The Relationship “Walk of Shame”

The “walk of shame” is a college classic – the sprint across Old Campus in the biting cold back to your room before anyone realizes that you are in last night’s dress, someone else’s oversized sweatshirt, and missing your backpack (the real giveaway). I know some people who do everything in their power to prevent this morning phenomenon, making the trip back at ungodly hours. For some of my friends, sleeping over outside of a relationship is an unthinkable act. Interestingly, it is the act of sleeping together after sexual intimacy that creates the uncomfortable level of closeness. And, slipping out in the middle of the night avoids awkward mornings and humiliating treks anyway. Yet, for others, it is exactly those late-night moments together and sweetness of waking up entangled that are most significant to an enjoyable hook-up experience in a new-ish relationship.

Unfortunately, moving from no-strings-attached to committed doesn’t save you, or at least didn’t save me, from the tough sleepover decisions and dreaded morning walks. My friends have strong and differing opinions about whether or not sleeping over in a significant other’s room is “healthy” for the relationship. Strangers still give me the “I know what you did last night” look as I scurry back to my room each morning. Even in the most committed college relationships, it feels as though there is a level of externally imposed judgment and shame by virtue of living together without actually living together. People are well-trained to spot a “walk of shame,” and their observation often is accompanied by some deeply held opinions. It is the in-a-relationship walk of shame that made me realize the full extent of the judgment of women who are intimate out of relationships. The searing and disapproving looks I get each morning are a window into a larger “slut-shaming” that occurs on college campuses. Long term, I hope that as a society, and as a smaller community at Yale, those stigmas continue to fade. 

For the moment, however, in my last 8 months of shameful walks, I have learned some tricks if you end up sleeping in partner’s room more often than in your own. Firstly, ask for a drawer to keep some morning essentials; for me, mascara and a hairbrush are game-changers. It makes me feel better to make the walking back knowing I look somewhat presentable. Next, TRY to choose your outfit for the next day and wear it there the night before. I have always been terrible at actually doing this. What I pick as I rush to get to bed never seems to line up with what I want to wear the next morning. But, I have made an effort to bring my clothing each night so I can save time in the morning. And, for the days when that is way too much work, keep a sweatshirt you feel comfortable in for the walk back. Most importantly, ignore the looks from strangers. They don’t know you nor should they have any right to judge.