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the other bubble
by Anne Austin
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When I was growing up, my dad always said that if he’d had any sons, he would have killed them before they reached my age.  I took it as a compliment.  I was the youngest of three daughters and my belief that boys were covered in cooties and made of snails and puppy dog tails held fast. Boys were a mystery to me, and if my dad couldn’t handle them I saw no hope in my comprehending them anytime soon. 

It isn’t that I was a particular girly girl.  When my mom threatened to take all of my pretty dresses away to convince me to go to pre-school, I told her to take my tights too.  I played Barbies and house, but I also played sports and watched “He-Man”.  In elementary school, I took pride in the fact that I could smoke all the boys in the fifty-yard dash.  All growing up, I kept myself at a safe distance from the cootie-carriers.  That is, until I just couldn’t outrun them anymore.

Just this past summer, I moved in with four male friends in southern Spain after spending the year there studying abroad.  Before this, the closest I’d ever been to living with guys my age was in the dorms my freshman year in college.  I'd lived in an all-girl hall, but the cloud of stench that crept out of the boys’ floor below us made me gag every time I ventured in that direction.  But even then I could keep myself at a distance.  Living with four guys in an apartment meant there would be no escape; I would be forced to view the world from inside the other bubble. 

When I first saw the apartment I wanted to scream out of both enthusiasm and sheer panic.  There were going to be five of us living in a two-bedroom apartment that had a 5-square-foot kitchen with a camping stove, and a bathroom so small you had to put your feet in the shower to sit on the toilet.  The other bubble was going to be much smaller than I had imagined.

The setting was so intimate that we couldn’t even shower without someone knowing exactly when we slathered on the soap.  In the female bubble I was used to, pure nosiness would have made this living situation both impossible and ideal at the same time.  Ideal because every situation could be a social situation and impossible because it would be a perfect breeding ground for gossip (I won’t even mention the absolute impossibility of five girls sharing one bathroom the size of a linen closet).

The guys and I, however, managed pretty well.  Everyone respected each other’s personal space (all five square feet of it) and the guys had an amazing talent of behaving at any time as if they were the only person in the room.  I was the only one ever wondering what everyone else’s plans were.  The guys seemed to move in and out of the apartment in a constant ebb and flow.  If they were going out, they picked up and left.  There was no worry about curling irons or what to wear or, often, even showering.

Before long, the southern Spanish heat made us all slow and stinky.  Many days, I was the only one up before noon. 

sidle on over this way please!

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