From the blog at Powell’s Books — it’s the winning word in their OED contest — comes crytoscopophilia: the urge to look through people’s windows as you pass by their houses.
And who doesn’t have that urge? (Not in a skeevy way, you guys, for kinks and kicks, though in this instance I am only speaking for myself.) One of the few pleasures for a poor, underemployed urban dweller is a bit of flânerie (consider that the bonus word) and the chance to, with a quick glimpse, basically window shop other existences. Or cadge decorating ideas! Or maybe, if feeling petty, to judge your circumstances against those of someone else. Whatever the case, it’s a chance to allow your mind to drift, or wonder, after say, strolling past the Henry Jamesian townhouses near Washington Square, or squinting and grimacing while peering into the steel and glass monstrosities that sprouted like warts in the last decade, divining whatever humble, or hubristic, or saccharine stories that can be read into an old piano standing stately in the living room, or a dusty bookshelf illuminated by a replica Tiffany lamp. The empathy or envy at watching a young couple making dinner in tandem, the faintest bit of music drifting out from their stereo and into the streets. The things you recognize, or revile, the wanting or the rejecting or the someday wishes.
If that sounds way too romanticized, I guess then that indeed makes it the flip-side of the Peeping Tom (or Tomasina?), the stereotypically horned up panting thing with binoculars or a convenient perch, fervidly watching for the towel to slip from the careless neighbor who hadn’t bothered to shut the curtains after a shower. (We shant speak of the voyeuristically designed see-through showers at the Hotel on Rivington and their ability to make anyone complicit in acts of carnality.)
Remember when Peter Vallone Jr. proposed his anti-peeping legislation? It would have hampered what is a quintessential New York pasttime. The imagined life can be worth investigating, if for one brief interlude at a time. [PowellsBooks.BLOG]