68: The Indecorous Friend

68: The Indecorous Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

The Indecorous Friend

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

~Anna Quindlen

Interior decorating is the art of changing what already exists into something better. That means redoing my entire house. I never thought anything was wrong with my home until my friend, Arlene, an interior designer, stopped by for an unannounced visit.

“May I speak frankly?” Arlene asked. For years, “frankly” meant telling me exactly what I was doing wrong in all areas of my life: marriage, child rearing, investments, and now, home remodeling. What I wanted to say was, “Of course I mind if you speak frankly, you critical little wench!” Instead, I smiled and gave her my pat answer: “Your opinion means the world to me.”

“Good,” she said, dragging me into my living room, “because I’ve wanted to tell you this for ages, but never had the heart to hurt your feelings.”

“Don’t let that stop you.”

“It’s this room: it’s got to go.”

“Where should I put it?”

“What I mean to say,” she said, strutting about, “is that this house needs some work. Your home doesn’t reflect your personality. You need to emerge. You’re projecting the wrong statement.”

“Get to the point,” I implored.

“Do you want to be a beige person all your life? Your interior complexion is a bit pale.”

“Shall I consult a physician?”

“If it were only that simple,” she sighed. “You need to liven things up a little. Smear on some terra cotta — a touch of salmon perhaps. A smidge of café au lait. It will brighten up your furniture, not to mention add some excitement to your marriage.”

“Mort is already overly-excited,” I said.

She looked me straight in the eye and got serious. “Decorating is good for your sex life,” she whispered.

I stood there wondering why, with all the friends in the world, did I happen to get this one?

I looked around. “Where do you get off telling me that my living room is pale? And what’s wrong with beige? It blends.”

“Darling,” she said, “beige is so yesterday. It gives off the wrong aura. The walls resemble Muenster cheese. You need a complete facelift — an overhaul.”

“Maybe just the jowls,” I said.

“A window treatment, sweetheart. Get rid of those things that hang down. They’re getting stale.”

“You mean the draperies?”

“Draperies are a word you’re better off dropping from your vocabulary. The buzzword today is ‘window treatment.’ You want the room to scream ‘You.’ The décor must harmonize with your persona. It must create an effective design element that expresses your meaning of life.”

She picked up a piece of artificial fruit and bit into it, nearly cracking her porcelain laminates.

“For example, who puts fake fruit in a bowl?”

“That way it always stays fresh,” I said.

“You want to make order out of chaos. You need to think functional. Feng shui.”

“Perhaps, I should stack up the old pizza boxes and use them as an end table,” I suggested.

“Very funny,” she said. “Look, I’m here to save your marriage. A man’s home is his parking lot. There should always be an available spot or he’ll look for another place to park his car, if you catch my drift. It’s the special little touches that men find comforting. Let’s start with the basics. What is Mort’s favorite accessory?”

“The remote control,” I said.

“Darling,” she said, “I’m offering my advice for free. Don’t you want my acumen?”

Acumen, hell. What I wanted was to punch her in the mouth and tell her to go home to her color-coordinated, antiseptic, politically correct palace and leave me to my eclectic abode that defined my own style of personality: disarray.

“Your homework is to go out and buy all the home design magazines you can find,” she said. “And I’ll return with the swatches.”

“I don’t do swatches.”

“Oh-My-Gawd! You don’t swatch?”

“Is that bad?”

“Swatches can make or break a room,” she said. “You’ve simply got to develop a decorating attitude. Your home is a shrine, not a warehouse of inappropriate miscellaneous bric-a-brac. It needs organization. It needs élan.”

“Perhaps, you’re right,” I said, surreptitiously kicking a Häagen-Dazs container under a chair.

For the next several weeks I became the Decorating Queen of Westport. I poured through magazines and visited designer showrooms. I decided to discard the old and bring in the new.

“We’ll start with the bare essentials,” the saleswoman at the D&D building said.

“What is it that’s been sitting around for years, serving no purpose?”

“My husband,” I said.

She handed me swatches and told me to come back when I had a developed a better handle on home improvement.

In the end, I decided to stay with the look I love most: clutter.

When Arlene arrived on my doorstep a month later, I let her in with some trepidation. She surveyed my interior landscape and came out of the upstairs bathroom, beaming.

“I didn’t know you faux marbled the bathroom walls. They look marvelous.”

In her house, they may call it faux marble. At my place, we call it mold.

~Judith Marks-White

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