The Invisibles: The Supervillians Behind Interior Design

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

When I was growing up, I did not use the downstairs bathroom. Ever. That was the guest bathroom, and it was only for guests.

On any given day, this no poop zone was no big deal.  Our bathroom, that is to say, my brother and my bathroom, was just at the top of the carpeted stairs. And for all 17 years I lived there (post pooping in my pants), I managed that cushy climb to the toilet.  

I never fully grasped why the downstair hall bathroom held such a place of esteem in my parents' eyes.  It isn't a special bathroom.  Don't get me wrong, I love the geometric wallpaper and the late 80's decoration sensibility, but it undeniably cramped and doesn't even have a tub.  

To be clear, it wasn't only that you didn't go to the bathroom in the guest toilet.  You didn't go in the room.  You didn't wash your hands in the sink.  You didn't dry your hands on the towels that were forever hung to rest on two metal rungs.  And you sure and shit didn't throw anything in the trash can provided under the sink. Blow your nose elsewhere son. 

It was a long time before I started to realize the dynamic behind our vacuum-sealed bathroom.  The guest bathroom was a show room.  A room you provided off-handedly for visitors to use that was secretly the most well-coifed, curated spot in the joint.  The main utility of the guest bathroom was to give off the impression that this little area was a microcosm of the entire house.  That is to say, the entire estate was immaculate and neat -- as if no one had set foot in there either.  The guest bathroom was a lie that said, "We've got our shit together . . ." and possibly the, ". . .way more together than you!" addendum.
So the guest bathroom must always be at the ready.  What if the mail person was busting to pee and asked to use our restroom.  It would be a travesty if he/she left with the impression that the residents of this house actually used their facilities.  The guest bathroom came from the same place as those rumors about women not farting or pooping.  It is the myth of immaculate living. 

In order to keep that myth alive, my brother and I tip-toed around the guest bathroom as if our footsteps would awaken the dust mites and ruin the smelless sheen.  We were vigilant against the constant threat of imaginary unexpected visitors.  They ran the downstairs, and they were everywhere and nowhere all the time.


I'm not trying to demonize my parents here (though I await the phone call I'm sure to get arguing the contrary).  We all have invisible people pulling at the strings of our neurosis.  For my parents, it was the appearance of having their shit together.  The great irony for me is that, bathroom aside, my parents have done a solid god damn job cutting through the cornfield of their life together.  More often than not, they did have their shit together, just not in a way that the bathroom reflected.  I think about all the worry and mental energy spent attempting to project the impression of a trait they already embodied, and it makes me sad.  

Of course, there are invisible people pulling at my strings too.  I'm the most honest person I know and I'm still just another marionette. My strings are used like sewing thread to pin down the dread of failure and a life spent capriciously to the back of my ribcage.  The intricate threading makes the Pandora's Box being manufactured in my gut look like an embroidered pillow with my grandfather's initials stitched onto the bottom.  

Except I don't dress like a choade.
And while marriage is a bond between two people, I'll be damned if their aren't Invisibles all over that motherfucker. 

As my wife and I were setting up the guest room in our new place, we went through various different floor layouts.  The original design, the way I had configured the dressers, bed, and desk upon arrival, was immediately discarded by the keen eye of my wife.  

"What's wrong with it," I asked naively.  

She replied with confidence, "When people are in the bed, the dresser there is going to make them feel too blocked in, like they're trapped."

Don't trap the guests!  Check.  I assure you I didn't have any Dahmer-like plans when I came up with the arrangement, but so be it.  

My second attempt didn't fare much better.

"It's too open.  With all the empty space in the middle of the room, it makes it feel so empty."  

Man our house guests were picky I thought.  I didn't realize what bitches our imaginary future guests were going to be.  I wondered if Tim Gunn was coming to dinner without an invite.  Who was I kidding, Tim Gunn always has an open invite.  

With one last shift of the furniture, we found a happy medium between jail cell and dance space.  That is until yesterday, when my wife decided she wanted a more dedicated office space in the guest room.  So while I was napping blissfully unawares downstairs, she took a shot at finding the maximal feng shui for this contested area.  

I didn't take in her handiwork until late last night, just as I was about to go to bed.  In the far back corner of the room, where the bed was, the desk was now setup.  It was well placed and it really did section off a little office area.  The middle of the room was left open except for my wife's dresser against the wall.  The exposed carpet area provided optimal standing space for trying on outfits and getting dressed and un-dressed.  Then came the bed, headboard against right wall, long side stretching across the width of the room, leaving a small footpath to provide access to the back office area.  On the wall opposite the bed, just over said carpeted pathway, is my dresser.  With the drawers pulled out, there is exactly zero inches of space to stand on between the bed and my dresser, necessitating I sit on the bed to get at most of my shirts.  If I want something out of the back of the bottom drawer, I actually have to lay down on the bed to get it.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure this is the best use of the space.  The invisible guests will finally at peace.  They love the new arrangement, its totally Baby Bear -- not to open, not to closed off, juuuust right.  I had hoped that with all these transparent figures constantly appearing to dictate the parameters of my interior design, that they would in turn be hospitable enough to allocate me with a bit of my own living area.  You know, like a little space to get dressed.  

It was, of course, a losing battle.  Even if I did reclaim this one space, there are so many of them and just one of me.  I shouldn't be so selfish.  Maybe one day I'll also get to see these spectral visitors we house, just like my wife and parents do, and then I will feel less put out by their omnipresence (pun!) in my living space.

Short of that, I just have to internalize that these ghosts exist around each of us, navigating us all like moons made of anxiety and insecurity. The more I can accept this universe as it exists, the less energy I'll waste trying to defy gravity.

And now and again when all the emotional planetary systems aline, I get the opportunity to revel in a perfect moon landing.  Like when I go to my parent's house for a visit and I get to embody one of the ghosts that haunt that downstairs guest bathroom.  In my corporeal form, now a visitor in my childhood home, I only blow my nose in that bathroom.  I even throw my tissues in the garbage provided.  And please trust me when I tell you that those tissues aren't the only thing I'm dropping in that room nowadays.  I gotta lot of time to make up for, and this type of work can't be trusted to an Invisible . . .   they don't have the stomach for it. 

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