The reluctant nudist
Lynette Evans

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I was drying my hair when I heard the front door open. Oops! I pushed the bathroom door shut and grabbed my bathrobe. Across the bedroom, the door was still open to the hall.

Getting dressed in the morning wasn't always a problem. We're not exhibitionists, but as a couple with no children and being thoroughly middle class (ergo, no servants), John and I are used to being able to move through the interior of our own house without having to be completely dressed.

So, I've been caught half-dressed more than once since "Igor" moved in.

Igor (not his real name) is the fellow who came to refinish the kitchen cabinets, which, of course, led to refinishing the floors, and repainting the entire loft-like living space of our house. He hasn't really moved in - he does go home by 9 at night - but as one thing has led to another, he's become our Eldin, the painter (played by the late Robert Pastorelli) who annoyed Candice Bergen on the old "Murphy Brown" TV series.

Unlike Eldin, Igor doesn't talk much (we don't share a common language), and he is industrious, neat and expert, if slow, at his craft. Nevertheless, along with the desire to have a living room without paint cloths draped over the sofa and sawhorses where the coffee table used to be, I miss being alone in my own house. I miss being able to communicate as long-married couples are wont to do - emerging from the bathroom wrapped in a towel and waving a toothbrush, to say: "And another thing ..."

One aspect of sharing our space with Igor that has been nice, if costly, is that on weekday evenings we've taken to trying new-to-us restaurants and exploring neighborhoods other than our own. Anything to get out of sorting through the kitchenware and books now stored in the various bedrooms, which will fall under Igor's paintbrush when he finally finishes the living room.

And we've been going to lectures. On Wednesday, we were enraptured by the sea stories of Sylvia Earle, speaking to Commonwealth Club members gathered at the Aquarium by the Bay. Earle, former lead scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a distinguished deep-sea diver, was talking about the relationship of humans and land to the oceans.

"We are stressing our life support system," Earle said.

She was talking about the humans' impact on oceans, but this morning as I entered the kitchen to find Igor standing on a chair, taping plastic over the ovens in preparation for painting the ceiling, I couldn't help seeing a comparison with life on land. "We're connected," Earle had said. Little does she know.

E-mail Home&Garden Editor Lynette Evans at [email protected].

This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle