ask.

"In that group of people behind the food table," she says. "That's you on the end. Half of you got cut off, but you can see your one eye showing through the bouquet of flowers."

"Sweetie," I say, giving her a big hug.

It wasn't the best picture of me, but at least part of my head was in the picture, which is more than I can say for the guy from Florida. I'm feeling better already.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.


© 2004, Lori Borgman