The unparalleled delights of escaping notice
April 24, 2014 5:35 PM   Subscribe

There was a children's book I saw once that addressed this; "Your Own Best Secret Place" by Byrd Baylor. It's a wonderful ode to how finding a space for solitude and calm is so important and how just being in it can be nigh unto spiritual. It's one of the children's' books I tracked down as an adult because I remembered seeing it as a kid and thinking "see, he gets it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

You know, for me it's not necessarily privacy, because I can go off by myself at any time, it's more the idea of being hidden a bit. Being in a house with lots of people but inaccessible is a pretty special feeling. I love hiding away when people know I'm somewhere, but they're letting me be by myself.
posted by xingcat at 5:59 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Good god yes. When I go to my parents', I'm astounded at the percentage of their communication that involves shouting; between rooms, floors, out the back window to the grill, out the front window to the car...always shouting. Then they try to do it to ME. But I don't participate. I either don't answer or I walk around with earbuds in...I don't have anything playing, it just gives me an excuse.

So yes, the magic if a secret spot to be alone is amazing...but at my parents' place I can always. Hear. The. Shouting.
posted by nevercalm at 6:15 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Part of it's that I still have a few hundred books in my old bedroom. When else am I supposed to tend to them?
posted by Iridic at 6:32 PM on April 24, 2014

Yeah when I'm home there's always a TV blasting, dogs running around and barking, and my mom and sister screaming at each other from opposite ends of the house.


Repeat for 12-16 hours a day.

And any silence must be filled. My mom actually has some kind of news app that pushes alerts to her phone every 20 minutes or so, so like clockwork you're guaranteed to get HEY DID YOU HEAR THAT SOME GUY IN MY HOMETOWN DID A THING? every 20 minutes. They're also fond of those reality shows that are basically "People Yelling Really Loudly: The Show."

Part of the reason I'm such a night person is from about 14 onwards I'd stay up super late in the evenings because it was the only time of day the house even remotely approached quiet. It's also why I'm so good at tuning people out.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:35 PM on April 24, 2014 [18 favorites]

of the reason I'm such a night person is from about 14 onwards I'd stay up super late in the evenings because it was the only time of day the house even remotely approached quiet. It's also why I'm so good at tuning people out.

This is why I did most of my homework and studying at night. I think it's still why I wake up at three in the morning with the urge to read a few chapters of something.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:43 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ha. Ha. My mom & dad used to do the shouting thing all the time. Different conversations from different floors or opposite ends of the house, frequently with two separate tvs on at the same time, all punctuated with WHAT DID YOU SAY? and I CAN'T HEAR YOU! More than once I was like, "Look, I'll relay a message. Just stop shouting."

On reflection, tho, all that only started after we kids left home, so maybe it was just a conscious or unconscious way of filling the silences that had entered their lives.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:35 PM on April 24, 2014

My wife just got back from visiting her parents. Two TVs on at high volume all the time, her mum shouting at her and her dad as both her folks are deaf. She came home for some peace and quiet. I love curling up quietly with a book in a corner, need to make myself a new nook.
posted by arcticseal at 8:12 PM on April 24, 2014

My cousin-in-law wants to come up with some kind of treehouse for his kid for this reason. This shall be interesting considering he has a new house and small yard and no tree in it, but I appreciate the thought.

I could have used one as a kid to get away from my parents yelling, but no dice. Plus once they finished fighting, one of them would come in to yell at me a la the Chain of Screaming. Who was I supposed to yell at, the rabbit?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:12 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ahh, the wonders of privacy and solitude... No shouting in my childhood home, but that didn't stop me from hiding somewhere to read and think - mostly to get away from my big brother. Best place? Under the walkway by the docks down the street. Pull out the rotted board from the side, crawl inside, replace it. Completely hidden for hours at a time. I had a cushion, some water, and some snacks hidden there. Plus a fishing rod and bait, so I could switch to fishing at the end open to the sea for a bit if I got bored with the book.

