catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 3 :: 2014.02.07 — 2014.02.20


Sharing a bathroom with sisters

During a recent conversation with friends, I discovered that a friend who grew up with two sisters, same as I, kept the door shut and locked when using the bathroom. This idea was strange to me and I asked her to repeat this once again. “You mean, you did not use the bathroom at the same time?” I was flabbergasted, for in my interactions with my sisters, the bathroom has been one of the central places of connection in our home. Yes, I had seen in movies siblings pounding on the bathroom doors, but somehow I attributed that to movies, not real life.

My two sisters and I share a single bathroom and have done so for the duration of our lives. And though I have moved out and my sisters are away at school, when we return home, the sharing resumes. I would like to say there are standards of decency and privacy that remain, but that would be a lie.  It is common for someone to be using the sink or mirror and someone else to be in the shower or using the toilet — perhaps all three fixtures used simultaneously. Someone is getting dressed and doing her makeup as another does her hair. We run between the bathroom and our rooms in various stages of undress finding that piece of jewelry, those shoes and calling out to our mother to see if we could borrow that necklace. At night, one is brushing her teeth and accidently turns off the lights as another showers, at which point she yells to turn on the lights and another walks in to turn on the lights and get ready for bed herself.

In many ways, I struggle to connect with my sisters. Each time I return home, they feel more distant, more of our lives unknown to each other, unspoken. I grieve this, especially as I acknowledge that they are close with one another. But somehow, that distance feels smaller within the bright orange walls of our bathroom. The nearness of our bodies bumping into one another is good. I sit myself on the bathroom floor as my sister teaches me how to put on makeup and do my hair, a task awkward and unfamiliar to my hands and face. We sing along to my other sister’s MP3 player sitting on the floor. I learn how to put on makeup, when to wear tights versus when to wear leggings, and the music they like. And over makeup, curling irons, straighteners, toothbrushes and towels, we have learn about each other — that exciting class she cannot stop talking about, that worry she carries, that friend she misses.

I cannot imagine the bathroom being a private space. After a friend tells me about her and her sisters, I tell my family the next time I go home: “Can you believe..?” It is not that my friend’s family’s privacy is strange — it is probably normal — but the juxtaposition of that idea to what happens in my house is disorienting to imagine. 

However, I wonder how this lack of privacy has affected my relationship with my family, for I struggle to identify any place in my family’s home that is private. My bedroom is shared and the kitchen, living room and dining room are common areas. In my introverted nature, I struggle to return home to a world in which there is no place to retreat to be alone. Privacy and personal space has not been held as something to protect. And so when I go home, I often wake up early, stay up late or go to my room early in an effort to be alone. And perhaps more significantly, as there is an expectation of sharing, I seek privacy by retreating inward, sharing less of my internal world. I do not want to have to share everything. I want some things to be private, for when something is private, there is an inherent value. And therefore when I share, there is more weight, more significance.

I wonder what unexpected places will be places of communion and sharing should I have a family. I also wonder what space would be maintained as private. Both sharing and privacy are important, for one informs the other. And so as my visits home contain purposefully atypical sleep patterns to allow alone time in a quiet house, I will continue joining my sisters in the bathroom as we get ready and conclude the day, for that is where we connect and share life. 

your comments

comments powered by Disqus