So the Hunky Carpenter Doesn't Come With the Tube of Caulk?

By Dispatch From . . . The World Of Diy
Monday, January 26, 2009

While the rest of Wheaton is up and coming, my condo development has definitely been heading south. Reading the monthly mimeographed condo minutes is like reading a police crime blotter, and if you want to get held up anywhere, the parking lot of my condo is where it will happen. Even though a wrecking ball can't be far from my development's future, in the fall -- before the big mortgage meltdown -- I had a sudden and uncontrollable urge to remodel my condo.

The fact that I have never remodeled anything in my life did not slow me down one bit, because I am a complete HGTV addict. Which therefore makes me an expert. HGTV is a cable channel devoted to home remodeling. It runs nearly 24 hours a day, and there is always an incredibly beautiful person cheerfully ripping out an old toilet or blowing fiberglass insulation into a crawl space while wearing designer jeans and joking around with a handsome carpenter friend. It is mesmerizing.

It is easy to imagine yourself showing off a brand-new kitchen to your brand-new glamour friends. But it's not that fabulous to be spending Saturday night marooned in your kitchen, covered in wet cement and sending a frantic e-mail to the do-it-yourself forum on a laptop spotted with paint.

What especially bothered me about this scenario wasn't the fact that I could quite possibly ruin my kitchen floor (and laptop), but that I felt and looked like a homeless person. This would never happen on HGTV, where no matter the project, shirts always stay neatly tucked in.

No one on HGTV ever sits on a wet paintbrush. No one on HGTV has ever been filmed trapped in his kitchen because a refrigerator is stuck in the door frame.

I falsely imagined that remodeling my condo would somehow turn me into a cheerful, HGTV-like personality, but instead it was just breaking me down.

Every waking hour that I was not at work was devoted exclusively to working on my condominium. The bathroom, kitchen and bedroom were all half dismantled, which was why I was sleeping in a sleeping bag in the living room. In the mornings, I limped to my day job like an old construction worker. The blue paint in my hair did little for my complexion but highlight the dark circles under my eyes.

Thanksgiving was spent laying tile and refinishing my cabinets. Christmas turned into a 48-hour chunk of time off of work devoted exclusively to putting up drywall. I barely saw my family.

And then it was done.

Instead of feeling elated like I anticipated, I felt miserable. I sat on my couch on top of gleaming wood floors and glossy-white floor molding and didn't know what to do with myself. All my tools were stacked carefully in the closet, sacks of grout and cement, cans of paint, glue and spackle. Outside in the parking lot, I could hear my neighbors screaming at one other and car tires squealing as some gangster shot down the street. I sighed involuntarily and with a critical eye and paint-speckled hands picked up the remote and turned on HGTV.

-- Adele Levine, Wheaton


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