I went back there as an adult many years back. The dock/walkway is still there, and you can see my little cubby (sans cushion) underneath. No rotted boards to pull away anymore, though, and I doubt I'd fit...
posted by gemmy at 8:34 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not even privacy, for me, but blessed silence. My father is from the land of shoutsalot, and both he and my brother play drums and guitar. I don't think that I ever had a conversation without someone shouting over it, forcing us to relocate away from their drum playing, or being interrupted by the other person's desperate need to start singing and drumming in the middle of a sentence.

To this day it makes me furious. My partner, when annoyed at me, will start singing while I'm trying to converse, and I still have no ability at all to cope with it--it leaves me frustrated and wanting to go cry like a child.

When I was relatively small--like, younger than ten--I had a lofted bed--bed on top, pull-out desk, and cupboards. But if you crawled under the desk, there was a space that was nearly the full length of the mattress, and just over half as wide. I'd throw down my favorite blanket and some books, then go down and pull the desk back into the bed, and be alone for hours. It was glorious.
posted by MeghanC at 8:44 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Generally speaking, I find it interesting how easy it is to regress as an adult going back to live with your parents. When I was 27 or so I spent almost two months back at home waiting for a German work visa to come through. After 2 weeks I found myself waiting for them to go to bed so I could sneak into the backyard to smoke a joint, then it would occur to me that my mom had been asking me to pick some up for her earlier that day.

But yeah, even without a loud household upbringing, the peace and quiet has always been a big part of why I'm a nightowl. It's just the only time I really feel like I can organize my thoughts.
posted by mannequito at 8:56 PM on April 24, 2014

We have a hideously overgrown 12-foot-tall bush in a corner of our backyard, so we hacked out a child-sized tunnel that leads to a slightly taller "cave" in the bush for the kids to have as their private place, but with less poking out of eyes than if they were shoving through the bush unhacked.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

We just came back from our annual 3-month stay in Japan, and we went to my parents' place for Easter dinner. Holy cow. It's a madhouse of breathless conversations, interrogations, buzzing things, chiming things, television, blaring Michael Buble, arguments, missed phone calls... it's sensory overload.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:22 PM on April 24, 2014

With me it was The Cornfield. When I was about nine someone bought part of the woods that lay between my street and another street to the south, and cleared it for farming; we kids were already checking things out partway into the woods because that's where this skating pond was we used. A few dozen yards past that, though, was where the cornfield began.

Sometimes we used it for sledding in winter (there were awesome hills), sometimes my brother and his friends would take BB guns and motorbikes out there in winter as well. But I also started using it own best secret place. Not because home was noisy or chaotic or anything, but more because...well, when you're eleven and twelve, there are some thoughts you're first beginning to think that need even more privacy than even your own room can give you. My room and my house could get quiet, but in The Cornfield the silence and solitude felt TOTAL - total enough to make it safe to entertain some of the thoughts I'd started to ponder, those scary first steps out of childhood thoughts, because "there is no way in HELL anyone is gonna intrude so whatever I think out here it will be safe".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, still in the single-digit age range, I was convinced that all houses had secret rooms and/or passageways. It never occurred to me until now how much of that belief was wishful thinking.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:09 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mine was the woods on the land we moved to while I was still in middle school. At first it was a good place to go birdwatching, but then birdwatching became my excuse to go be more alone than I could be in my room.

Dad cut paths through it just twisty enough that you could easily shuffle onto another one if it sounded like the neighbors or family were taking a walk through. A winding creek, heavy thorn trees and large beech and birch, and a mix of large bushes and grass made it sometimes difficult to find someone (or a dog that wandered away) even in the winter, despite the small area the woods actually covered.
posted by DisreputableDog at 11:32 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I myself couldn't stand all the constant shouting and conversation and flat out NOISE my relatives engaged in, so I finally bought an old farm house in the woods near Big Basin. It's glorious to finally have my privacy in a big old quiet house away from the city, and I get more work done than ever with nobody around. Well, there are the two creepy little girls in Edwardian dress on the upstairs landing, but at least they don't try to TALK to me.
posted by happyroach at 12:41 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

