Last weekend, I decided that I was going to paint my kitchen. After working for a few hours on Saturday, I appreciated a home improvement store for the first time. When I was young, I hated Menard’s. There were absolutely no dolls there.
But now that I have a place that I can customize to my liking, I’m sucked into the endless possibility that exists in these places. When I forwarded my mail, I got two big envelopes full of coupons and advertisements. I held onto a few of the coupons, two of which were 10% off at Lowe’s. Though I walked around the store for about two hours, I kept my purchase modest – only a bucket of Valspar and a half dozen plants.
When I got home, I promptly made myself a pair of jorts because it seemed appropriate for my first DIY project in my new home. I was all, “I’m an independent woman who can paint her own kitchen. This patriarchal society can kiss my ass!” I turned on some music and started taping up the edges of cupboards and trim. Just as I was taping the final two edges along the room’s single full wall, I remembered that there was a big crack in the paint. I figured I would just flick it off with a putty knife and sand it down or fill it in the best I could. So I grabbed the little knife and put the edge under the crack. When I moved the knife only a half inch beneath the paint, a six inch chunk of paint popped up.
Okay, still not a big deal. I figured I’d just take off whatever paint came easily and then paint over. The surface beneath the paint was a dusty green drywall of some sort, so I started getting nervous when I had a four-foot blob of it. I might have been able to get away with a six-inch blob of unprimed wall, but four feet was a bit much. Because once I start projects and/or picking at things that readily flake off, I had a hard time stopping. There was tan, yellow, blue, white, peach, and, for some reason, a shit brown. I had considered painting the room blue or yellow, so it was good to know that I wasn’t the only one who thought those colors would look good. But I was even more pleased that nobody had picked the same crazy green.
About an hour in, I decided I shouldn’t make plans for the night: I was going to paint this wall the right way. By that time, I had hit some stubborn patches that took a little elbow grease. I started to get pissed. It was a matter of principle: don’t half ass home-improvement projects. If you don’t do it right the first time, not only will you constantly notice all the imperfections you could have avoided, but it will take about 36 times longer to fix when you inevitably revisit the project. I drove across town for the second time that day to buy a primer. While stomping around Walmart, thankful to have bought beer a few days earlier, I decided to toss the whole Independent Woman thing since I was going to have to spend my Saturday night correcting some asshole’s mistake. I offered my brother $50 to help me with the wall. He obliged. I told him to bring a putty knife and a vacuum.
Sometime between a beer and Corey’s arrival, it started to storm. When he arrived, we found that the plastic putty knife he brought was laughable against the more difficult chunks of paint. With about twenty-five minutes before Menard’s closed, we decided to race across town to buy a new putty knife. Blame it on the beer, on my frustration with the wall, my absence in Oshkosh over the last two years, whatever you want – somehow I forgot that, due to the rapids, the streets of Oshkosh are best navigated by kayak during a rainstorm. After a couple detours due to flash flooding, one particularly scary moment where Corey and I both thought his engine had flooded, we got to Menard’s around 9:54.
When we got back, we each downed a Red Bull and started chipping at the paint. Several hours later, we were deliriously laughing at Louis CK and Patton Oswald jokes and just hacking at the stubborn paint on the edges of the wall. Our hands had turned into claws from holding the putty knife for so long. Our forearms and shoulders were cursing. Our hair and shoulders were coated in the same dust that swirled into the night through the windows in grey clouds. Around 2:30am, we were both like FTS and went to bed.
We ended up finishing the scraping and were able to prime the wall late the next morning. It caused me to be late for a lunch date with my friend, and brought on what felt like the beginnings of an epic migraine later that day, but dammit, we got it done.
When I was finally able to paint on Monday night, I couldn’t decide if it was a satisfying or underwhelming sensation to finally get it done. When I had set out to paint on Saturday afternoon, I pictured it being a wonderful private declaration of my independence. I had several people offer to help me paint, but I declined, picturing myself delicately tearing away the tape to reveal a fresh-faced room that I had done myself.
I might be disappointed if I didn’t know it would have taken me all week to scrap that wall by myself. If Corey hadn’t been willing to help me, I probably would have just extended the kitchen into the bathroom and called it a day. “No need to give me my security deposit back,” I’d tell my landlord upon moving out. “Just a well-written thank you letter for the improvements will do. It will be on Craigslist for approximately 30 seconds when you advertise the bath nook in the kitchen.”