The other day, a salesman rang my doorbell and, peeking through the slats of my window, I saw that he was with a legitimate business and I opened the door. Our conversation was of the normal variety -- he insisted he was not really selling me anything, but rather offering me a fabulous opportunity for free merchandise, and I was trying to say go away without having to dig too deeply into my emotional reserve. The baby had been screaming all morning, and my two-and-a-half year-old son was having a difficult day as well. In fact, as the salesman spoke, my daughter was crying in the background, ever louder, and I was trying to get back to her as quickly as I could.
Aside from inspiring me to never open the door again, the brief visit called up a very particular feeling that was surprising when I examined it: I felt invaded, and like it was not right for him to be there; there was something too-familiar in the way he spoke to me, in the way he presumed to know what my household did or didn't need. In a way I felt like "covering up" -- not giving out any details, not saying much at all, and shutting the door as quickly as I could. And I felt like covering up in a real sense as well; I was not dressed for going out in public, and it seemed I was somehow just too exposed.
All of this made me think about the differences in modesty that had organically come about in me since I had gotten married.
Before I met my husband, I had some male friends, some of whom were just friends and some of whom may have wanted something different (though not many, I assure you!). I did not think anything of having a coffee with one of them if we happened to meet in the student union or the mall; there may have been faint romantic overtones but nothing really substantial, nothing ever followed through. In my single days these coffee meetings were something of a "pre date" that was a useful tool for deciding if I even wanted to date this person; mostly, the answer was no, and since I like coffee quite a lot, all told nothing much was lost. But my point in saying this is that there was a general sort of "openness" in my manner in those days that was a result of my being generally available for coffee and then for dating; often this openness showed itself in a sort of conversational buoyancy, a flirtatiousness that was part real, part fakery, a slight edge of coquettishness -- you know, giggling, tossing of hair, teasing, that sort of thing.
Not that I was ever that terribly good at it. My point is, I am different now. My happiness is deeper, more solid, more based on who I am than who I know; before I knew my husband (and I use that as the dividing line, because I knew I would marry him almost immediately after we met) I would not have thought anything of a traveling salesman's overly-familiar tone; in fact I might have enjoyed the exchange. I certainly wouldn't have felt uncomfortable to have been caught in a tank top and shorts, as I was wearing when I answered the door. These days, it just feels oddly uncomfortable.
All of this might sound like too much thought being given to someone just trying to make ends meet selling me things I don't need, but it got me thinking. Feeling that way about interacting with other men seems strange, from society's perspective, but internally it feels quite right, quite plumb. Weirdly, I like it better. (Sometimes I think I was made for a different time and a different place.) It reminded me of a story I heard of a woman who had chosen to dress very modestly as a married woman. Defending her choice, she said, when I keep myself covered there is more of me that is just for my husband. To others that might seem repressed, strange, too serious, or even sick. To me? It seems beautiful.