With her coffee, with a book, with herself

For years on end, she walked into the store and, perusing the bed linens and decor, was drawn to the pinks, the flowers, the white ruffles. All things feminine and girly called to her, yet she refused to respond.

Tastes change. Hers, she knew, especially. The teen years, she told herself, would have been the appropriate time to embrace girlish design. The twenties, she felt, it might have remained acceptable so long as she refused to accept small stuffed toys as sweet tokens of affection from young men hoping to impress her, or get between her rosy sheets.

But in her teens she had tried to mix the simplicity of straight lines and Asian symbols with French paisley and golden frames. In her twenties, a paint color called burnished copper had covered the walls of the small room where a mosquito net draped around her bed. When she moved in with a man, she had erased her own style completely, or rather it had been whitewashed by a gesture from what would have been a future in-law trying to be kind. It was his style, it wasn’t hers, and his mother had been generous and purchased it all. Besides, she had figured, wasn’t this sort of arrangement all about compromise?

When she’d moved back in with her mother, the burnished copper walls would already be a creamy oatmeal. She’d get a French-inspired metal daybed to save space. A large roll-top desk. But it was too late for the girlish touches. She’d like to maybe be able to sleep with a man again soon, and a day bed with flowery sheets and pink or purple curtains seemed to scream of anything but womanhood. The four cats in the household–one and a half hers, two and a half her mothers–whispered, “I am a cat lady for life”.

Yet when at 28 she moved into a college apartment of her own, she bought herself a white and gray flowered duvet cover. So, when she moved back home for the summer and found herself in need of blackout curtains to stifle a neighboring building’s excessively bright light, it would seem natural that she’d choose solid gray curtains to match.

So she found herself again in the aisles of the store and though she had already picked the curtains before even arriving, a pink and white striped set caught her attention. She looked at it longingly. Was it the stripe? No. A gray and white striped curtain identical to the pink didn’t satisfy the craving.

She looked at the colorful curtain and made every argument against it. It wouldn’t match the desk or the fabric concealing a storage space above it. But in a strange way, it would. The ol’ familiar “tastes change” came to mind but she could no longer accept its validity. It had been three decades and the desire for a feminine space–that shabby chic style–had remained in her heart. She’d been taking steps toward it for years now with the romantic touches of a roll-top desk, the french day bed, the distressed wooden furniture, and just two years prior, a white and gray flowered duvet she still adored.

And with love, she felt, just around the corner, she had better indulge in the pinks–in making the space fully her own–now. There would be time for compromise and for the pink stripe of the curtain to give way to more neutral tones; for flowers to be mixed with more masculine touches. But that time was just around the corner and all there was now, was now.


She hung the curtains standing on a French-inspired iron patio chair she’d acquired in her early 20’s. The chair belonged where it was, in front of the window, in front of the curtains–another piece of furniture in the already too-small space.  But it begged to stay there.

The room came together piece by piece. This here. No! There! The chair was moved to make room for a round wooden, distressed table with its paint peeling,  which had before been her bed table. The chair was angled along its side. Flowers, she saw, would sit in the middle of the table, where the curtains met in the middle of the window. A touch of gold. A few books. But not just any books.

Of all the rooms and spaces she had designed and decorated in her past, this one would become her most prized.

This would be the space where she started her mornings. Where she’d come to spend time not with the television and mainstream media, but with her coffee, with a book, with herself.

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