Theoretically, I have standards. First world standards. Upper middle class standards beyond that, even. Not just clean water and delicious, plentiful food, and no military juntas at the door, but beautiful, peaceful living space with useless, but pretty, tasteful décor. I have fantasies of having the kind of house that makes people walk in and gasp audibly with wonder. I guess they do gasp audibly, and probably in wonder, but it is more like, “I wonder how a grown, educated woman with a decent job and able-bodied family members can survive in such complete chaos.”
I don’t have a knack for objects. I have a collection of beautiful crystal bowls and vases, most of which I received as wedding presents back when we partied like it was 1999 because it was in fact 1999. I have a mantelpiece over a marble fireplace, and halogen lights that point in that direction. Theoretically, that part of the house should gleam in gorgeous lead crystal radiant rainbow glory. However, due to a shortage of walls in our ‘open floor plan’ house, my non-negotiable piano is parked in front of the fireplace, and, in addition to the inartfully placed crystal on the mantle there are dunes of dust and random toys and remote controls and cups and half-completed art projects that make it look more like a shelf in a second rate thrift shop.
I’d like to think I have the equipment to make a nice arrangement. Someone else could make the same objects look beautiful. My friend Sheri, for example, has a knack for objects. I’d let Sheri tackle my house, but I’m embarrassed to let her come over. She decorated the lobby in my office, and she bought this completely non-descript silver swirly decorative object that made me initially think “what the….?” She placed it Just So on the table, and suddenly the whole room was pulled together. If she had somehow produced a fully grown elephant out of her purse I wouldn’t have been more impressed.
I don’t have that skill. I admire that skill.
Recently, I went to a dinner at the home of a very gracious, kind, generous woman who was hosting a potluck dinner for a group to which I belong. I stepped into her foyer. (Technically, I have a foyer. There is a square of floor that isn’t part of any other room in the entry way of my house. It has a coat rack and a book shelf, and about seven thousand scarves and book bags strewn about.) It was instantly clear that I was outclassed by a mile. Photographs with matching frames hung on the wall. Collections of like objects were arranged in a pleasing way. I was on the early side, and the first to arrive. My hostess mentioned that she had just finished setting up and she was already exhausted. She asked me if I entertained often.
I was unsure how to respond. The thought that flew into my brain was, “No. Not by a long shot. I’m too embarrassed even to let other 11 year olds in my home, much less a collection of judgey grownups.” Instead, I said, “Not often. My kids are in charge. Ha ha!”
I had driven a ways to get to her house, and I needed to use the rest room. She pointed me in the right direction. I shut the door, and did a basic scan of the room to make sure that there was toilet paper, soap, and a towel, necessities that you can’t take for granted in my house. Not only was there toilet paper, soap, and several towels, but the toilet paper had been tied into a little rose.
The rose was adorable. For someone who knew what they were doing, it couldn’t have taken more than 45 seconds to do. The rose depressed the bejeebers out of me. I don’t even stay at hotels that have such fancy toilet paper. I feel like I’m living large in a nice hotel when the TP has been folded into a point. In my own home, I’m merely happy when something vaguely absorbent and biodegradable is within arm’s reach. On the few occasions when I do have guests, the last few moments before they arrive are spent kicking the last few items of detritus underneath the sofa for easy, out of the way storage, and figuring there will be enough feet on the floor that no one will notice I didn’t have time to mop. Never in a thousand years would I consider making the toilet paper look pretty.
I wasn’t sure what to do with the rose, besides get photographic evidence. I didn’t want to use it for its intended purpose, so I carefully ripped it off and replaced it after I got what I needed.
A Rolling Stone song. That’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it? I got what I needed. Toilet paper roses and toilet paper wads flush the same way and serve the same purpose. You can’t always get what you want. But, at least in my middle class existence, I always get what I need.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.