Here are some hard-won techniques for dealing with hardcore renovators:
The Retaliatory Story. Renovators derive their chief pleasure from smothering a gala gathering with facts and figures on just how much money was made from their extra occupational therapy.
"Ah took this little shotgun townhouse in D.C.," they drawl, "fer $35,000. Killed the rats, pulled down all the walls, sanded the ceiling and painted the bathtub gold, and do you know?" Poignant pause. "Someone up and paid $150,000 for that dinky little place!"
Retaliation: "The orginal lighting in our home was really inadequate -- amateur work you know . . . So, we took out all the old lightbulbs, or at least the ones that had burned out, and went down to our favorite hardware store -- Bill's Hardware. It's hard to find, but worth it, we think. Then we invested in four, maybe six lightbulbs, and inserted them in the old sockets." Pause for demonstration.
"We reckon we saved 67 cents by doing it now instead of waiting until all the lights went out. And think of the investment potential."
The Equal-Time Tour. When friends break away from knocking out walls or putting in dormers to visit you, spend the first 15 minutes of your evening together giving them a tour of your home. Show them the bathtub where you spent the night before, soaking; the bookshelf full of novels you've been reading; the Girl Scout project you're organizing; the chair where you think and dream.
The Quick Comeback. As a renovator launches into his eulogy for the old house, inject a non sequitur into the conversation. Tell him renovating is against your religion. Tell him you used to renovate, but you've learned to overcome it. Tell him you joined Renovators Anonymous, and volunteer the phone number. Tell him you think his house looked better before he changed it.
The Glazed Eye/Slack-Jaw Reponse. When you're stuck with still another oral critique of a renovating project, use the time to plan next month's menus, or plot your new novel. So long as you keep your face in thoughtful repose, your renovator will feel himself well-audienced
The Picture Game. As you flip reluctantly through the pages of "House Beautiful" and its ilk, imagine your children in each stylishly perfect room. Mentally insert a paper airplane in the chandelier, strew the spanish tile with snow suits, and scatter half-eaten apples on the handpolished butcher block.
Giving Them Their Due. Anyone in the midst of renovating has enough problems without taking on your glee about not being in their situation. eSo keep your guffaws to yourself, and offer them access to your shower and an occasional three-burner meal. After all, you don't have to live in their self-imposed drudgery.
So noblesse oblige, and count your blessings.