"How Much It Costs for a Room of One's Own"
Martha Stewart told me that I needed my own space.
She insisted that in a single afternoon, I could create a private and productive environment for myself by picking a spot somewhere in my house and tailoring it to fit my needs. She showed me how by transforming a mud room off her kitchen into a spectacular office, and, in a single afternoon, she painted the office, stenciled it with gold leaf, refinished the floor, and built a wooden wall unit from trees she had planted that morning.
I'm not a fool; I realized that Martha Stewart has the magic of television on her side, but in a quiet turn of contempt, I decided that I could do whatever she did. She wasn't better than me. I could create an office in a single afternoon, too. If I felt like it, I could make window shades from twigs and canvas. If I had a chainsaw, I could sculpt a Nativity scene from a block of ice and make a delectable strawberry shortcake out of sawdust and a pound of confectioner's sugar.
Competition is healthy, as is jealousy to a certain extent, but it wasn't that as much as it was Martha's overall tone of voice. It was a tone of condescending perfection, almost to the point of mockery. She seemed concerned, but was she really? Did she really feel that it was important for me to weave a carpet from my dog's fur, or was she just being a show-off? Would my self-esteem really rise if I rented a steamroller and paved my own driveway, or was she just being a know-it-all? Why was I watching her show, anyway?
Well, I knew why I was watching her show: I was out of work, and I have cable. That wasn't the only reason, however, there was more to it that that. I was connected to her. Believe it or not, I'm almost related to her.
It's true, by an odd and disturbing set of circumstances. You see, I have a distant cousin who was the niece of the husband of my father's sister who I have never met. In fact, I'm not even sure if she is my cousin, but it enhances the story better than if I just said "some girl I heard of." In any case, this cousin graduated from Vassar with some degree and then became employed as Martha Stewart's personal assistant. Now, if you think I'm about to expose some horrible disfigurement about Martha's personality - like maybe she picks her nose when she drives or leaves skid marks in the toilet - you're wrong. Nope. What I'm about to expose is that this distant cousin of mine allegedly became romantically entangled with not Martha but Martha's husband, a dead ringer for an ugly Aristotle Onassis. If that wasn't bad enough, Martha's husband left Martha, divorced her, and then allegedly married this distant cousin of mine, after which they honeymooned in Europe for three months.
Now, my aunt, the one who told me this story, is known to exaggerate a bit, but I'm fairly sure that it's true. Sometimes I don't even care if it's true. I just feel lucky that I can pity Martha on some level.
And that's what I kept in the back of my mind when I decided in a single afternoon that the former Scary Room was the perfect spot for my new office, as I tore up the shag carpeting, swept away the spiderwebs, and threw away the dead lady I had recently found in there. I slapped the first coat of periwinkle-blue paint on the wall and it splashed back into my eye, causing temporary blindness. After an hour of flushing my eye with warm water, I went back into the new office, ready to resume my work, but it was dark outside. The sun had set. The single afternoon was over. Oh well, I figured, does it really matter? So I couldn't pull it off in a single afternoon, so what? Martha Stewart is still divorced.
The next day I finished painting and it started on the floor, pouring adhesive remover gel on the concrete to eat away at the remaining carpet glue. However, what Martha didn't mention was that it was pretty necessary to wear the proper attire, like a NASA space suit, when using such chemicals, because the remover was equally effective at dissolving flesh as it was at dissolving glue. This was apparent when I noticed, out of my remaining good eye, that the gel had eaten a quarter-sized hole in my pants and was now gnawing through my calf muscles. Oh well, so what, I figured. So what if I had chemical burns that really demanded medical attention, if not a skin graft, did it really matter? Martha Stewart was still divorced.
After the floor was done, I set out to find office furniture, especially a great big desk. At the first place I went to, a man with a huge scab on his head led me through a maze of warehouses filled with rusted and dusty cabinets and tables. The first desk he showed me was it; a huge, 1930's golden-oak detective's desk big enough to sleep on. I loved it, and when I voiced my concerns about fitting it through the doorway of my new office, Scab Head told me not to worry. He assured me that his delivery men were experts at this sort of thing. They could fit anything anywhere.
I bought the desk.
Two days later, a delivery truck pulled into my driveway, and the two "experts" got out. They didn't look like experts to me as much as they did convicts out on work furlough. I swore I heard the theme to "Sanford and Son" drifting through the air. They unloaded the desk, grunting and moaning, and carried it to the front door, where they rammed the corner of the desk into the door jamb and gashed it.
After fifteen minutes, and with the use of pen and paper, the experts finally figured out how to get the desk through the front door. My faith in Scab Head's men was definitely waning as they carried it down the hall and towards the new office. I already knew what was about to happen.
They turned the desk on its side and tried to slide it in. Didn't work. They moved the desk upright and tried to bring it in at an angle. Didn't work. They took the door off its hinges and tried to bring it in again. I knew that this maneuver wasn't going to work when one of them asked if I had a saw.
"Where is your second choice to put this desk?" the other one said.
I took a deep breath. "There is no second choice," I answered. "This room is my personal space."
"We don't have the authorization to help you any further," one of them sad. "We don't have the allowance from our boss."
I was getting mad. "It was your boss that told me not to worry about this," I mentioned. "He said you were experts."
"Yeah, but we don't have the authorization," he said again, as if that explained everything.
"Oh. Well, how I am supposed to get this in there?" I asked them as they began to put the door back.
They shrugged. "See, we'd have to call and get the authorization, you know, so we could spend the extra time to get it in there, but we just don't have it," the expert explained to me.
"Have what?" I asked.
"The authorization," they said together.
"Stop saying that and go. I'm giving you the authorization to get out of my house. Just go," I almost screamed. "You know where the front door is. It's the big wooden thing you put a dent in."
And they left, and I watched them go as I stood next to the desk in the hallway.
I knew what Martha would do.
I took the door back off the hinges.
I took out the drawers and used a screwdriver to pry off the top of the desk.
I turned the desk on its side and pushed and wiggled and pushed and wiggled until the desk was in my office underneath the window, and my spine was popped so far out of alignment that it nearly broke the skin.
Hunched over, I put the top back on and screwed it in place. So what if I couldn't stand up straight? Who cared if I couldn't walk anymore? Big deal if I was in agonizing pain.
I know what Martha would have done.
She would have bought herself a truckload of painkillers with her big, fat alimony check and drunk gin until she passed out, like any sensible divorced woman,
I wish I had an alimony check.