The Pristine Surface

This morning I for some reason brushed my hair a little more attentively than usual and discovered that the crown of my head was highlighted with streaks of white latex paint.

I wasn’t entirely surprised this had happened: every year right about this time, I become preoccupied with house-painting.

I suspect I develop this preoccupation because it’s winter and because both girls have just been home from school for two weeks, and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the house — time that just happens to be mostly spent playing Candy Land and the Dora Memory Game for hours. Now, I like playing Candy Land just as much as the next mom, but you know, sometimes your mind… wanders. You stare off into space. And since I’m usually sitting on the floor while this is going on it’s really easy to start noticing the way that all the woodwork in the house is covered with fingerprints, crayon, dog nose smears from the owners two before us, floor stain from the sloppy job the owners before us did of refinishing only one third of the floors in the house, etc. It’s only a matter of time before I pick up a brush.

But the thing about painting is… once you paint the woodwork, it highlights how grubby the walls are. And if you start down that obsessive path (which I have not, not yet), then you notice how shabby everything that furnishes the room is. Oh yeah, and all those brass door knobs! They’d look tons better without dingy paint (in layers: from that 1940s-era, arsenic-like green, to pink, to gray to white) all over them.

Oh, the concept of the pristine surface! Say what we might, it can suck us all in!

The woodwork in our house is as covered with “dings” as the door panels of somebody’s mistreated beater car. As I slap the refreshing coat of latex atop it, I think to myself that if I really want to do the job right, I should be sanding first. I should be slathering on spackle. I should…

What does this have to do with anything?

Two days ago, I frittered away my single free hour online uncovering what’d become of former college chums, in the process demoralizing myself with thoughts of how successful they were and how little they had aged.

I love the technological advances the internet has given us, and no way do I want to turn the clock back. But it’s so easy for me to forget that what the internet is best at is selling… whether what it’s selling is a thing, a person or a place.

That pristine surface: I suppose if you googled me, I might even seem to have one.

So… in the service of full disclosure…

That was not white paint. It was gray hair.


  1. Yes, you too are shiny on the Internets…

    I keep encouraging (through half-hearted visualization) my white (they’re white, not grey) hair to grow in in a nice streak from one side of my forehead; it’s sort of doing that. Sort of. Not really.

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