I saw a girl my age sneak her two brothers up to her room; a staff member appeared on the eighth floor to kick them out within 30 seconds. While brushing my teeth in the shared bathroom, I’ll often hear the slow clacking of a metal cane inching down our hallway, announcing the arrival of an elderly neighbor in her nightgown; she’ll shuffle up to the sink for her nightly beauty routine. Every week, a maintenance man arrives on each floor to make repairs: “Man on the floor!” he’ll say, and then go about his business. At dinner, after we file through a cafeteria-style serving line, I see more camaraderie among the foreign girls, who share a language, and among the older women, who sit together in small groups and banter about a friend’s new pacemaker, or echo one another’s complaints about the food. The twentysomething Americans more often sit alone, hunched over their phones. Perhaps these girls are like me, recalling middle-school lunchroom woes and adapting to solitude while dining among strangers. Refrigerators aren’t allowed, so during the winter I placed food up against my window; in summer, I’ll buy a small cooler and get ice from the machine downstairs.
Why I Live in an All-Women Boardinghouse in New York City, or How to Make A Certain Ladyblogger Appreciate Her Pantsless Life.