a room of my own
As a single person, I lived in an apartment for exactly one year. (Then I moved in with my grandmother, while I figured out what to do next. I met Spouse almost immediately; we got serious really quickly. We got married, and moved in together. I’ve never lived alone since.)
I realized today that I’ve never had a space all to myself. I’ve never had a space that was off-limits to other people. All of my spaces were invaded.
When I had my apartment, I never entertained; I never invited anyone over. But my mother had a key. I had not intended to give her a key, but she insisted she needed one, in case of an emergency. Once she had a key in hand, she kept thinking of reasons why she needed to be in my apartment when I wasn’t there. All presented as if she was doing me a favor, of course!
I assumed she just wanted to snoop, so I made sure I left out in plain sight things I knew would piss her off. Like my birth control. (As a so-called spinster, and presumed good Catholic — although I was actually a Pagan —I definitely shouldn’t have been sexually active.)
I decorated my apartment to suit my own taste. I didn’t bother to get a TV, since I didn’t watch TV. (For some reason, that scandalized my mother.) The stuff I hung up on the walls was reproductions of art, or photographs, all of animals or plants. Some of the photographs were probably my own. There were not any photographs of people, family or otherwise. I had a lot of books. I had seashells, pretty rocks, dried flowers.
Most of my furniture was hand-me-downs. I did buy a brand-new bedspread. I bought my own dishes (which became our dishes, when I married Spouse).
From the condition of the bathroom, we surmised that the former tenants of my apartment had been a fraternity. Who had maybe let cats use the bathroom as a litter box. It was a disgusting mess, and a health hazard. I was willing to put up with it as is, but my mother bullied my landlady into doing some minor cleanup, making it less likely that I would contract a staph infection.
I really liked the apartment, minus the bathroom. I loved living alone. It was the best thing ever.
But looking back on it, all the rooms felt like they belonged to different buildings. I decorated my taste, not my mother’s expectations, but my taste was . . . very uninformed. Not only were the colors and decorations not adventurous, but I didn’t imagine any new possibilities for the rooms. I didn’t know that was a thing you could do.
So my apartment reflected me, but a disconnected and inhibited me.
The attic “apartment” at Gramma’s house, I did better with, sort of. I mostly loved living with my grandmother; those few months remain a highlight of my life.
But of course, she could enter “my” space at any time, because it was her house. I don’t know that she did. But because she might, I had to hide some things. I definitely didn’t want to upset her.
When I married Spouse, I moved into his studio apartment, which was already packed to the gills. Not only was getting married an adjustment, but I now lived hundreds of miles away from everyone else I knew, it was cold and snowy (which discouraged exploring on foot), and it was really difficult to feel there was any space available for me and my stuff. That apartment never felt like it had anything to do with me. Luckily we moved to Indianapolis 2.5 months later.
For years and years now, I’ve realized that on some level I would be a lot happier living in my own household. It’s not the usual arrangement for married people, of course, but I’ve read of people making it work. That’s how Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera arranged things (although their houses were side-by-side; I’d prefer more physical distance).
Spouse and I can’t afford that. I think Spouse likes living with someone. I like some aspects of it.
But I need my own space. Space I don’t have to share. I have a dedicated room now, my studio, but all the other rooms are shared. I would be happy in a smaller place, as long as everything was mine.
I need a physical place where I don’t have to edit myself. Where I don’t have to take someone else’s needs or preferences into consideration. Where I can find out who I really am.
I have no idea how that is going to happen. It has to remain a dream for now.
But what I can do, I am going to do. I am going to spend three days by myself, in an unshared space. I don’t know yet if writing will bubble up. I kind of hope it does, but if it doesn’t, it’ll be fine. I’m going to play around with food, experimentally cooking for myself. If I want to sleep until noon, and then stay up all night, I’m gonna do that. If I want to walk all over the neighborhood at 3 AM, I’m gonna do that. I’m going to play with materials. I’m going to seed my imagination with everything that intrigues me now. Maybe I’ll have flowers to keep me company, and/or to appear in photographs. Maybe I’ll have amazing dreams, or dreams I don’t remember at all.
I have no idea what’s going to happen. But I do know that I need this to happen. And it will.