Monday, June 9, 2014

Privacy Issues

I had a little breakdown last night that made me think about some things from my past and how they've impacted me in my current life.

With all the flooding that's been going on at my place, the connecting door that was between my kitchen and my landlord's living room is gone. In addition, the bottom 6-8 inches of drywall in my bathroom, which shares a wall with the living room is also gone. This has been the final straw for me at this place. I've mostly handled having flood waters and no safely running water. I've dealt with sudden interruptions from my landlord trying to fix things. I've been sleep deprived and stressed. But having that final semblance of privacy stripped away has done it.

I haven't felt comfortable going to cook meals or even going to get a drink from my kitchen, let alone taking a shower since this happened. I can see the kids watching TV when I go to get ready in the mornings. My landlord has walked into my bathroom while I was putting on my makeup. I could crawl into the living room from my bathroom. I feel exposed and, in a sense, violated. These were *my* areas. My private sanctum. I could putter around the kitchen wearing whatever I did or did not feel like wearing. Now I have to make sure that not only am I clothed, but that it's in a way that wouldn't be offensive to the parents of the kids that might see me. Or in a way that won't make me uncomfortable if the kids or parents saw me. Last night, I was finally going to take a shower because it was late and I assumed everyone would be asleep. But when I headed towards the door that connects my living area and the kitchen/bathroom, I could see the light from their living room and I just couldn't do it. I wanted to get a snack because I was hungry, but truly didn't feel comfortable. I would have had to change into something presentable, but I still wouldn't have felt comfortable. I feel like they have a little peep hole into my life and my world and I'm truly uncomfortable with that. I rented this place because of the privacy I would have. The ability to run into my kitchen naked if I so chose and grab a snack or make dinner. Instead, I have a potential audience.

I also feel exposed in my bathroom. I know that sounds paranoid because you would have to be on your hands and knees to see into it, but I've always felt very uncomfortable with the potential that someone could see. Even as a kid, I had moments where the male parakeet looking at me while I was changing made me a bit uncomfortable. I know Napoleon wasn't a perv and he was a bird, but still. This isn't what I signed up for when I moved into this place and I just couldn't take it last night. I really just couldn't. I was going to start writing this last night, but it was late.

Growing up, my personal privacy was very rarely ever respected. Personal boundaries were crossed repeatedly. My mother would knock on the bedroom door. Twice. Then entered. I tried locking my door, but that really didn't help anything because she always had the key on her, so if she didn't gain immediate entry, she would just unlock the door. If I put anything in front of the door...well that didn't turn out well either. She would pester me if I was in the bathroom too long even though I would stay in there longer because I was too anxious to come out and deal with her. I didn't have any sanctuary from her. She would come into the bathroom when I was showering. She would insist on going into changing rooms with me over my strenuous objections because it wasn't anything she hadn't seen before. She constantly trampled my personal boundaries that I tried to set. Because of that, I think I've grown to set a very high premium on personal privacy.

When it comes to people I'm comfortable with, I don't mind sharing my personal space. If needed, I don't mind changing in the same space with friends. I had no qualms about having my friend pierce me in places most people wouldn't be comfortable having someone else see. I felt that level of comfort and I didn't feel exposed or even slightly strange. It just didn't phase me. But when it comes to people I've lived with, I want my boundaries very clear. I remember when I was renting my first place, I didn't have a full bathroom of my own, only a partial. I was so uncomfortable with the woman I rented from that I don't think I ever took a real shower for the four months or so that I lived there. I took them other places, but not where I lived. I didn't have that level of comfort to relax my personal zone. I couldn't feel comfortable enough to have the vulnerability to be naked outside of my sanctuary of my established area. The second place I lived had the misfortune of being in a place where my landlord crossed boundaries with me or gave me a vibe that he was interested in me. To add to that, his son asked me very inappropriate questions and he and his friend tried to look into the bathroom when I was getting ready to shower. My third landlord would go into my bedroom and bathroom when I wasn't there to berate me for not having a perfectly neat area when I had a tiny space to live. I didn't feel comfortable and tried to restrict that level of vulnerability for when he was out of town to avoid interactions. After that, I had a period of relative calm. I had a bathroom on my own level separate from my landlord or even in my own room, which was amazing. My last place and the place before were either filthy or I didn't feel my belongings or bedroom were safe if I left it since they had stolen from me.

