I don’t like being in other people’s homes. I discovered this, by chance only recently. I have a whole litany of excuses like ‘I spend most of my day cooped up indoors, let’s go out’. Actually that’s not an excuse, that is the truth. I feel hemmed in, suffocated even in other people’s spaces. I am scrupulously tidy (no, that’s not the mental illness called OCD) and it suits me to be so. I could call on my severe allergies as cause to be finicky about clutter and dust. I could point to my rigid, minimalist upbringing (though that had the opposite effect on my personal aesthetic, pushing me to the neon-psychedelic-garish colour range). Whatever be the case, I like the air around me spaced out in a certain way, my vision unblocked by objects and those objects to be aligned symmetrically, systematically and efficiently.
It has been my personal cross to love and be close to people who are messy, careless. dirty or plain slobs. Earlier it appealed to my mother hen instinct to clean up after them. But the last few years, starting with the abusive ex have been a real lesson. Cleaning up after other people is an act of great love and sacrifice. And not one of those people was worth it. It makes sense, doesn’t it? A person who does not even care about their own personal space – will they care about someone outside themselves?
But I digress into the efficiently planned excuse alleys of my mind. I also know extremely clean, organised, neat people. And I still don’t enjoy being in their spaces (albeit with less grief and resistance). A home is such an intimate space. Even if a bed has been made, my first thought is that it has seen the person’s nightmares, their fantasies, their lovemaking, their sickness. A study table has held the fruits of the person’s labour, their worried eye-rubs, their frustrated desk-banging. Bathrooms and kitchens tell you the ordinariness of the starriest of people and often they’re in inverse proportion to how fancy their owners are in the world. Even the hall/drawing room, the most fake of all rooms in a house – it is a picture of how the person wishes the world would see them, who they hope to invite in there, who they are forced to tolerate in close proximity. I can see all this even without the people in the rooms. Can’t you?
It feels too intrusive. It feels like too much. And despite my propensity for intimacy, I do not like it. Intimacy needs to come in small, treasured bites for me. Walking into someone’s home feels like the entire buffet table just got dumped on my soul. I don’t want to see so much, know so much about acquaintances. Especially not when I’m living in a world where flightiness is a point of pride, comittmentphobia is a virtue and meaningless attachments are favoured. Going into a home is emotional labour for me and why should I invest that in somebody unless I know they value it?
I get a reputation for being a homebody (not true, I’m neither wallflower nor 60s domestic goddess). For all the times I propose going out instead, I also get called ‘high maintenance’, a word I hate since it implies other people must pay high to maintain me. No. I like homes and I like mine. But all things in time and in a certain way. Finicky maybe.
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