(Incidentally, if you're not reading The Beheld, you really should. It doesn't update as often as it used to because the author is in the middle of writing a book, but it's always worth a look. I don't always agree with Autumn's point of view, but she has the most delicious brains and over thinks everything in the most delightful way)
Autumn's most recent post was about her experiences moving in with a partner; how that's effected her perception of public and private space, and how that in turn has effected her beauty regime. You can read all her thoughts over at the blog, but my thoughts and experiences are so different I felt like they really deserved their own post. I totally agree with her observations that the amount of primping and "beauty work" women do in various spaces is very closely connected to how public or private we consider that space to be. If you're headed somewhere you consider to be public, you're much more likely to, for example, stop and put your hair up or change your shirt. If you're somewhere you consider private, you're less likely to be concerned about how what you're wearing looks, and just go with what's most comfortable.
|Of course all women look this cute just bumming around at home.|
Autumn breaks down what she considers to be public and private space in a fairly simplistic way - outside the house is public, inside is private. I'm going to go ahead and guess a lot of the clear line between inside and out for her comes from having lived alone for some time. As someone who's shared a house/apartment with other people my entire life, I don't really associate the walls of my house with the bounds of my space quite so specifically. I've always had to draw my own, often kind of arbitrary lines in the houses I've lived in. But I know a lot of people associate the bounds of private space with the bounds of their house, and I find the idea fascinating.
For me the delineation between public and private is a little more complex. If I was to draw my idea of public and private spaces, this is what it would look like.
Further complicating matters is that these zones don't just exist in physical space for me, but emotionally as well. There are certain things I do, and certain ways I dress, and certain things I keep in different zones for all different reasons.My physical surroundings are inextricably linked to my emotional state, for better or worse.
I think because of this, my lines between zones are also much less fluid than some other people's, and my need to spend time in all parts of this chart is much more core to my happiness.
Starting in the very middle, we have Me space - the lines around this space are pretty much nonnegotiable, and my need to spend time in it is the same. Me Space remains Me Space - even if I'm living with a partner, I still insist on retaining a certain part of the house that is clearly designated physical Me Space. And I don't mean space for my things, or a wall where I can decide what goes on it - I need a part of the house I can draw a line around and declare Mine. I need a corner that I can leave coffee cups in, and get paint all over, and fill with random piles of junk without feeling guilty that I'm ruining someone else's space. I need at least one place I can put a weird new figurine, or a drawing, or pencils, without being concerned even the tiniest little bit with anyone else's opinions of that object.
|Murder Bear and Hand Cream Husky are bestest friends.|
|Hanging out with my cat in bed totally counts as Me space|
Outside of this weird little corner though, I'm happy to have blended space - 80 per cent of the house Mr. Reluctant Femme and I share is more or less designated Us Space. And emotionally, I'm almost as comfortable with him as I am with myself. I certainly share more with him than I do with any other person, and his contribution to making my head a happier, more pleasant place to be is undeniable. His presence and comfort in my space, both emotional and physical, makes it easier for me to let bits and pieces seep out of the inner bubble that previously were firmly locked away, and that means I need less designated Me time because there is less in there pressing at the walls. This space is what I call Me+, because it feels a lot like Me space, but there's someone else there a lot of the time. Emotionally, this bubble extends around me and Mr. Reluctant Femme, and physically it extends to the walls of our house. This space is where I live most of the time these days, but unlike Me space it doesn't really have a designated uniform. I'll very rarely wear makeup if I know I'm just going to be hanging around in the house with Mr. Reluctant Femme. I've never been one to put makeup on just for my partner, unless it's a full on dress up thing and ridiculous shoes are also involved. I think this might be because way back in the way back times when I first started dating, I never wore makeup at all. This means that I knew right from the start that at least SOME people found me attractive without makeup, and so I never really got into the habit. However, the clothes I wear in Me+ space varies pretty wildly, and a lot of the time this variation is directly linked to my state of mind.
I've observed that when I'm unhappy with Mr. Reluctant Femme, or we've had a fight, I'm much more...careful about how I look around him. I put on pyjamas rather than sleeping naked, and go into my room to change instead of stripping off in front of him. I also tend to be less willing to wear "house" clothes, because they make me feel more vunerable and less put together. It's like I need to wear slightly nicer clothes in order to bolster the emotional armour that springs up whenever I'm upset. But if I'm comfortable, and happy, and relaxed, the paint spattered dress comes out and pants only make an appearance if it's really too cold to do without.
|Me and Mr. Reluctant Femme being dorks in the way we only really do around each other.|
(I hardly ever do this at home. Yes, I know, I'm a complete grot.)