Boundaries are very important to me. When they're violated, either by a roommate using my things without asking or having a landlord come to my place at 11 at night to fix things or by having my living area exposed, it's incredibly stressful for me. On top of all the other stressors I have right now, this is something that has changed that I really am struggling to deal with right now. It's something I don't quite know how to articulate. I don't mind my landlord's family except that sometimes I think we have a language barrier. But I want to be able to interact with them outside my place in passing. Not across the room from me. I'm grateful that I have a door separating my living area from the kitchen/bathroom that is so exposed or I don't think I would be able to deal with things right now. I need somewhere that I can feel secure and safe. I only cooked dinner yesterday because I knew my landlord's family wasn't home. I only felt comfortable doing the dishes because they weren't home. It says more about me and my upbringing and experiences than it does about them, but it's still something that stresses me out considerably. I just want to pee in peace, knowing there are solid walls between me and my landlord's living room. I just want to shower knowing no one can see me. Knowing that I can leave the bathroom door open since we don't have a fan.

At this point, I really don't know if I can deal with renting from an individual again. Not like this. I need to be separate from the landlord. I need my apartment to come through. I need that peace and security right now. I don't have much hope that I'll be accepted into the apartment complex at all. My credit is crap. But I need it.


CrouchingOwl said...

You understate the severity of the growing up boundary issues. I remember a lot more than you have mentioned.

sleepyhamster said...

I would be interested to hear what you remember. I feel like there's a lot I've either just blocked out or just had too much happen to be able to remember everything.

CrouchingOwl said...

Umm, a couple come to mind. One is how when your baths took too long mom insisted on declaring that if you wanted to act like a child who didn't know how to bathe herself you'd be treated as one, and I got full sound from across the hallway of you screaming at her that it wasn't right for her to touch you like that. I complained to dad about it saying it was really disturbing. He seemed... well, supportive of her trying to infantalize you to try to shame you into compliance.

Another is when you were doing some kind of repainting of your room or something. All of your stuff had to be taken out as a result and your only change of clothes or something was locked in another room that I had a key to. I was forbidden to allow you to access your clothing and mom, who had been bragging to me about how much personal growth you were having in taking charge of the bedroom project, started loudly proclaiming how she had you now and that you couldn't get out of doing the dishes because she had successfully tricked you into letting her lock up all of your possessions. Some memories deserve maniacal laugh tracks to go with them to give expression to how bizarre and disproportionate things got.

Here's one that happened to me all the time and I'd be shocked if it didn't happen to you too. I couldn't let her come near to helping me clean or reorganize my room because she'd try to take full control of reorganizing things and would try to force me to accept changes to my room that I objected to because if she was involved at all she felt a need to be fully in control of everything. I don't remember explicitly if that happened to you but given her personality regarding these things I'd be kind of shocked if it didn't happen to you too.

Or there were the careless and without empathy destruction of items that were put in "gunny bag" because she felt that if she had to clean up our mess it wasn't her responsibility if she destroyed by her carelessness. I'm not exaggerating she said that to me explicitly when I challenged her on her tendency to carelessly destroy things in gunny bag.

Another that comes to mind that while less traumatic kind of gives example to how pervasive the absurdity could be. EVERY single time we ate at fast food restaurants growing up until I was in my teens I think mom would insist on taking a bite of our food to prove to us that she had paid for it and that therefore she had the right to not let us have our own food to ourselves. I felt like I could never just be grateful for lunch without being reminded that she begrudged her charity of feeding her own children so much that she wouldn't just let me have my hamburger to myself. Kind of set up a kind of basic attitude of distrust for me. I'm fairly sure I remember she did the same thing to you as to me. No sense of personal boundaries in things small or big.

sleepyhamster said...

It amazes me how much I've forgotten. I remember her coming into the bathroom when I was bathing. I loved to enjoy my baths...once I actually got in. I don't remember the specific instance you're talking about, but I honestly am not surprised at all.

I think I remember her crowing about having all my stuff so I would clearly do whatever she wanted. I definitely remember when all my stuff was locked up because we were going through the remodel and my room was being painted or some such. It was frustrating because I couldn't do more than ask for different clothes or pajamas or some such. I honestly don't feel shocked that she thought she could control me because she had my belongings. As if I wasn't already used to living in a bare room stripped of anything of meaning. That's what she did with Gunny Bag (which oddly enough I had forgotten about until you mentioned.) I know she didn't care at all about my things getting damaged in it. I remember discovering photos that had been crumpled up and it was something that made me very distraught. I honestly think she, maybe didn't purposely destroy things but didn't even begin to try to avoid it. I mean, she would threaten to take a pair of scissors and shred my bridesmaids dress from Dave's wedding because she knew that meant a great deal to me and I would do so much not to have it destroyed.

I don't think she usually took bites out of the actual food that I would get, but when we got an ice cream cone or a blizzard, she ALWAYS took a bite. Always. And it was always the cool curl on the cone, which I always wanted. It was a small thing, but I hated it. It was MY food! MY treat! If she had wanted one for herself, she should have gotten one. But she didn't do it just for a snack. It was laying claim to it. Because she had bought it. I do remember her taking bites of your burgers, though. I think mine were always too small to really make it worthwhile since I had such a small appetite. But I wouldn't be surprised if I just didn't remember her doing it.