I’m over 30 and in a relationship, so I spent much of my weekend watching Home and Garden Television. If you ever want to witness everything that is wrong with America, spend a few hours watching materialistic nitwits confuse wants with needs and hurtle toward financial chaos.
There are just so many HGTV options. Want to see a kitchen undergo a stunningly modern update from avocado green to, wait for it...vomit green? Or how about watching a young couple as they adorn their living room with surfboards and fake bamboo? Care to be a witness to a striking furniture rearrangement that shows putrescent floral sofas to their best advantage? Or maybe you’d like to see a guest room go arts-and-crafts style via so much hand-sewing and fussy frippery that you wonder whether these people have anything better to do. (Answer: No. No, they do not.)
But my favorite shows are the ones where young couples shop for houses. Sometimes they want a ready-made house, sometimes they want to renovate. But either way, it’s completely fascinating. It shouldn't be, because watching other people shop usually makes me want to staple-gun my eyelids shut. But it is!
I don’t know why economists spend their days poring over dull charts and graphs. Thirty minutes of “House Hunters” will tell them everything they need to know about the housing market crash, subprime loan disaster, and recession. Each episode starts with an examination of everything wrong with their current home. Usually, it’s “doesn’t have granite and stainless steel all over the kitchen,” which is our generation's answer to avocado green and harvest gold shag carpeting. Or they don't have enough closet space for all the yuppie doodads they never needed in the first place, or it lacks a four-car heated garage complete with built-in Slip n’ Slide.
So the couple troops from house to house, carefully noting the ways in which perfectly fine, nay, adorable homes just aren’t good enough. What they really need to do is tear out a bunch of walls, build a screened-in playroom to accommodate the entire Fisher-Price line of educational toys for their hyper-indulged children, and then install at least two bathrooms for each member of the family. Including the dog.
My favorite was the young married couple in Florida. OK, she’s pregnant and they live in a fourth-floor walkup. Fair enough, it’s time to move. But on closer viewing, these people are shopping exclusively for toddler deathtraps. Tile floors? Sure, Baby’s gonna want to fall down on those when learning to walk. Oooh, how about a pool and a hot tub? Multiple places for Baby to drown! And let’s pick the place behind the golf course, so Baby can get beaned on the head by the CEO of GimmeMore Industries as he finishes up eighteen holes and four martinis.
I guess I just don’t get it. What’s so wrong with a cute three-bedroom house in a safe neighborhood near the city? How could such a nice, wholesome place to live possibly need $140,000 in renovations? How could anyone turn up their noses at a fenced yard, two-car garage, good schools, and other standard-issue American Dream items?
Instead, everybody goes over budget, confusing what they need (a roof over their heads) with what they want (a roof over their heads that’s much nicer than what their friends have). And that’s why we’ve got a housing crash, credit crunch, and recession. Because people have no clue how to be happy with what they have, so they buy more than they need. Because they’re somehow entitled to the luxury and status that earlier generations would save up and wait for.
As for us? Tim was inspired to do some spring cleaning. Hopefully he won’t staple-gun plastic palm fronds to his walls or make a faux Magic Eye painting from his vacation slides. I was inspired to go home, look around my shabby little studio, and feel absurdly grateful. I’m glad it’s not a stainless steel McMansion in an exurb, shoving me towards a life of acquisition and the fear-laden ambition I’d need to sustain all of that pointless stuff. I don't see any reason to knock myself out attaining the sort of life I never wanted.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hand-stitch some faux stained-glass curtains and use a nail gun to perform a home lobotomy.