When I was around ten or twelve, my parents gave me my own room for Christmas. They converted my dad’s office off the family room into a space just for me. I don’t remember if I had even asked for my own room, but on Christmas morning, I covered my eyes and Mom and Dad led me down the eight steps to the lower level of our mid-century split level minister’s manse and escorted me across the threshhold. Behold! An “I Like You” themed bedroom! With “I Like You” sheets peeking out from under an “I Like You” comforter!
What heaven. In our funky mid-century modern house, my room had very cool built-ins : the dresser, desk and bookcase were all flush with the walls, and the windows opened up right to ground level, a feature that came in handy during my period of sneaking stray cats into my room to play with and feed. I filled my “I Like You” bulletin board with pictures, postcards, and magazine clippings and listened to my Billy Joel and Abba albums at full volume on my record player. And I danced, and wrote meaningful poetry about seagulls, and stealthily read those titillating Judy Blume thrillers, Forever and Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret. What I remember the most is that when our little house was loud and busy with three kids living in it and the neighborhood closing in, I had a place to go where my thoughts and my stuff were all mine.
Yesterday I had a wonderful, long lunch with my sister-in-law, and she shared something that really got to me. A wise woman – a social worker/counselor-type – once told her that every woman over thirty-five needs her own room. A place to go where she can put her own stuff and make her own mess and pick an “I Like You” them for it if she damn well pleases. This makes a lot of sense to me. Kids get their own rooms – their own bathrooms, and many dads often have their own space in the form of an office, workshop, or MAN-CAVE in the basement or garage. Why shouldn’t the WOMAN-CAVE get a little more attention?
The thought of my own room always gains traction around this time of year. These past few weeks have been challenging. It’s the weather. It’s the work going on in our house. It’s trying to be cheerful for the girls’ birthdays when they fall smack in the middle of my least favorite time of the year. It’s trying and feeling like I’m failing to be a good hostess when my parents stay for four nights.
Despite my unrelenting desire for more space, wanting this makes me feel a little bit selfish. It makes me think about my Peace Corps years teaching in one of the most impoverished countries in the world (Niger), a place where no one has their own room, where large families share one common space for every function of daily life. It makes me feel that I should stop complaining and appreciate what I do have, because compared to the rest of the world, it is a hell of a lot.
Here’s the “but,” though. But… if I did have my own room, I could write about places like Niger more often, uninterrupted, in a quiet space that would allow me to pursue ideas and maybe even solutions to some of life’s bigger issues. I could focus on topics that matter not just to me, but to the world outside my built-in dresser and “I Like You” comforter.