This morning, I was watching the New York Yankees’ Old Timers’ Day celebration on TV with my husband. At one point, the camera focused on the announcers in the booth in such a way that you could see the floor behind their desk, which was carpeted with a Yankees logo. I turned to my husband and said, “Could we get that? For the game room?”
And I pointed to the front of our house, where the grown up living room used to be.
Let me back up a little.
When you first move out on your own, it feels so important to be seen by the world as an adult. A full fledged grown up. A responsible human being who can take care of herself. Because you’re so afraid you’ll be revealed as a fraud, as the overgrown child you know yourself to be.
The little things become really important: a matched set of silverware. Also plates that match and don’t have cracks. Towels that you didn’t steal from your parents’ linen closet. A kitchen table and chairs that don’t fold. A roasting pan with a rack, and the knowledge of what to do with it.
All of these things are indicia of adulthood. Look, I’m not just a kid pretending. I’m a bona fide grown up.
Over time, these things accumulate. Soon, all of your furniture matches, except, of course, for the antiques. Your clothes aren’t from thrift stores, they’re from consignment shops. You research before you buy. You use coupons.
Oh god. This sounds dreadful, doesn’t it?
But the bottom line is, you do grow up. You achieve that sense of adultness you wanted when you were younger.
You also get — grow, become — older.
You may have heard that many women in their 40s and 50s find they are happier and more self-confident than they ever were in their 20s and 30s, even though — and trust me on this — their bodies are softer, more wrinkly, and less reliable than in their younger days. As we get less objectively “beautiful,” we get more subjectively amazing.
This is truth.
This is also true for men. The good ones, anyway. I can’t speak for the assh*les, but I’m pretty sure they just remain assh*les.
Which brings us to the game room.
Do not mistake me, here. I am still very much a “matchy-matchy” person. I love that my furniture goes together. I love being able to seat 12 people at my dining room table with matching dishes, flatware, glasses, and cloth napkins. I love my nice things. I like being a grown up.
But I also don’t need to impress you with that fact anymore.
A few months ago, my husband started talking about buying a pinball machine, one that he had spent hours playing as a boy with his best friend Jimmy. This didn’t come out of nowhere, as a pinball and video arcade opened in our town a few years ago and he made friends with the owners (he makes friends easily, my husband). We talked about the game, how much it would cost, how hard it would be to maintain, and — importantly — where we would put it.
For a long time, we figured it would go in the finished basement, which just seems like the natural space for a game room. I mean, right?
But then we thought about it. When you’re done with work, do you really want to go into the basement to play a game, especially if you have to be by yourself? Especially in the winter when the basement is really cold. You know you’re not going down there to do anything, even something fun.
We just knew in our hearts that we’d never play it if we relegated it to the basement.
So we started thinking, what about that living room we never sit in?
The houses we live in now were designed by and for Boomers, but we don’t live the way the Boomers did. The living room is one of those traditional signs of adulthood — a matching couch and loveseat, a coffee table, some nice lamps, some shiny books no one ever reads but make you look smart, some accent pillows artfully arranged — but it’s a room you never actually use. A room you could theoretically entertain in, but in reality, you lead people through it on the way to the fun rooms: the kitchen, the deck, the family room.
When we brought that pinball machine home, we put it in the living room, right by the window, at the very front of the house. We’re ditching the couch and putting in a pub table and stools. We are getting a bar. We’re getting two more machines.
We are grown up enough not to care whether anyone thinks we’re grown ups.