The Proposal: Brother and Sister Dorms at Groton

pose to sisters and vice versa, although the former is more common: welcome to Groton. Nineteen pajama clad girls sit anxiously in their common room at check-in. There is a slight commotion outside, and the click of the door opening is audible. Footsteps thump and the common room door swings open to reveal an assembly of boys in various outfits (think suit jackets, vests…) but with one common feature: they are all shirtless.

They proceed to sing “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt— off-key, lethargically, but adorably. A lone gentleman steps out of the group. He asks for the girls’ hands in sisterhood. This is the proposal. The tradition of brother/sister dorms is long-standing, dating all the way back to the year 2000 CE (according to the tentative guesses of a faculty member).The check-ins of girls’ dorms during the first weeks of school are peppered with anxious conversations about which boys’ dorm will propose to them.

Although I can’t speak from experience, I would guess that few boys’ dorm’s check-ins are dedicated to planning the expected proposals. And this raises questions asked by many over the past couple years: is the tradition of brother/sister dorms sexist? And does it foster sexist views?

My answer is no. The tradition is not inherently sexist, but I do believe that Groton students themselves tend to set gender expectations on brother/sister dorms. Although girls’ dorms do not outright say that the boys should propose, girls wait until they are proposed to. Girls are generally expected to bake for their brothers while the brothers rarely end up doing anything. And after the initial excitement passes, nothing comes of the brother/sister relationship until the boys start clamoring for baked goods and/or the girls start clamoring for a movie night.

Girls’ dorms rarely propose to boys’ dorms; when it does happen, the most common instance is when an Upper School girls’ dorm proposes to a Lower School boys’ dorm. Boys rarely do anything for their sisters, yet they complain that it is because their sisters never do anything for them. It becomes a whiny cycle in which nobody gets up off his or her butt to make the brother/sister dorm relationship fun.

First off, proposals should be more creative and less one-sided. Girls: there is nothing wrong with making the first move.  I know girls would be capable of some pretty epic proposals. Guys: Step it up. Singing a cute song isn’t all that cute if you don’t know the words and if you sing it like a zombie. It’s also been done a million times before.

Now everybody: work together to facilitate some kind of enjoyable, functional relationship. It’ll make your lives at least a little more fun, I promise. And one more thing— going back to Mr. Maqubela’s chapel talk last week, make sure everyone is included. If there is a dorm that hasn’t been proposed to yet, propose to them! If your dorm hasn’t been proposed to yet, pull a Millikingdom 2013 and propose to Alaric (he will bake you delicious cookies, multiple times throughout the year). Brother/sister dorms are double-sided problems. Both boys and girls are unsatisfied with the current circumstances; both sides are making complaints. So don’t sit around whining about how your brother or sister dorm does nothing for you. Quid pro quo, and all those good sayings (thank you Dr. Ross). Plan a movie night, have a dodgeball game, throw a Halloween party, go on a stargazing trip. It’s up to you.

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