There was a small old cemetery near our house, with a row of overgrown pines along one side and a wall of brambles at their feet. I loved to burrow through those brambles to a small 'cave' I'd shaped in the middle, or climb to a favorite hidden lookout spot in one of the pines. I still have a fondness for old cemeteries and the scent of pine tar.
posted by easily confused at 2:55 AM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Every day, my dad would come home from work, give my mom a peck on the cheek, take Time or Aviation Week from the coffee table and head to the bathroom - where he spent the next half hour incommunicado. One glorious thing my entire family understood was a place of your own.
posted by klarck at 5:33 AM on April 25, 2014

This is so interesting. Away from home, my dad was everyone's favorite guy, the life of the party, and the funniest guy in the room but at home, his untreated depression took over and he pretty much shut down and just watched a lot of sports. Being an only child, my house was pretty quiet; I don't like noisynoise in general, but I find (non-angry) shouting across the house to be kind of comforting, and probably explains why I'm one of those people who defaults to having a tv on in the background. At 49, I'm finally at a place where I appreciate -- and sometimes even crave! -- quiet. Grass, greener, etc.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:46 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a hideously overgrown 12-foot-tall bush in a corner of our backyard, so we hacked out a child-sized tunnel that leads to a slightly taller "cave" in the bush for the kids to have as their private place, but with less poking out of eyes than if they were shoving through the bush unhacked.

I don't really know what it's called but there is a type of evergreen bush/hedge/thing that was everywhere in my neighborhood growing up -- they were basically all hollow. It was like a nature-made clubhouse, and usually you could see out but not see in. They were pretty awesome.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:55 AM on April 25, 2014

With me it was The Cornfield.

For a second there I was really worried that you were taking this to an Anthony Fremont Twilight Zone place. There's no alone time like the eternal alone time you find when you've been wished away to...the Cornfield.

Back on topic-- being alone and being quiet are the best, and sometimes when I'm visiting friends or family I'm startled by how jarring I find it to hear other people doing things, breathing loud, talking all the time, harrumphing, etc. Now that I've written it down, it sounds sad, but when I'm alone in my house I often sigh in satisfaction at how excellent being ALL BY MYSELF truly is.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:24 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wife and I generally IM each other if we're in separate parts of the house, rather than shout across rooms.
posted by octothorpe at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last fall due to circumstances beyond my control I found myself back with my parents. At the time I wasn't sure for how long but now it's looking like I will be there for a while. I really wasn't sure how I was going to cope longterm. I get on with my parents quite well but I had been essentially living on my own for a few years. I had gotten pretty used to tons of privacy in my daily life.

Reading the article made me see how I've found my special private place in this new situation. Before moving in with my parents I was very much a night owl. What I find interesting is that now I've completely switched to an uber early morning person and really enjoy this time of day. I now go to bed several hours before my night owl parents and am up several hours before them. It's not uncommon for me to be up at 4am even. Essentially I've created a private place of time where it's just me doing things in the house.
posted by Jalliah at 11:25 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mulberry tree, with just the right branching for comfortable sitting, and just the right accessibility. A book and a thermos of Coke.

I've lived by myself since I was 20, and while that does have some very negative effects---I get lonely, I know---when I go back for extended family visits I am always a bit discombobulated at the noise and the business and the activity. I get to a threshold at some point...
posted by seyirci at 1:55 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh god I loved finding hiding places from the chaos when I was a kid, but if you do it as a parent it's called "neglect."

Sometimes I wish SO MUCH that I could just leave my one- and three-year-olds to their own devices and read a book in my room for a while. I expected parenting to be hard in a lot of ways, but I did not realize what it would me to me to give up solitude completely, for years...
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:44 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Apparently MeFi is full of introvert intuitives raised by extrovert sensories.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:23 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

> There was a children's book I saw once that addressed this; "Your Own Best Secret Place" by Byrd Baylor

I don't know that one, but I love A Little House of Your Own by Beatrice Schenk de Rgniers and Irene Haas. It's about how it's fun to be with other people, but every now and then you need a place to relax by yourself. It could be a treehouse, it could be under a table, it could be behind a mask.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:53 PM on April 26, 2014

Reading this thread is like crawling back into all my nooks, and disappearing into the woods with just my dog for hours on end. BRB, gonna go drag all my blankets and pillows into the closet.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:10 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Black Saturday   |   “Why in the world would someone be doing this with... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments