When I was a little girl, I lived in a pretty crowded house. Mom and Dad, two sisters, one brother, and Grandma -- all in a two-bedroom apartment, in a two-family house with my cousins downstairs. Privacy was rare.
Sooner or later (I think when my brother started doing his math homework in his crib), Dad finished a little attic apartment for Grandma, and she moved upstairs. The best thing about Grandma's place was the little enclosed staircase constructed as an emergency exit. Like Nancy Drew's hidden staircase. You could access the steps from the back of Grandma's bedroom closet, and they ended up on our back porch.
I quickly found a way to pry up the inside latch on the porch door, so I could secretly access those stairs. I'd sit there in the dry heat or freezing cold. A bit of light filtered in and the dust would dance around. It was quiet. I was alone. I was very happy there.
When I was a teenager we moved to a nice-sized house, and I had a room of my own.
My roommate in college traveled quite a bit, and I had more privacy than most dorms residents. Not too bad. But after one year post-college with a difficult (fussy, but not in an endearing way) roommate, I moved to a place of my own.
And I was on my own for the next 15 years.
Then I acquired a husband.
After so many years alone, it wasn't easy. I kept waiting for him to go home. But he was home.
But I love him, and I got used to it.
I am an excellent wife. A saint really, as I have recounted numerous times.
But there are some bits about cohabitation that are just not my favorite bits.
-- Like breathing.
Specifically, I have never liked the feeling of someone else's breath on my skin. I remember a teenage boyfriend breathing gently in my ear, hoping to get me in the mood. I got in the mood to go home. Don't get me wrong, I love the feeling of my husband's big warm strong body next to me in bed. I just don't like that little draft. (That goes for you too, Stewie. Cat breath is not welcome.)
-- Like dirty laundry.
I don't like touching someone else's dirty clothes. Luckily, my husband does his own laundry. (I hate bleach; he hates fabric softener. A match made in separate-load-heaven, if you ask me.) But sorting sort of grosses me out. So, after our 20th anniversary, I treated myself to my own hamper. "Why do we need this?" he asked. "So you don't accidentally bleach my underwear," I said. (And so I don't have to touch yours, I didn't say.)
-- Like channel-surfing.
I don't like anyone else to control the remote. If I feel like watching three programs at once, that's because I can multi-task. Other people channel surf because they have no attention span. And some (who shall be nameless) people's timing is so awful that we are channel surfing from commercial to commercial.
And while I am at it ... I don't like comments, either, when I am watching a show. I was shushing folks in the movies when I was still in kindergarten.
-- Like body sounds.
I don't care for throat-clearing, stomach growling, nose-blowing, or farts. It's natural, I know. Cut it out.
I also don't like sharing my own body sounds. I am as close to perfect as a woman can get, but I do have one tiny bad habit. I crack my knuckles. When I go to bed at night, I like to give every one of my finger joints and nice relaxing pop. Having someone in bed with me puts a crimp in my crimping.
-- Like illness.
I know, I know. I said, "In sickness and in health".
The thing is ... I didn't really mean it.
I don't have any patience for someone else's flu, or headache, or sprained ankle. And believe me, I tried. I actually was in nurses' training for a semester after high school. I was bored. And if you're sick, I'm still bored. And annoyed.
When I am sick, I like to be alone. I crawl into bed and hibernate until I emerge all better. If I just have a cold, and have to work anyway, I take some medicine, and keep a low profile.
But some people (also nameless) want sympathy. Boy, have you come to the wrong place.
I'm not talking life-threatening illness. I just mean the trivial aches and pains that we all occasionally have to live with. Live with it.
I love my husband. I love marriage. I love companionship. I love intimacy.
But just not all the intimacy.
Read more from Nancy at her blog, Not Quite Old.