I always keep my dorm key on a purple carabineer. When it’s not clipped to the waistband of my pants, it’s always kept on my backpack. Coming to college was the first time I ever had to carry a key around. I grew up in a small suburban, beach-town neighborhood. This was the kind of neighborhood where every family had at least one dog, and after coming home from school, kids would play ball in the sleepy street waiting for their parents to come home from work. Each yard was green, large, and filled with neatly kempt gardens. This neighborhood was extremely low traffic so anyone who entered was either a resident, employed by the resident, or received a direct invitation. As a kid I never needed to worry about carrying a house key because the doors of my house were rarely locked during the day. My mother would only lock the doors at night, once everyone was inside. According to Krystal D’Costa in her article, Is there more to Locking Up Than Personal Safety, she would argue that my mother ritualistic locking of the door every night was not only a physical act intended to insure safety, but it was also a symbolic representation of the need, and desire, for privacy.
In the article, D’Costa talks about how privacy is an “Institutionalized method of withdrawal.” She details how unlocked doors are unlocked for everyone, and how an invasion of space can be representative of a violation of self. She brings up how lock doors are a guarantee of privacy, and that the allowance of privacy is representative of a social code. A locked door establishes this level of distance, and physically puts up a barrier between yourself and the outside world.
The locked door is a signal of desired privacy, and because it is a method of withdrawal, sometimes that barrier is important. Now more than ever I understand the importance of privacy as a guarantee. Living in on campus housing means you are always around your friends, and you can’t escape from both the social and academic sides of the institution. Having the ability to withdraw from society for a while is an important coping mechanism used when there is overstimulation due to constant interaction.
While my mother only locked the door at night to protect everyone inside from a home invasion, I understand the importance of secure privacy, and need for withdrawal. Due to the cramped living situations in cities and on college campuses, having the ability to lock your door is relieving not only because of the physical protection factor, but also because of psychological preservation.