It’s been a while since I made a post about life with my little family of four. Back in October, I wrote a post about marriage and sisterhood, and why we all choose to live together. Today, I thought I would answer a frequently asked question that I get about our lifestyle.
We are two couples who live together, and when I tell people that I live with my husband, my twin sister, and her boyfriend, there are a few stock responses I get. (That happens so much in life. I get the same joke every time I tell someone my name, too. And I often get stripper jokes when I tell people I’m a dancer. But that’s beside the point.) One of the responses is “Oh, I’ve always wished I had a twin. That must be so nice.” Which is great. It is so nice. Another one is “I would never want to live with my sister. Don’t you need to have your own identity?” People ask us when we’re going to grow up and form our own households, or how that will never work once my husband and I “start a family.” Which is funny, I think, because the four of us together already HAVE started a family with each other.
Anyway, none of those are the questions which I intend to address today. The real question I get is only asked by people I know a little bit. It’s not asked by the dentist or the business contact, but by people who may someday turn into friends. And that is the question of privacy.
We somehow have this idea in our society that if you are a single twenty-something and have a roommate, privacy isn’t a real problem. If you are a couple living together, it’s not a problem. If you’re a couple with kids, the kids probably get in the way of privacy, but of course they do. But why on Earth would a couple want to live with other adults? It’s the same question that couples with another roommate get a lot, I think.
And I’ll be honest, privacy has been a problem for us sometimes. In our last apartment, which was a big factory-conversion loft where the Architect and I lived with K throughout our engagement and first year of marriage, the walls to our bedroom did not go all the way to the ceiling. We had many whispered conversations in those days, since our bedroom was in the living room, acoustically speaking. K’s bedroom walls did go all the way to the ceiling, so at least there was some ability to have walls block sounds in the apartment. Our current apartment is so small that there is nowhere good for the Artist to put his computer, so his desktop screens face the couch and we can all see what he’s doing all the time.
We can’t walk around the house in our underwear. We can’t assume we can’t be heard. But we’re all adults. When the Artist and I are home alone all day, I often pretend I can’t see what’s on his computer screen and purposefully keep my eyes away in the interest of maintaining some privacy. We do sometimes have to build privacy. The Architect sometimes watches sports and the Artist plays videogames while K and I have girl time with our friends who come over. We snuggle in separate parts of the house at the same time, each couple in their own world. We steal kisses around the corner in the kitchen.
But maintaining that privacy isn’t the real issue of privacy when living together in a group. The real issue is realizing that in the grand scheme of things, privacy isn’t that important. Historically speaking, Americans have an insane amount of privacy these days. A hundred years ago it was normal for a family with many children to share a one-room house, and even all share a bed. And it was fine. And we’re so much happier having this big family we see every day and share meals and difficulties with that it doesn’t even matter that we have to sacrifice a small amount of privacy. We still have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We can get away from each other if we need to. But I would much, much rather have less privacy around the Artist, the Architect, and K than to be lonely.
And then there’s the question of the larger privacy issues in the world these days. Google knows more about me than many of my friends do. And there’s nothing that can be done about that, really. So what does privacy even mean? Who knows. All I know is that having two other adults in my house with my husband doesn’t make me feel like I don’t have privacy in the grand scheme of things.