I Feel Bad About My House. Thanks HGTV.
A version of this originally appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on Apr 1, 2017
Aging cars that are always in the shop come with one benefit: The owners get to watch HGTV.
Lots of it, in my case.
These days it seems every service department waiting room has a TV mounted to the wall, tuned permanently to the home and garden network. Remember when cable news was the forced broadcast of choice? No more.
I’m guessing the masters of the screens believe HGTV is less stressful for customers than CNN.
They would be wrong.
The news raises my blood pressure. HGTV makes me sad.
An hour of televised home perfection and my 85-year-old house – the one I’ve lived in for 26 years and had hoped to leave feet first many years from now – seems tired. Like me, it’s in desperate need of a facelift. But there’s no money in the budget for any kind of nips and tucks, what with all these car repairs.
Fan modules. Window woes. Oil leaks. Timing belts.
Am I the only person who lives in what they always considered a lovely house but is overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy after a few minutes in home heaven? Clearly not. HGTV is now one of the most popular channels in all of cable.
I try to avert my eyes, read a book, work on a column while waiting for my car, but there’s something seductive about this network that features all those cute couples and their quests for perfect living spaces.
Viewers learn quickly that any abode without walk-in closets the size of a high school gym, or that lack a “bonus room” and an “en suite” bath is a candidate for an HGTV sledgehammer.
Does your shower have just a single nozzle? You’re barely clean. Does your master bath have only one sink? Your marriage is in peril. Are your countertops made of anything other than granite, quartz, soapstone or poured concrete? You can't fix a decent meal in such primitive conditions.
The biggest problem with houses like mine is that they were built in a time when people wanted walls. Consequently, they’re everywhere. My kitchen has walls. So does the living room. And the dining room. Walls, walls and more walls. It’s almost as if builders, back in the 1930s, believed humans craved privacy (or peace and quiet) after years of communal cave dwelling.
No one seeks privacy anymore. Not on HGTV, anyway. Television dream homes are “open concept” with “open floor plans.” Parents squeal with delight when they see vast kitchens that offer panoramic views of the rest of the house.
“I can watch my kids while they play!” mommies exclaim.
I dunno. When my kids were small I stuck them in a spare room – with walls and lots of LEGOs – and turned on the old baby monitor so I’d know when to run in with my referee whistle to break up a fight.
Beyond that, every fabulous HGTV kitchen has at least two sinks and probably a third “pot filler” faucet over the stove because you simply can’t expect an American adult to take three steps to fill a pasta pot.
The more I watch, the more it seems my house, which was partially renovated in 1991, is wearing shoulder pads and leg warmers and listening to Michael Bolton. So to speak.
A bout of car problems in February introduced me to a must-have called “subway tile,” rectangular ceramic that is necessary to replace all those squares so common in the 1950s.
Does subway tile also come with buskers and beggars? Asking for a friend.
The most astonishing thing on HGTV is its fascination with tiny houses. With open floor plans, of course. According to the network’s website, there have been at least four shows catering to the environmentally conscious or super thrifty who long to live in their grandparents’ backyard with just a change of underwear, a pair of jeans and a compostable toilet.
I look at these tiny dwellings with bewilderment and wonder how one changes the sheets in those sleeping lofts mere inches from the ceiling.
And, after a violent storm like the one that roared through Hampton Roads on Friday night, I think about how it would feel to be airborne, clinging to a loft bed, in a tiny house.