Throughout my childhood I shared bedrooms with siblings and cousins as well as sometimes having my own room, but privacy was a rare commodity regardless of the sleeping situations. When you’re a kid, you just learn to deal with such things. It’s just damn hard to live with people, whether you’re related to them or not. I can remember as a teenager sharing a room with my little brother just as he started puberty. I cannot even begin to describe how awkward that was for the both of us, which is probably part of what prompted my grandparents to send my uncle over to build a stairwell down into the lower level of the building so my brother could make use of a large unoccupied dungeon-like room. I honestly was quite jealous of his room, being that it was probably almost competing in square-footage with the entire second-floor of the apartment.
I moved out of my mother’s house the first time at age 15 because a temporary bout of insanity made me think living with my biological father and heavily pregnant wife-to-be was a totally awesome idea. That lasted from the end of the summer to the beginning of the Spring. I had my own room in the apartment we lived in and in the trailer home we moved to after that, but neither domicile had very much square footage. We decided it would be best for me to move back in with my mother after my father waved a butcher knife in my face declaring “Do you realize I could kill you!” over his assertion that I had been slamming the dishes into the sink while I was begrudgingly washing them. While I have no reason to defend his point of view, I probably had been a bratty and button-pushing teenager, but there’s never been any excuse for the things he has done over the years. Still, it couldn’t have been easy on their budding marriage to take in a teenager, especially since his spouse and I were a mere six years apart in age. I probably treated her like an annoying big sister rather than a parental unit.
The second time I moved out was at 16 when I totally thought it would be a good idea to have my mother sign temporary custody of me over to a 15 year old friend’s parents so that I could attend a school I loved in a different town from the one in which my mother resided. The friend, whose name unfortunately escapes me now, had as many if not more emotional issues as I did. We shared a bed in her room, and ended up fighting daily, which I suppose made us quite sisterly. I lived with her for a grand total of two weeks. The ending of my stay was punctuated by spending a few hours in an office of a police station in the middle of the night in a completely different town because she had decided she just had to see her boyfriend that night, the dangers of hitch-hiking be damned! The police refused to release me to the custody of my friend’s mother. My mother and my step-dad were none too thrilled to have been awakened from a drug-and-alcohol-induced slumber in the middle of the night by cops banging on their apartment door demanding to know if they were my parents.
The third time I left home was to attend Job Corps. In Job Corps, I had enumerable roommates, thanks to the large storage capacity of the “bays” in which we slumbered. We each had a cubicle of sorts, with a locker for our belongings, a platform bed, and shelf above the bed. We could decorate it, within guidelines and regulations of course, and had to keep our cubicle spotless or the whole bay would be in trouble. We also had daily morning and evening chores to keep the entire “lodge” clean. If you are a woman, and you ever have the opportunity to share a bedroom with six other women, in a house that contains seven other equally occupied rooms, pass the opportunity up immediately! I don’t know if they could test this on Mythbusters, but I discovered from personal experience that, yes, women do sync their cycles up like atomic clocks just by residing in close proximity to one another. And, yes, women are bitches when it’s that time of the month. And for some reason even the most strait-laced individuals can do some pretty down-right rude or dirty things when confined to what amounted to the combination of a military base, a minimum security prison, and a poorly-funded summer camp. Granted, I did have tons of fun there, made friends I still have today, even met my husband, but I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have as well.
Job Corps sent me to college, where I had a different kind of room-sharing experience. The dorm rooms contained two platform beds with drawers beneath, two desks, two dressers, two cubby-hole-style closets, a sink, and a single-occupant bathroom with shower stall. There were also shelves in the room for extra storage. Job Corps provided us with a single computer, a single microwave, and a single refrigerator. Someone loaned me a TV. Having grown up with my step-dad’s anally-retentive attitude towards cleanliness, and having just left the Job Corps campus and it’s militarily-regimented rules on the same, I felt kept my dorm room obsessive-compulsively organized. Actually, I’ve always tended toward obsessive-compulsiveness in the realm of cleanliness and organization, when I’m not alternately being the best slob I can be.
