Off-Color

My daughter recently got married. As significant family events tend to do, this one highlighted some of the little quirks and dysfunctions that affect our closest relationships. As she and I were busy planning the wedding, I was forced to face a difficult truth about myself.

I know that the first step to recovery is to admit there is a problem. It’s hard to even admit such a failing to myself, much less write it down in black and white. Still, I know that being honest about this dysfunction is essential. Therefore, I am making this public confession. I am seriously decorating-impaired.

I discovered that planning a wedding means making decisions about Important and Significant Issues. Things like centerpieces. Bridal magazines devote entire articles to centerpieces.

Frankly, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I have centerpieces at home. The dining room table almost always has something or other in the center of it. Junk mail, usually. Or a half-finished crossword puzzle. Or, since I live with a geologist, a random assortment of interesting (to a geologist) rocks.

Okay, so centerpieces I can handle. I’m still at a loss, though, when it comes to knickknacks. Some people have all sorts of attractive objects strewn about their houses. They drape scarves here and set candles there, and are thrilled when they find some interesting piece of crystal or a pretty bowl at an antique store. I just don’t seem to have the knack for that sort of thing.

It’s a little-known fact, by the way, that “knickknack” is an old word from Sanskrit. Its literal translation is “stuff you have to dust.”

Of course, I do have things strewn about my house. There are the stacks of papers to be filed, the piles of magazines, my four pairs of reading glasses, and the occasional random hiking boot or teacup—not to mention all those assorted rocks.

Despite my disability, I do decorate my surroundings. I even own three paint rollers, four paint brushes, and a stud finder. I’ve painted complete interior walls of entire houses. One of my favorite things about painting is browsing through the color chips—not to look at the colors, but to read the names someone comes up with. Some of the actual colors I’ve used are Seashell, Snow Ballet, Early American Champagne, and my all-time favorite that I bought just because of its name—Pudding.

No matter how colorful their names might be, though, all those paint colors have one thing in common. Every one of them is off-white. Snow Ballet or Early American Champagne just sound so much more appealing than “beige.”

It isn’t that I don’t like color. I love color. I especially like the way it shows up against all those off-white walls.
In my office hangs a brightly-colored quilted pinwheel that my mother made for me. I picked out the fabric myself—four different shades each of four different colors. That’s sixteen separate and distinct pieces of fabric. It took me three hours, and by the time I got out of the fabric store my decorating disability had kicked in so badly that I had to go home and take a nap.

I know there is help out there for this failing of mine. There are entire magazines dedicated to the art and science of decorating one’s home. They have names like House Beautiful or Better Homes and Gardens. I’ve even seen one—this is a bit scary—called Bathroom Yearbook. I just can’t force myself to use these recovery materials. The only time I look at one is at the doctor’s office when the only other choice is a medical magazine with a name like Kidney Dysfunction Journal.

Because of my reluctance to change, I have decided my best choice is to learn to live with my decorating disability. It really doesn’t  impair my ability to lead a normal life. It isn’t causing difficulty in my significant relationships. I honestly believe I can manage my affliction.

One thing I need to do is learn not to blame myself. This doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or that there is something wrong with me. And after all, it really isn’t my fault. I can’t help it. I simply was born without any designer genes.

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