The Best Seat in the House
This story is true. The names have been changed because I want to remain married.
There aren’t too many running arguments in our house aside from the usual “It’s your turn to clean the cat box,” but my husband and I cannot agree on this one thing.
The controversy started on my birthday when my husband, Fred (not his real name), asked me, “Ginger (not my real name), what do you want for your birthday?” He then cringed, waiting for me to say, “I want a new car.” Heaven knows Ineed one. If my old car Betsy (not her real name) were human, she’d be getting invitations to join AARP. But in the current economy, a new vehicle is out of the question. Fred looked relieved when I said, “Don’t worry, I’m not asking for a car. What I want is … a window seat.”
This last part caught him off guard, and he stared at me in a “Who is this woman?” sort of way. “Is that what you really want?”
Why was he looking at me like I’d just said I want to breed llamas in the backyard? “Yes. It’s what I really want.”
Fred’s face conveyed multiple “o-u-s” words: incredulous, ludicrous, preposterous, which he topped off with a head shake that said, “What a ridiculous waste of money.” Over the years, I’ve become fluent in nonverbal communication.
“Well, Fred, you asked me, and that’s what I want.” I knew he thought I’d taken the bus to Crazytown, but I also knew if I’d asked for a flat-screen TV—something he wanted—a 48-in. Sony with surround sound would soon be vibrating our living-room walls.
He simply couldn’t understand that I not only wanted a window seat, but that I needed a window seat. I longed for, as Virginia Woolf put it, a room of one’s own—albeit a very small room. Twelve sq. ft., as a matter of fact—I’d measured the required bump-out. Just 12 sq. ft. carved out of my cramped little house where the stress and hassles of my daily life were not invited. My window seat would be a cozy retreat on rainy afternoons, a place to read whatever I wanted, to eat whatever I wanted, and to dream whatever I wanted. In my mind, I’d already selected fabric for the cushions, picked out the drapery hardware, and stitched the pleated swags. Why couldn’t my husband see how lovely it would be?
“Are you sure that’s what you want?” he asked again, hoping to hear a different answer this time. “You know, big windows don’t come cheap. The job could cost two or three thousand bucks.” This estimate was a gross exaggeration because not only did my husband own every tool known to man, he also knew how to use them. Fred paused, chewing on my request for a minute. Then two. “A window seat, huh? That’s the last thing I expected to hear.”
“Well,” I said, slipping in the zinger that would clinch the deal, “you can’t say that there are no surprises left in our marriage.” When he laughed, I knew that I had won him over.
“OK,” he said. “You’ll get your window seat, but it’ll have to wait until the economy gets better.”
I smiled. Waiting was fine with me, as long as he built it before my next birthday.
The following week at my birthday party, I took a window-seat survey. Our female friends all adored the idea. One said, “If my husband was handy like yours, I’d have him build one for me,” and another added, “That’s the reason I bought my house. I fell in love with the window seat.” Our male friends, on the other hand, found the whole idea silly, responding with a unanimous, “You want a what?”
Still, I felt vindicated, at least by the women. And also puzzled. Why did this issue split straight down gender lines? Although I tried to understand the men’s point of view in the great window-seat debate, in the end I simply had to accept the fact that men just don’t get it.
Women, though, understand the deeper meaning of a window seat, how it represents a respite from daily hassles and the promise of long, lazy afternoons spent with a cup of tea and a good book. Of course, my hectic schedule may never allow me to enjoy one of those afternoons, but a window seat reminds me that I could—the possibility exists. And some days, the possibility is all I need.