From time to time I have occasion to visit the Columbia University campus in northern Manhattan. As an alumna of the University's noted women's college, Barnard, I frequently experience what is sometimes termed "recovered memory syndrome," if this phenomenon actually exists. After attending an event at Columbia's School of Journalism last evening—sat a couple of rows behind the great-looking Paul Auster!—and passing my old dorm, Brooks Hall, I was reminded of our then mascot, whom we named "Cupcake" for unknown reasons.
My room, a single in those long-ago days, was tiny, but, as the Bard has it, "an ill-favoured thing but mine own."* It, and my friends' adjoining room, looked across 116th Street to a large apartment house. In one brightly lighted window, a middle-aged man in a white bathrobe would appear and, for our delectation, open his robe to reveal—not much of anything. This happened on a fairly regular basis. I don't know why we were not more appalled, especially in those more repressive years, but mainly we found him funny and dubbed the offender "Cupcake."
Now long awakened to the feminist cause, with many battles largely won but still a few more to fight—go, Hillary!—I realize that the man's behavior was at least headed in the direction of criminal. He knew that there were young, nubile women across the street. For him, it was better than the subway, as he couldn't have opened his bathrobe—only a dirty raincoat if he had one—there. The girls' dormitory directly across the street from his apartment was a veritable candy store. It would need a trained psychology professional to explain the exhibitionist mentality, and I don't know if anyone ever reported Cupcake's behavior. He was probably one of millions out there in the Big City and elsewhere. I'm more disturbed thinking about his behavior now than I was at the time it occurred. I was too naïve and bewildered at the time, I guess. Yuck.
*Touchstone in As You Like It, Act V, iv, 57-8