“OBSESSED with home décor? You may have self-image problems.” So said one headline in a recent Globe and Mail. I’m thinking of inscribing it in gold leaf around the mirror in my bathroom.
Adriana Barton’s accompanying story suggested that we baby boomers have finally given up on perfecting our families and ourselves. (A few of us never even tried, but the rest of you get an “A” for aspirational.) Now we’re thrashing about for a more “doable” improvement project, and the most obvious choice is our homes.
That’s great news for the coffers of home décor rags and TV series as well as purveyors of furniture and accessories. An associate professor at Queens University weighed in, however, as associate professors love to do. She told Barton that all this frantic re-decorating is about women trying to seize control of their lives in the face of numerous social pressures.
What a grim assessment. Can’t we just be seen as shallow, greedy and trite and move on?
I think the quest for the perfect household space has more to do with us middle-aged types having too much time on our hands as our kids become either independent or outright ungovernable. The more ambitious of us have given up on our insane exercise regimens. We finally understand the ogling we experienced in our youth is gone for good, and that fashion is designed for females no taller than 5’6”, weighing less than 120 lbs.
So we cast about for arenas in which we can apply what’s left of our sense of discipline and show off the taste we’re convinced we’ve acquired. Our most obvious option is finally transforming that dowdy bathroom, the one that smells, into an aerie that would inspire Scottish homestyle-makers Colin and Justin to dance a kilted jig.
After the bathroom’s done, we’ll conquer the world – at least, our world. We’ll regularly re-paint the entire property, launch a prolonged quest for lighting that flatters our eyes and skirts our jaw-lines, and constantly upgrade the furniture. We’ll treat our homes like the grounds of Disneyland, where, legend has it, the instant its workers finish painting everything, they have to start all over again.
Remember when your parents’ living-room dated back decades? A couch or chair was re-covered only after a grandchild or tiny senior citizen slipped through a hole in the upholstery and discovered Narnia. As a demographic, we baby boomers are more quixotic than our parents were – not to mention more affluent and acquisitive. Fed by the media, we’re also hooked on what’s “hot.” Modern magazines actually give us trend reports on paint colours, implying that we’re going to haul out the drop-sheet as soon as Tangerine is once again out of style and it’s time to invest in Quince.
It doesn’t end, though, with paint. Just as some fashionistas ruthlessly edit their closets in order to buy more, many middle-aged women (according to the Globe article) are on a perpetual quest to polish their living space.
Barton cites a website called Apartment Therapy where people post pictures of changes they’ve made to their décor and strangers react. What a ludicrous concept this is. Yet the anonymous folk who visit Apartment Therapy are just as weirdly intense as those seething online commentators weighing in on Obama vs. Romney. “Civility be damned,” they seem to say to themselves. “That set of homemade linen drapes looks like the remains of a squirrel family.”
On Apartment Therapy, I found that one woman calling herself AbbyStone had painted her bedroom lamp. She’d posted shots of the lamp before, and then after. Eleven people had Tweeted it, 42 had liked it on Facebook, and there were 101 comments on her bold move from opinionated strangers.
They didn’t confine themselves to the topic at hand, which was whether the lamp was better in its new format or not -- “Looks like a huge hand grenade. Intentional for the ‘masculine’ vibe?” sniped TiffanySeattle, supported by several other online louts. Some went on to make snarky comments about the dead plant and dream-catcher key ring included in the shots.
“The brouhaha over the lamp is immediately undermined by its placement next to the dreamcatcher! It’s a slow day at AptTherapy,” wrote slocumnavigator, who nevertheless typed another 70 words on the great lamp debacle.
One “nate f” was highly annoyed by AbbyStone’s attempt at resourcefulness. “I'm not going to rant,” he wrote untruthfully. “I'm just going to say that you should have just sold them to someone who would appreciate their mid century appeal and bought another pair to match your décor. Now they’re ruined!”
Dear AbbyStone, I hope your self-image isn’t linked to your home décor. If so, why don’t you try letting your interiors slump into a timeless, style-free mess? I find that approach equally effective for body and home.