It’s amazing the lengths that Home Depot, Stanley tools and Benjamin Moore will go to make home improvement projects appear to be the ultimate in husband-wife bonding activities. According to glossy photos in their full-color advertising materials, laying tile, installing a bathroom fan and weatherproofing a deck together can do more for your marriage than a Mermaid Erotic Cruise. Last week’s newspaper circular featured models (who’d probably never met before) gazing happily into each other’s eyes as the wife seductively teased her man with a loaded spackling knife.
A Glidden paint color brochure I recently picked up, showed a husband bear-hugging his wife from behind while they painted the master bedroom, his hand clasped over hers around the roller as he guided her strokes. Her lips were parted as if releasing a slow moan. His face, of course, was turned inward perhaps kissing her earlobe as his solar plexus thrust forward in a way that made me look away bashfully, aware that I’d been staring at the page a little too long. My face was flushed. “Do couples really paint like that? Maybe I’m just old-fashioned and naive…and missing out,” I thought.
The paint mixer guy gave me a knowing look, as if to say, “I keep my own copy of that brochure behind the counter. Judging by his countenance, Mr. Sleaze Mixer got more from his job than just the satisfaction of blending a perfect Navajo white.”
What happened to John Madden and the Sherwin Williams overalls guy? Hollywood’s taken its toll on home improvement too. I hastily put the booklet back and exited the store in need of a cold shower.
On the way home I thought, “Maybe that’s just what James and I need to put the spark back into our marriage.” After a moment of visualizing the two of us in our own roller and paint tray version of the pottery wheel scene in the movie Ghost, I decided that we’d do a little home improvement of our own while the kids were away for the weekend. Our bedroom walls had been the same pus-colored hue for too long.
The weekend is now over. Things didn’t go quite as I planned. I am now the envy of most skunks with a stripe of dried paint down the middle of my hair. Our bedroom is the color of chocolate chip mint ice cream (except for the trim, which will never get done). And I’m still mad at James who rebuffed my flirtations and turned off my Barry White cd, saying that he painted better without distractions. “Honey, if you want me to paint, I’ll paint. If you want something else, just ask for it. Enough of the games, already!”
Oh how I wished I had the phone number of the couple in the Glidden brochure to call for a game plan, or at least a pep talk. Men are simple creatures and I must remember that. “Honey, let’s paint the bedroom means, simply “Honey, let’s paint the bedroom.” Not, “Come hither unto me, you stallion.”
I should’ve known things wouldn’t go as planned when we met at Home Depot to choose a color. I’d been studying décor magazines for weeks, jotting down paint color names like “serenity,” “tea time,” “Bar Harbor Sunrise,” and “Crème Brulee.”
It never occurred to me that James might actually have an opinion. That’s my territory. I don’t tell him which golf club to use at the 17th tee box or what kind of fuel injector cleaner to buy. But he seemed to have this odd obsession with an obnoxious shade of green called “kiwi.” (There was nothing about it that was fruity or reminiscent of a flightless bird) I was already set on “Wind Chime Azure.” James, just to be spiteful, said he hated it. I responded in kind about his “kiwi.” Then simultaneously, we both sighed loudly and said “fine, whatever.” Except I knew he didn’t really mean it.
Right then I recalled a line from a great book, The Surrendered Wife. “A submissive wife is a happy wife.” Nothing turns a man on more than when you agree with him and let him call the shots. Practice the line “whatever you think, Dear,” it preached.
“Honey, I want to get the ‘kiwi,’ I said, lying. It’ll look great. Lie number two. I won’t change my mind. Lie number three. James didn’t argue, just said to the clerk ‘We’ll take a gallon of satin in kiwi.” I could tell the clerk didn’t like it either, an observation I planned to bring up in a later argument.
We drove home, anxiously with the paint can in the backseat. I felt like a new mom leaving the hospital with the wrong baby, and it was her husband’s fault.
As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t quite recreate the Demi Moore-Patrick Swayze love scene. After James failed to notice my flirtations, I simply fell into painting…and talking…too much, apparently. Eventually he dismissed me from the project altogether, saying something about being driven slowly insane by my incessant babbling. I threw on a pair of sweats and turned on the TV. As irony would have it Ghost was on TBS, so I chose to watch Children of the Corn.
Lying in bed later that night, I pulled a classic passive-aggressive marriage card and mumbled under my breath, “I hate that kiwi color.” There was silence, then finally “Well, Honey, we ain’t changin’ it.” Then long, persistent snoring.
There are some valuable lessons here..
1) Don’t look for romance in home improvement ads.
2) Be perfectly honest about paint color selections. You may have to live with them for a long time.
3) Men really are simple creatures. Saying what you want up front can save a week’s worth of pouting time.