When I was five years old my family moved to New Jersey. I remember the day we moved in. At the time it was a dark blue house with black trim. We had moved from Hong Kong and I had previously only known life in an apartment, in a city. Being in a house and living in a residential neighborhood was a very new experience for me.
I remember that the people that had previously lived in the house before us had extremely strange taste in decorating. There was pea green shag carpet all over the place and the tiles in the bathroom had been painted over in a hideous shade of brown that you could peel off the wall.
What I really liked about the house though was that it had four levels, basement through attic. This meant lots of opportunities for private play and exploration without my parents knowing what we were up too. The first time I checked out the attic however was quite an eye opening experience. The front room of the attic was previously used as a bed room and so it was a “finished” room. But the wallpaper was quite shocking for a five year old to observe. It was created to look like a negative print of a naked woman bathing from the waist up. She was striking all kinds of seductive poses with her long flowy hair. I remember standing and staring in open mouth aghast at such pictures printed over and over again all around the room. The thing was, because it was a negative print you couldn't’t see her in complete focus. Nevertheless, there was no doubt as to what I was looking at.
With all the chaos that is involved in a trans-continental move, this room was subsequently left untouched because my parents has so much redecorating and remodeling to do. The front attic room was left for storage and when someone needed something from there we began saying “It’s in the Booby Room!” The name stuck and the attic fell by the wayside.
The attic however was one of my favorite places to play dress up and make-believe. So I was always messing about in the Booby Room. The thing was, because I was always up there for one reason or another, the wallpaper began to get less and less noticeable. And less of an observation until I completely stopped seeing it all together. In fact we all stopped seeing it.
Every once in while I’d bring friends over and have to get something from the Booby Room and I’d bring them with me. It was always a shocking experience for them. It also became kind of a kick for me, because I was so immune to it. I thought “well hey, doesn’t everyone have a room in their house with somewhat visible naked women all over the walls?” Apparently not.
I remember one particular afternoon in about third or fourth grade. I had a bunch of kids over after school for CCD. For anyone who has never heard of it, it’s Catechism class. My mother was the catechism teacher at the time and we always met at our house. So after we spent a good hour and a half learning how to be good little Catholics we were hanging out waiting for the parents to show up and I got the great idea of showing the kids the Booby Room.
“Hey, you guys want to see something really cool?” I asked. They all said yes and I promptly marched everyone up from the finished basement to the attic.
I remember holding the doorknob and telling everyone that it was a secret and not to tell anyone what they were about to see. Everyone promised. I then slowly opened the door and stood aside for everyone to enter. They all filed in and the guys were like “Hey these are all naked ladies, cool!” The girls were a little more disturbed and asked me questions like,
“ Colleen, why do your parents have this wallpaper?” I explained that it was from the previous owners and that my parents just hadn’t gotten around to changing it. “Now remember!” I said.
” You can’t tell anyone that I showed you this or my mom will kill me!” What an idiot I was thinking these kids wouldn’t say anything. After all, this is just the kind of secret you want to tell everybody!
Later that evening we received a phone call from one of the kid’s mothers. My friend Katie Kennedy broke her promise and dropped the bomb to her mom about the Booby Room. So her mom called my mom in disbelief that a catechism teacher would have naked women all over a room in her house. My poor mother fumbled around trying to figure out how to diplomatically explain why we hadn’t chosen it and why we hadn’t gotten rid of it.
After she got off the phone I got nailed for being devious on purpose. What can I say? Sinning felt good for the moment, but the fear of my parents always cured me of doing the same wrong things twice. (Most of the time.)
Here is the interesting observation about the Booby Room. If a person is exposed to something over and over again, No matter what it is, our brains become desensitized to things. In my family we all became desensitized to this wallpaper and even though we all knew it was in our face when we were in the room, we stopped seeing it.
So there you have it. Another true story from yours truly.
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