I’ve never been a private person. The only time I ever got called into the bishop’s office as a teenager, it was for mooning a van full of our ward’s young men on the way home from Youth Conference. When Leslie and I were college freshmen, we never closed the shades to our dorm room at Deseret Towers. Years later, driving on 9th East one night we looked up at our old dorm room and realized what a peep show we had given to all of east Provo.
My DH, on the other hand, likes his privacy. He likes to keep his curtains closed and his online identity pseudonymous. Several years ago, his parents built a canyon cabin. They have neighbors, but compared with life in your average American subdivision, it’s pretty quiet up there. The cabin has no blinds or curtains on the back side of the house and the first time we stayed there, the lack of window coverings freaked my DH out. “I can’t relax,” he complained. “Who’s do you think is out there watching us?” I asked, “The deer or the fish?”
We had our house painted last week. I had to remember to close both bathroom doors when I wanted to take a shower, draw the shades when I tried to take a mid-afternoon siesta, or think twice before yelling at my kids. I’d be reading a book to my toddler or baking cookies with my big kids (or once, sitting on the toilet) and suddenly a face would appear in the window.
It was unsettling, to say the least. Since it’s still Christmas break, everyone was home, and I had relaxed my housekeeping standards. But whenever I’d catch a glimpse of Saul or Ramon’s faces in my windows, I’d instantly jump up from the computer desk or the couch and start picking up, as if I didn’t want to be caught watching tv or reading blogs. I worried all week about what they were thinking of me and my family– were we too lazy, too self-indulgent, too unfriendly?
The funny thing is, I’m not sure Saul and Ramon were thinking anything about us (although I know that if I were up on a ladder looking into people’s bedrooms and family rooms for an entire week, I would have constructed an entire fictional life story about them). And if they were, why does my mind automatically leap to them judging us for our weaknesses?
In “Shoulder to Shoulder,” Courtney Miller Santo’s essay in the Summer 2008 issue of Segullah, she writes about how an outsiders’ perspective on her family (specifically her mom and her sister) allowed her to shift her own views on her family to see the strengths that others see.
Maybe Saul and Ramon, if they were thinking about us at all, were impressed by the way my kids played together so creatively (and so messily) or the way I could plow through two or three books during the time they were there. Maybe they were just impressed by the amount of stuff I swept off the kitchen floor on Thursday when I finally couldn’t stand the mess anymore. Either way, maybe I’ve learned that a little privacy isn’t such a bad thing. My DH has been trying to teach me that lesson for the last 15 years, so he’ll be glad that he got both a freshly painted house and a wife who’s more careful about closing the blinds out of the experience.