This past summer, before even stepping foot on Nassau Street, saying bye to my parents, or buying my twin extra-long dorm sheets at Bed Bath and Beyond, I got my first peek into to college life. This peek was through the eyes of Ruth Weistheimer, a.k.a. Dr. Ruth or the sex doctor. (She’s an awesome lady—check her bio: escaped the holocaust, fought in the Israel independence war then moved to America and became a cultural icon.) What is even more amazing, she is now teaching a class at Princeton—JDS 315: “The Family in Jewish Tradition.”
My sister’s then boyfriend gave me the far too explicit, but insightful book _Dr. Ruth’s Guide to College Life: The Savvy Student’s Handbook_. His sisters had given it to him before he went off to school and Shane thought it was time to pass on the wisdom.
As you may be doubtful about self-help books now, at first I was a bit skeptical too. But after a few more pages, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this woman. So I read and I read, eager for my Princeton days to begin. I learned all kinds of things you never would expect about roommates, dorm life, sex, dating, and making friends. The best part though was that I wasn’t just reading the words of Dr. Ruth—Shane and his sister highlighted important sections and added their own commentary. I had a whole chain of advice. And now it’s my turn to pass it on. Embrace the beauty of Dr. Ruth’s words:
Her first chapter discusses leaving home, but the good stuff starts in her second chapter, “Your Roommate: from Peoria or Mars.” She advises, “Roommates don’t come with guarantees,” and speaks of the pitfalls of having a bad relationship with your roommate and various solutions for this problem. For example, she writes wisely on conflict between different types of people, such as “slobs and neatniks:” “Don’t make every issue a battle. If you can stand having dirty floors, then clean them yourself and don’t put on a fuss afterwards. Just be satisfied in knowing that you can safely put your feet down off the bed without stepping into any grape jelly.”
This is simply good advice. It is important to compromise especially with your roommate.
As I kept reading I was expecting more of the same, tame traditional advice about roommates, but then my eyes caught on those glaring yellow highlighter marks: “If you find your roommate masturbating, leave the room immediately and stand outside. Every minute or so ask ‘Are you done yet?’ in a loud voice.” Mixed in, as this was, with all the sober talk, I was surprised, confused, and a little worried. I thought what if this happens to me? But Dr. Ruth has the answer. In discussing an important issue of personal privacy, she offers a solution to what could be a sticky situation. This situation hasn’t happened to me personally yet, but apparently Shane thought I should focus on this section. Thanks Shane, I’ll keep it in mind.
Then not too far down the page I saw a better tip: “For men who worry that their penis is too small, I suggest you look in a full mirror. When you look down at your penis there’s an optical effect called foreshortening that takes place, making it look smaller than it appears to other people. Hopefully when you look in the mirror, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” I’m not exactly sure why this passage is included in the chapter on roommates, but Dr. Ruth’s blunt tone is fantastic.
The next chapter, entitled “Dorm Life 101,” provides equally great Dr. Ruthisms. Again she starts off with a useful tidbits, “leave some mornings free so you can sleep in,” and, “cat naps can be quite refreshing. Even 15 minutes worth of sleep in between classes can keep you going,” or “don’t abuse caffeine, in whatever form. You need to sleep to absorb what you are studying.” This is the tamer Dr. Ruth providing some practical advice. She also “believes in white lies” as a method of finding balance between what you want and peer pressure. But the chapter enters another dimension, since coed dorms are part of dorm life and they can be “an exciting place to live.” In the section on coed dorms, Shane thought the following section was pertinent to me: “Many young men worry about having an erection in an inopportune place, chief among which might be a coed bathroom. Surprising as it may seem, most of the women around you won’t be staring at your crotch so you needn’t be overly concerned and the good thing about a coed bathroom is if you do get an erection you’ll be in close proximity to a cold shower.” I can’t say I wasn’t expecting something of this nature after the second chapter, but it still caught me off guard. Unfortunately, this time Shane was wrong. No coed bathrooms = no erections in coed bathrooms = problem avoided.
Dr. Ruth’s advice on dating is my favorite section. Here her true brilliance shines. She touches on the changing dating scene and how college students should respond. Her first piece of advice—“I would suggest you not venture into having sex with people with whom you have no relation”—sets the tone for the rest of the discussion. She recognizes that sex and dating are different than they were only a few years ago, because of the hook-up culture, but admonishes against too much looseness. Then she advises how to make meaningful relationships work, for example, “don’t be caught in the superficial qualities of other people. The best looking person in the room may not be the nicest person, or the most intelligent or the funniest.”
Shane had a good time with her suggestions on how to meet girls. She lists sixteen tips in total. Here are a few Shane liked: “Avoid using trite lead ins like haven’t I seen you here before,” or “jokes are okay but don’t lead anywhere,” and “compliments are all right as icebreakers but need backup.” Some of these tips, however, are a little impractical, like tip eight: “Since everyone at a college is listed in a directory if the conversation doesn’t last that long, for whatever reason, you’ll have a way of contacting them later.” Shane wrote you could try this tactic, but only, “if you’re a stalker.” Number 12 notes, “one way to break up a lull in a conversation is to suggest a move to somewhere else. This movement will indicate forward progress in the relationship.” For Shane, this means a move back to, “your place.” Hmmm. Dr. Ruth’s final insight is meaningful for us all: “There’s always ‘Hi.’ Maybe your tongue will stay permanently glued to the top of your palate and you’ll look like a fool, but you’re no worse off than if you’d turned away.” Essentially, it can never hurt to try.
“Sex: Need I say more? Yes!” begins chapter seven. There is a lot in this chapter, which many of us already know. But she does offer as her first piece of advice, “It is important that the man’s penis be hard.” Need I say more?
The book ends by exploring what to do after college—but I feel it is better not to divulge the grand finale, or otherwise you won’t pick up a copy of the book. So pick one up, listen to the seemingly omniscient Dr. Ruth and pass on the knowledge.