The Light Touch / "Marty the Man"
Marty the Man is back with a vengeance to do some home improvements and touch-up our kitchen and bathrooms. The estimated time of this minor renovation is "as soon as possible." He has just begun scratching the surface.
My husband, Mark, likes getting into the act, and considers himself to be a mini Marty. These guys make a great team: Marty does all the work while Mark stands by dishing out directions. My job is to lay low and not offer any suggestions, insights, opinions, recommendations or helpful hints. The last time I made the mistake of commenting on a paint swatch, Mark and Marty grew pale.
"If you really want to be useful around here," Mark said, "you can whip us up a couple of sandwiches."
"Where?" I asked. "We don't have a kitchen."
Instead, they sent me to the deli where I keep Marty fed on a regular basis so he'll have the strength to forge ahead.
But, who am I to complain? The future success of our house is, once again, in Marty's expert hands. Should a cross word pass between us or a petty annoyance put him in an ill mood, the color of our bathroom wall, which he is trying with great difficulty to match to the shade of George Clooney's eyes, could turn to battleship gray in a matter of seconds. I must play the role of the accommodating woman who is ready and waiting at a moment's notice to provide Marty with whatever his heart desires.
"How about a nice cup of joe?" Marty asks at 10 a.m. "I could use a jolt of caffeine." I hopped to it.
At noon, I throw a drop cloth on the table and prepare pitchers of iced tea and go over to Fortuna's for alpha-male hero sandwiches.
"How about some milk and cookies?" I inquire demurely at 3 p.m.
I have become the fantasy woman every man dreams of. My motive being: I want Marty to get his act together so my house will be back in working order, and I can resume a normal life. In the meantime, I cater to his every whim.
Last week I came home with a nice Ralph Lauren linen shirt. Mark opened up the box.
"Hands off," I told him. "That's for Marty. He needs to make a fashion statement while he's out on the deck sawing wood."
Marty the Man works hard. So, he needs constant breaks.
"Just how many breaks does he take?" Mark wanted to know. "I'm paying him big bucks to keep his nose in the toilets. Otherwise, our bathrooms will never get done."
"There's the coffee break, the lunch break, the mid-day snack, four o'clock high tea and then there's the nap."
"Nap? Marty takes naps?"
"Marty needs his beauty sleep so he can lift heavy machinery," I said.
And then there is the matter of the dumpster. It used to be that having a dumpster sitting in your driveway was the ultimate eyesore. Today, it's a different story. Dumpsters represent affluence. Dumpsters mean you're in the money and are discarding the old to make way for the new. Up until now, we considered ourselves misfits because, unlike our neighbors who were doing exciting things to their homes, we never had a dumpster to prove that we were keeping up with the Joneses.
Home renovation carries with it the ultimate fantasy. Just tell someone you are planning to redo your house and their eyes light up. That's because people love spending your money -- not theirs. Since we've begun refurbishing our house, all our friends are getting into the act. They spend hours asking us intimate details of every move we make. We have become a fun couple -- the darlings of our social set. People live vicariously through us.
"What colors are you painting your kitchen walls?" our friend Charlie asks over dinner.
"We're going the politically correct white route," we say.
White I've discovered is that white includes more than 500 assorted shades. Choosing the one that best represents our personal palette isn't easy. White Linen, Navaho White, Café au Lait, White Biscuit and Moonlight White are not whites at all, but varying shades of cream. Then there is our favorite: Rose Petal White that gives our walls a subtle touch of pink. "Pink," the guy over at the paint shop tells me "is the new kitchen color."
For a while, we were going to do our kitchen walls in puce, but we felt that the color of baby poop didn't add the right ambiance for food preparation.
And then there's the matter of texture. Mark and I have been arguing over matte versus high-gloss finish for days. Our conversations deal only with matters of the home. We've become a very boring couple.
Anyone embarking on home improvement should have an in-resident family therapist. Enter Marty the Man. In between slapping a coat of latex on the walls, pulling out our toilet with his bare hands, and adjusting the trim, Marty stretches out on the couch. After scraping the floors, hanging the light fixtures and putting in new shelves, I prepare hors d'oeuvres, slip a stool under Marty's feet and serve him a martini, shaken not stirred. When Mark and I argue, Marty sits back, and in the midst of his cocktail high, administers couples' counseling. "I want a kitchen with cubbies," I scream. "And I want a wine rack," Mark shouts back.
Marty anticipates our every need. "Peace," he says, "you'll have it all," as he envisions dollar bills floating in front of his eyes. Our renovation might not be completed until the summer is over, but thanks to Marty the Man, our marriage will outlast our renovation.
Only yesterday, I stood at the bottom of the ladder, shouting, "Hey Marty, we're running out of spackle."
"Yo!" he yells back. "So what's for lunch?"