I still consider Friend Zone to be a relatively safe space though. I WILL talk about Mr. Reluctant Femme's junk (if it's going to be really funny), I will talk about being a brothel receptionist, I will swear, I will take my shoes off if it's hot, or admit I'm cold and ask for a jumper if it's freezing. The uniform is generally anything nicer than "house" clothes - sometimes I'll put makeup on, sometimes not. I'm not really that fussed about looking pretty around friends, but I do like to look like I've gotten dressed deliberately.
|This is MUCH cleaner than my actual room|
In this space, my jaw is always a little clenched. I'm very...aware of being a physical being, and of being observed, and that means I'm aware of how other people are reacting to me, all the time. It's kind of exhausting, which is why I tend to only make time to see people in meat space relatively infrequently these days. It's not that I don't get anything out of spending time with my friends; on the contrary, I get an enormous amount out of it. My friends are clever, and interesting, and often teach me things or make me think about things that never would have crossed my mind otherwise. They're absolutely vital for me in terms of keeping my self esteem at a workable level, and are tireless cheerleaders when I need a kick in the butt. Unfortunately, however, there is always an investment of energy involved, an inevitable cost. I have a finite ability to deal with being on Good Behavior, even at the lowest setting, and even when I'm getting so much back. It's like I have a big glass of Give A Damn inside, and every hour I spend outside of Me or Me+ space a little drop of Give A Damn trickles out. Once it runs out, I'm done, and I HAVE to go home. How fast this Give A Damn runs out depends very much on the company and the circumstances, and I don't always start an evening with a full glass. You see, being at work draws from this same source of Give A Damn, and at work it runs out MUCH quicker because I find it much more challenging.
Work is absolutely Public Space for me, and Public Space is without a doubt the most stressful place I spend time. Unfortunately it's also where I have to spend the majority of my time these days. Remember how I said I feel like I'm gritting my teeth harder and harder the further I get from my Me space? Being at work is so firmly in Public Space I often get headaches from inadvertently physically gritting my teeth all day, just as a reaction to being in Public Space for so long without a break. Public Space is the part of my life where I never talk about Mr. Reluctant Femme's junk, ever, no matter how funny it might be. I never, ever talk about having worked in the sex industry. I never talk about being queer. I never talk about being kinky, or poly. I never talk about being political. I never talk about anything of any substance if I can help it. I try not to swear, at all. I actually say "flipping heck" instead of "fucking hell." I am intensely, painfully aware of being observed at all times, even if I'm not actually being specifically observed by anyone. The reality is that while my office is open plan, and people walk past my desk all the time (which I HATE) my co-workers don't ACTUALLY pay that much attention to what I'm doing at any given time. But I can't shake the feeling of being on display, of having to be on not just Good Behavior but Best Behavior at all times. I have to be nice ALL THE TIME, I have to be considerate ALL THE TIME, I have to shove any annoyance way the fuck down inside so I can answer ridiculous questions over and over without telling people to get their fucking shit together. I can't make weird little wiggly motions with my hands while I'm thinking, and I can't scowl at people even if I really want to. If I'm stressed out and in one of the three inner circles, I can vent steam and carry on.In Public Space I just have to sit on it, until I can get to an appropriate space to let it out.
Public Space isn't 100 per cent work, of course. It applies to any situation where I'm out of the house, and not at a friend's house. On the bus with other people, at the food court during the weekday lunchtime rush, at a party where I don't know many people - these are all situations where I feel the need to be on my Best Behavior, and so they definitely count as Public Space for me. The uniform for this space is pretty standardised - clothes have to be not only nicer than "house" clothes, they have to actually look good, and for work, look professional as well. I wear makeup for work every day, largely out of habit rather than any workplace requirement. Putting my face on of a morning helps me get into Public Space emotionally, as well as allowing me some semblance of individual expression in terms of the colours I choose to wear. I associate putting on makeup so strongly with Public Space that the process of putting it on can sometimes put me in a Public Space mindset all by itself. (I wrote more about that here)
|Thou art not ready for this finely garbed jelly|
As an example of how valuable "time off" from public space is to me, I recently negotiated for extra days off at work in lieu of a payrise. The payrise they initially offered was totally laughable, and I would have been well within my rights to put my foot down and demand something reasonable, but I didn't. More money would be nice, sure, but time out of the office is far more valuable to me. When deciding how to respond to their ridiculous initial offer, I had the bright idea to ask for an RDO each month instead of more money. I like time off, my company hates spending money, everyone is happy. But before I put it to them, I tried to calculate how much money they would have to offer me to stay if they refused my request for RDO's instead. How much were those extra days out of Public Space worth to me? An extra 100 a week? 200? I rolled it around in my head and simply couldn't come up with an answer. There is no amount of money though could have offered me that would have been more valuable to me than an extra day per month to sit on the couch in my pyjamas. That's how draining I find being in Public Space. It's not even a matter of not doing work - I actually don't mind doing bits and pieces of work when I'm technically out of the office. The days I've been at home for whatever reason, I actually find it much EASIER to get work done than when I'm actually at my desk. I'm so much more relaxed, capable, and calm that I can get things done quicker, and with better results. Maybe it's just because I'm not having to answer the phone every five minutes though.
All of this...stuff...I have around space is why inviting people to my home is such a big deal for me, and why I don't do it terribly often. When I was sharehousing I would have people over all the time, to stay for as long as they liked - by in share houses, my bedroom was the bounds of Me+ space. In my flat now, the whole thing is Me+ space, and I find it hard to reel those boundaries back in enough to let other people in for long. Sometimes I miss the constant ebb and flow of visitors I used to have...but then I remember I can go to the bathroom in the middle of the night naked now, and it's totally fucking worth it.
I'm curious to hear how other people feel about this whole thing of public and private space. (And also curious to know if anyone made it through this whole thing) Am I actually that odd, or do I just think about it more than other people?
As a reward for those of you who stuck it out to the end, here's my obligitary David Bowie picture. I couldn't use that title and leave y'all TOTALLY hanging now.