In the 20s Virginia Woolf wrote about the doors closed to women. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write,” she said. I couldn’t agree more. Times haven’t really changed. I would say that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to live — really live and breathe and thrive — but it is so rare that women get this. Maybe this is just my experience in life, but I think many women are in the same boat. When you get married, all of your stuff, all of your life becomes joint property. Yet should said marriage dissolve, your former spouse will do everything in their power to take all of that and more away. And let’s face it, not many women have the financial power or the aggression to stop that from happening.
When I joined households with my husband, I came into the venture with very little stuff of my own. What I did have was largely disposable in that I didn’t really care about it. Things come and go, but there are a few things that can never be replaced. That is the yardstick by which I measure everything I have — or at least whether or not I will keep it for ever and ever. This philosophy in life comes in handy when you are not only a person who doesn’t like to live with clutter but also a person with pretty bad dust and mold allergies. Pictures, the few little knick-knacks made for me by my grandmother, a couple things given to me by my parents or sisters that represent moments in my life I’d like to remember whether for good or bad — these are all I really need to keep, and they can basically all fit in a couple file boxes.
My husband is very different from me. When I moved in with him he cleared a drawer and a wall in his apartment for me. I was actually quite happy and pleased with this at the time.Â I made my stuff fit as best as I could, but the fact was I was squeezed into a corner of his apartment, and in retrospect I think I was probably squeezed into a corner of his life as well. I am not a believer in giving up oneself for another person, but I am a big believer in growing and changing with another person — i.e., compromise — with the understanding that there are some things that are personal and sacred and not to be touched. I guess I didn’t know that 90% of my husband’s life fell into that category.
Since then this has been our struggle. I am not a rich person, and neither is my husband. It is highly doubtful we will ever live in a place that accommodates everything we would both like to have. And we have a daughter now, and I hope to have another child one day soon. At night when I can’t sleep I sometimes think about this and wonder how we will fit everything and still have space to breathe and move a little. And by “we” I guess I really mean me.
When I was in school studying graphic design I was enthralled by the Swiss designers, specifically by their brilliant use of white space. All of my work teemed with white space. I like my life to be the same way. Roger dreams of a home with floor to ceiling shelves on every wall, with every shelf filled with treasures. Clearly we have a dilemma, and I don’t know how to solve it.
This isn’t to say that Roger hasn’t purged a lot of stuff from his life. He has. He has gotten rid of a lot. And I appreciate that effort towards making me happy. But the fact remains that we may never be in a spot where I will really have more than a corner of my own, and some days, like today, that is a hard pill to swallow.