I’ve always been the kind of person who needs her space. I’ve never lived with anyone outside my family for more than a year because I inevitably drove away every roommate I ever had. I’m not proud of it, but it’s part of my personality, and I’ve learned to accept it. I’m an introvert.
Unfortunately, life didn’t always cater to my need for privacy, and thus growing up has been a series of compromises I’ve had to make.
In college, I learned the perils of the shared dorm bathrooms, and also where on campus to find the bathrooms that locked. It was that or wake up at 3:00am to poop.
When I got married, I still had to share a bathroom, and suddenly I was responsible for cleaning it too. This wasn’t in the brochure!
As if sharing the bathroom with a boy wasn’t bad enough, I also had to share my bed. I don’t mean that in the sexy, euphemistic way either: I mean the snoring, hogging, farting, cover-stealing way. I’ve considered, on more than one occasion, getting the scissors and cutting the blankets right down the middle. Of course, my husband would probably just throw his half off the bed in the night and still come after mine.
Once we had children, I pretty much gave up any hope I had for “me time” for the next ten years. I now share a bathroom with three boys, sometimes at the same time, and I can’t remember the last time I peed without an audience. Even my husband follows me into the toilet to talk because he knows it’s the only place in the house where I’ll sit still for more than 30 seconds at a time.
I love my boys, but sometimes that love can be suffocating. It’s too easy to lose yourself in your family and forget the little things that made you who were before.
Last week, I snapped. My in-laws had been staying with us for two weeks and the tension was running high in the house. I put the kids to bed one evening and found myself laying in my son’s bed, pinned under his arms and legs, sweating from his body heat and my own discomfort but desperate to avoid the painful social situation waiting for me downstairs. I was paralyzed, and I couldn’t take it any longer.
I extricated myself from my son’s death grip, got dressed, kissed my husband goodbye and ran out of the house like it was on fire. My heart was thumping from the intoxicating mixture of excitement and guilt I felt for completely shirking my familial obligations for a night. I had no idea where I was going, but the idea of freedom was too delicious to resist.
I drove around for a while listening to loud music and singing at the top of my lungs, completely off key, but I didn’t care because there was no one around to hear me. Eventually I went to a movie by myself, which is something I never do. As I sat in the theater, soaking up the atmosphere around me, my body started to relax for the first time in weeks. I was hooked, and like any new addict, I thought to myself:
I want more.
I’d grown so accustomed to putting everyone’s needs before my own, often quite uncomfortably when it comes to bathroom and meal times, that I forgot how freeing it is to do something completely selfish. Now that I’ve had a taste of forbidden fruit, there is no going back.
My head swirled with thoughts of the other little indulgences I wanted to allow myself: The things I don’t often do, but I should.
I want to wake up to mimosas one morning, even though I’m not on vacation. I’m a responsible adult and I can drink at 7:00am if I want to.
I want to take the long way while driving so I can listen to my favorite song for the fourteenth time in a row. This time I’m going to sing it just right!
I want to get dressed up for absolutely no reason and then have a dance party in my living room. I don’t mean the casual bopping from side to side that you’d do in public. I mean the full on diva, fist pumping, head banging, Flash Dance moves you only break out in your wildest dreams.
I want to buy myself something I don’t need, even if it’s something as small as a new shade of nail polish or sparkly lip gloss. Lingerie only counts if you would be embarrassed to let your father fold your laundry.
I want to leave the house a complete disaster and go to bed early. Maybe the cleaning elves will visit while I’m asleep.
I want to stay out late, go to a restaurant and order nothing but desert and drinks. What’s the point of being a grown-up if you can’t occasionally eat cake and ice cream for dinner?
I want to be me sometimes. Just me.
And that’s ok.
Related post: Becoming Invisible