After a particularly frustrating experience with one of my roommates, I moved in with then-boyfriend-now-husband, who had left the Job Corps program for a job at the Wal-Mart in my college’s town. I went back and forth between him and the dorms and my mom’s for a couple of years. After he moved to Arkansas, I moved into his old apartment to get out of the dorms and live alone. Then I followed him to Arkansas. Then he followed me to Texas.
In Texas I lived with roommates in an apartment where I paid rent for my room and common areas and split utilities with the roommates. That experience wasn’t altogether pleasant either. After Texas I went back to Oklahoma and moved in with other friends, where things didn’t quite go according to plans. I found myself back in Arkansas, living on my own again. Eventually, I moved back in with him, then back out on my own, then he moved in with me. And the rest, as they say, is history…
Roommates can be fun, and roommates can be hell. But, I gotta say, sometimes I want to go back to the days of living with roommates. When you share your living quarters with family members, you are obligated to act a certain way, to treat them a certain way. You feel compelled to do things for them or clean up after them. When you have children, they require a certain level of attention and care. Spouses want or need certain things from you. Living alone means you can keep a place looking the way you want, but you are lonely. Living with loved ones means that you cannot control how they effect your house, but you also have to be careful about if and how you complain. At least with roommates, you have the right to either bitch about how they keep house, kick them out, or demand that they pay you for your troubles. Unless of course you’re at Job Corps or in a college dorm room. But in those situations you can ask an authority figure to relocate you to a different room if the roommate(s) become(s) too much of a problem.
Perfect Parental Age
I love my daughter, Luna. I also love the baby I have yet to name because she is not yet born.
There are benefits to having kids while young. When they’re grown, I’ll still be relatively young. I’ll have the energy to chase after my grandchildren, in theory. I’m not that far from my own childhood, so I can understand what my kids might be going through since there’s not that much time and distance between my childhood and theirs.
But the cons of having kids when you’re young are also plentiful. I didn’t get partying out of my system. I thought maybe I had, or that it was something I didn’t really want or need, but I find myself increasingly jealous of my fellows who are able to go out on a Friday night and do the partying thing without the guilt of having left their kids behind; they have no children to feel guilty about. I find myself longing for the days when a two-hour phone call would last that long because me and the person on the other end actually had that much to say, and not because the call was constantly interrupted by my parental responsibilities. I wish I could sit down to a meal without having to share off my plate, and that said meal could still be piping hot when I sit down to eat it because I haven’t had to serve other people first. I miss going to to a restaurant and just sitting there relaxing. I miss walking through a grocery store without having someone whine or beg for things that I’ve no intention of buying. I hate that I have to plan every minute of my life around my husband and my children.
People who wait until they are older to have children have the benefit of being able to potentially get all of their proverbial ducks in a row before they become responsible for another human life. They can get partying out of their system, get educated as much as they desire, and establish a career. Granted, by waiting to have children, women risk certain reproductive issues and potential pregnancy complications and birth defects. And yes, they will be even older when the children are growing up and having children of their own.
Who has the right answers? What is the perfect age to have a child? Does age bring wisdom? Or does youth bring empathy?
Inspiration songs while writing this post:
Frank Sinatra–Don’t mind these lines beneath my eyes, they’re well-earned souvenirs of a thousand nights of laughter and occasional tears, and I hope you won’t be jealous of the silver in my hair. It took many lover’s quarrels to put it there.
McLars–He was the roommate from Hell! He was the roommate from Hell! He lacked social skills and had a pungent smell. When your roommate is the devil, it can be extremely whack, putting posters on the wall, of Trapt and Nickelback. Until the break of dawn he’d be mutilating sheep. “It’s 4 a.m. Satan, can you please go to sleep?”