At the time, I though marrying a carpenter was a smart move. I figured we would have the perfect Martha Stewart home. It was the eighties after all. But shit man, was I wrong. Men and ok, I'm not going to say all men, I have some male friends most of them gay, who also attend the church of white paint, but some men especially carpenters, have a reverence for natural wood. In my opinion this is just plain wrong. Wood is meant to be painted. It’s a blank canvas of possibility.
I should have known from the moment we started our first reno, a kitchen, that marriage number one was doomed. Knotty pine wainscotting and window trim. Yikes. And then he insisted on laying vinyl flooring over an old pine floor that was just screaming paint me white. Next came the almond cupboards with oak trim. What the hell is it with men and oak? It’s not pretty. The ex husband’s resistance to painting wood was a good barometer for his lack of flexibility and imagination in everything. And I mean everything. Garbage night was a thrill for him. It was the blonde oak fireplace mantel he’d hand crafted himself that sent me packing. Blonde to me is about hair not wood interiors.
So, after painting our untouched oak front door a midnight blue (remember this was the late eighties) which just about put him in the hospital, I moved out. I rented a dilapidated victorian semi that was in need of a complete paint job. Every single inch of it. I was in heaven. I mean, aside from basically having a post separation nervous breakdown, two little kids, a huge stack of bills and an ex husband who now thought stalking me might be a good idea, white paint came to save me.
I began with the kitchen which was basically a hallway. The cupboards were painted a mud brown which in the nineties would become taupe and tres chic but I’ll save that rant for later. I spent my evenings after the kids were in bed with a paint brush, Jann Arden and a lot of chardonnay. The thrill of a fresh coat of white semi gloss kept me sane. Well, kind of. After the cupboards, I painted the walls and the trim and before the paint was even dry I hammered up an old lace table cloth in the window and stuck some tulips in a mason jar. Voila Shabby chic. Definitely more shabby than chic but not only did the white paint breathe life into that stale old kitchen, it breathed new life into me.
Things felt possible. Over the next year or so I painted the entire interior of that place. Floors, stairs and panelling. Lots of panelling. And yes, my friends, a fireplace mantel. I bought a used white pick up and spent my free weekends foraging for paintable pieces at yard sales. Once in a while I was a bad mom and woke my ten year old up to help me rearrange furniture because I couldn't wait until morning. I went blonde. I called the cops on the ex and his nightly drivebys stopped. My appetite returned and because I was painting myself into oblivion night after night, I started sleeping again.
Thank you Benjamin Moore Simply White. You saved my ass. And so, readers, if you're in a loveless tasteless marriage, or you have issues with your mother, or you just don’t think you’re terribly interesting, here’s my advice: Fire your therapist, take those self help books back to the library and head to the paint store. You’ll thank me one day.