Is there anything more enticing than a drawn-back curtain, or more rewarding than a quick, walk-by investigation of all it reveals? An open window, lights on at dusk, a door momentarily left ajar, and suddenly you get a glimpse into another person’s world: the painting they’ve hung in the hallway, the shade they painted their living room, the way they stacked up their pots and pans by the sink, the supermarket basil wilting away at the sill.
My mum (like most Greek mums) usually offers as reasoning for her maddening pursuit of model-home tidiness this: what will people say? Meaning the neighbour popping round for a coffee, the relative dropping off courgettes from their garden, a friend visiting who might report back to her mum like a little Good Housekeeping spy. I’m reminded of that when I judge someone else’s painting or choice of wall hue, their Jenga-stacked pots and the dead plant – what do I say? I judge, but ultimately it’s my own life I’m critiquing, based on someone else’s choices. Don’t we all do that?
”I know the inside of your fridge, and your very own morning juice recipe.”
The Internet, the world’s second home, never known to half-arse anything, offers many, many windows for us nosy neighbours. On any given day I will know your waking-up routine, what sheets dress your bed, what products are in your bathroom cabinet, and the fleamarket where said cabinet was found. I know what candles you buy when you visit Paris, and how you turn them into holders for your make-up brushes. I know the inside of your fridge, and your very own morning juice recipe. I know where you like to eat lunch in your city, dinner in every other place you’ve ever visited, and what snacks you carry in your bag. Yes, I know who made your bag. I know what you do on weekends, and your preferred method for sweating out the toxins.
I know your sex diary, vacation diary and I-lived-like-Gwyneth- or-a-week diary. I know you have an impressive record/magazine /deer figurine collection, and that you display it in a credenza you inherited from your grandma. I know what books line your shelves, and skateboards hang on your wall. I know how many months you’ve succeeded in keeping your ginormous fig tree alive, what year your Merc is from and umm, that you think sitting commando in the sun with your legs spread open lets your vagina soak up vitamin D, thus making it (her?) and, consequently, you happy.
I know all this and what do I say? I say that some of it is useful, helpful and beautiful. I find some of it reassuring and some frankly alarming. I think you’re great, funny, mad as a hatter, and I adjust my life accordingly. Some days I revisit the home that an old couple in Cape Town made, surrounded by trees and art and memories, and it makes me teary and hopeful that I can make one, too. And then there are days when I open YouTube and type in “MTV Cribs Mariah 2002” and enter a whole other dimension. We pull the curtains back for a reason: to be seen, even if submerged in a fully drawn bath, wrapped in a towel, sipping champagne.