NOT THAT I AM OPPOSED to sleeping in on weekends, but come on. It is 6:15 a.m. and I am dressed, lipsticked, eyelinered and primped. The dogs and the husband haven't yet awakened, not that I haven't tried. "Rise and shine!" I've said repeatedly in my chirpiest little early-bird voice, but the lumps that represent my family have not stirred.

I go into the bedroom, pull the husband's arm out from under the covers, and yank. "Come on!" I say. "You are almost out of time!"

"For what?" he mumbles, opening one eye, seeing me all showered and perky. "Is something wrong? What is the matter with you? What happened?"

"I got up early to vacuum the attic," I say.


"Well, there were a lot of dead wasps up there. I didn't want the contractors to think . . ."

"Oh my God," he says, rolling over.

The contractors we hired to convert the attic into an office are due to start today. The job, they said, would take about three weeks -- and did we mind if they worked Saturdays and started at, say, 6:30 a.m.?

"Great!" I told them. "Oh, we get up early around here."

"We do?" the husband said. Please. And why didn't he just go ahead and tell them our TV viewing habits, too?

When you have contractors in your life, you suddenly have an audience. A group of people who get a close-up view of your life. Strangers who get to examine the inner workings of your household.

"Get up!" I say to the husband.

He looks at me, takes note of my cashmere sweater and wool slacks. "How come when it's just me, you lie around in that robe with chocolate stains all over it?" he says.

"Chocolate?" I say. "Those were coffee stains. And anyway, I got them out. I bleached my robe and yours, too. Because I knew you wouldn't be showered and dressed when they got here."

"You think the contractors are really going to care how my robe looks?"

I sigh, shake my head. He doesn't get it. "This is not about the contractors," I say. "This is about us."

"So we actually care what the contractors think about how my robe looks?"

Forget it. I can't waste my time on this. "Okay, darling," I say. "Do you want omelets and bacon, or would you like pancakes?"


"Nothing wrong with a wife cooking for her husband," I say. "And breakfast is the most important meal of the day!"

"How come when it's just me, you don't do omelets and predawn vacuuming?" he says, at which point I sigh. Is this going to be one of those prove-you-love-me tests?

"Look, if you get up now, I will go figure out how to use that cappuccino machine we got last summer and I will make you a latte. Didn't we get a free apron with that machine? Have you seen that around? I need an apron."

"Honey," he says, "I haven't seen you like this since we started dating."

Hmm. He might be on to something there. I do sort of have that first-date feeling. I wonder why I need strangers coming into our home to give me that feeling. Why is it that I put my best foot forward in front of people I don't know, instead of the person I love?

Why is it that our public selves often are so much neater, so much cleaner, so much slicker than our private selves?

Because, well, maybe it's more fun. It's fun to show the world the self you want to be so that, at least for a time, you get to be it.

Ding-dong. Time's up. Let the show begin. The dogs go tearing toward the foyer, barking like they're ready to rip someone's leg off. Great. See, I wanted to have them in the basement by now. I open the door. "Sorry about the dogs," I say. "We didn't actually intend to get three dogs. It just sort of happened . . ."

"You mind if we park the van on the grass and go in through the attic window?" says the head contractor. "And my electrician here needs to look at your box in the basement."

Wow. They sure do get right down to business. No time for cappuccino? By the time the husband appears in his freshly bleached and, might I add, Downy-soft terry-cloth robe, the contractors are not even in view. Fine. Well, I hope they appreciate how clean that attic is. Because I was not going to be a person who is oblivious to dead wasps in her attic. Nope. And I am a person who is up and dressed by 6:30 a.m. on weekends.

The electrician pokes his head through the basement door. "Heh heh," he says, smiling. "Your basement reminds me so much of my father's."

My basement? There is something noteworthy about my basement? I actually haven't spent a lot of time down there lately.

"Oh, I should bring my dad over here," he says. "Because you got even more than he does."


"Yeah, he collects junk, too!"

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is