Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Which I Give Up Before I Get Started

A friend of mine, through a fluke of gift subscriptions, receives two copies of Better Homes and Gardens every month. She very kindly gives me the extra magazine, giving me a chance to study the lives of people who have too much money and too much time on their hands.

The chief purpose of magazines like this is to make the reader feel inferior. Are there really people who never have dishes in the sink? Whose pantries stay perfectly organized? Who have boxes of craft things and can always find the tape when they need it? Who have matching dishes? Who manage to keep all their children's toys confined to a few tasteful baskets? Who repaint their kitchens every two or three years? Who display orange and pink throw pillows? Who put the bed skirt on the bed instead of tossing it in the back of the closet? Who wear heels and pearls while washing dishes? Who arrange vases and antique-looking knick knacks on their bookshelves instead of books?

This last point is the one that really gets me. Any picture of a home that includes bookshelves inevitably looks like this:

Arrange Perfect Bookshelves Every Time

Seriously. The caption on this photo is actually "Arrange perfect bookshelves every time." On these bookshelves are vases, candles, framed pictures, large shells, and boxes (which probably contain scented pine cones and other out-of-season decorations). Where the poop are the books?

Oh. Here they are.


Very charming and artistic and everything, but what happens when you want to grab a book that isn't on the top of the stack?

Boom. That's what happens.

But magazine people don't have that problem, because magazine people don't actually buy books to read them. Magazine people buy books to fit their décor.

So I flip through the home section pretty quickly and move into the gardens. Which is just another opportunity to feel inadequate, because I can keep a plant alive for about a week and a half before it dies a grisly death. I also skip through the craft section, because I am not the sort of person who should be allowed anywhere near scrapbooking supplies.

But I can make a mean French onion soup. The kind that takes a whole afternoon to simmer. The kind with inch-thick baguettes and melty, bubbly Gruyère on top. If I had the magazine people over for dinner they'd ask questions about calories and fiber content, and they'd note that our books are arranged by genre and author, not color, and they'd politely choose not to remark on the fact that I still have gourds and dried corn on the table from Thanksgiving.

I have genetics working against me here. Twenty years ago my parents were trying to sell their house and they painted the living room a particularly striking shade of blue. It wasn't even dry when the realtor walked in and said, "Well, the first thing that has to change is that paint." Like them, I will never attempt dramatic decorating. I will never have a charming country home. But I'll always have soup and good friends and the man I love, and plenty of books to keep me company on rainy days.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Kathleen, you put perfectly into words so many things I've thought about! It may be encouraging to you, though, that I recently heard on TV that bookshelves should always contain books only and not decorative "stuff." This is the only way a bookshelf can be considered a "serious piece of furniture." So I suppose the jury is still out on the "perfect bookshelf every time." :)