Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

Sometimes I wonder how we all agreed that the thing to do was to have a house, with this many rooms, and that one would have a couch in it -- who agreed on the size and shape of this thing anyway? -- and it would face a fireplace and above the fireplace would be either a mirror or a TV and that decision -- mirror or TV? -- would be a choice that really told your guests who you are.  Look, I like to watch HGTV.  It relaxes me -- I generally run pretty high on the anxiety scale -- but it also makes me want things:  a tiny house in the woods with a view of an ocean. A huge island in the kitchen.  A laundry room that's big enough for cabinets where I can keep an assortment of chemicals that will make my clothes white again.   I mean, OK, I guess that won't fit in a tiny house.  But this is just thinking out loud, so who cares?    

If I get the laundry room, a big good clean one, then I'll want white clothes.  I may as well.  I have lots of space to clean them and hang them to dry.  Actually, why not let someone else do that?  Maybe I could pay a service.   I'll wear my white clothes casually, I suppose to a beach, so now I want a beach, too.   Sleeves and pant-legs rolled.  The pants can't be white.  That wouldn't work.   Let's say the pants are old, comfortable jeans.  I have some of those, although I ripped a straight line across the backside when I fell down the cliff on a hike.  Good thing they weren't white!  I didn't break my leg.  

Anyway, in this image, I also have perfectly highlighted hair and it blows back from my face, which is wrinkly, but not too much, just enough that I look content, you know?  Women of a certain age always look so serene.  Well, in the ads for incontinence products they do, so whatever.  There's always a river and some kind of cruise or a group of fun similarly aged women without a care in the world doing yoga.  Very stretchy, they are.  So let's say we are also stretchy and put some Botox on that list of new wants that are the fault of HGTV.  I also want not to be afraid of needles and toxins in this scenario.  

Let's get back to it.  So after my walk on the windswept beach with my white-clad kids who are mostly smiling, showing off their glowing teeth and good health and overall good natures and cleanliness, our golden retriever who would never actually lurch away from my grip on a walk and try to bite an old man in the kneecap, will bound up to the house ahead of us.  We'll be laughing about something, because we can sure laugh in this fantasy.  Everything is joyous!  There will be a scattering of birdsong.  No one will flip anyone else off and then, say, punch them in the face while crying about the disparity they perceive in overall life fairness.  

In the laundry room, we may as well have a dog shower.   Custom made.  Maybe some kind of Italian tile.  Italians seem to really know their way around tile.  Nice stuff.  The dog will stand in the shower and I'll get all the sand off him before he ruins my floors, which are reclaimed barnwood, but perfectly waxed and polished so they look new but I can feel pretty smug knowing that they are recycled from some kind of old farm in Vermont.  Carbon-footprints don't count in this imagining, OK?   

I'll put the dog in some kind of not-invented-yet dog dryer.  The dog doesn't lose hair.  Let's say he has a rare condition where all his fur stays attached to his body and doesn't clump and roll and run around under the furniture only to blow out as soon as someone you want to impress steps into your house, which can't be that tiny, after all, because it has to accommodate you and your dog and your glowingly healthy children.  

Oh, let's toss a husband into the mix.  Why not?  Only not a regular husband, but one of those ones from movies who is good and kind and really strong and funny.   Maybe, oh, I don't know the Rock.  You got me, it's always the Rock.  Who says I have to lower the bar?  I don't!  He really actually wants to take the kids to school and also to build things with them because he loves being around them, not because he's some kind of messed up predator who is just trying to befriend them so evil can ensue, but because he really genuinely finds them to be the best company on the planet.  Except for me, of course.    

He also loves to cook!  And clean up!  And he actually appreciates that you clean the house or better yet, he pays someone else to clean it so you don't have to, because the tiny house is, after all, now a mansion on an island somewhere beautiful and the neighbours are all lovely and kind and have friendly dogs and happy children and nowhere in any gardens are there weeds.  Weeds just don't grow there.  Why would they?  Weeds are ugly and messy and boy do they ever like to choke the life out of flowers and vegetables.   Sometimes you and the Rock sit out on the patio and sip wine because in this case wine is not a symptom of alcoholism or wishing to erase the shittier parts of your day and/or life, but actually just a pleasant thing to sip in the weedless garden while you read books.   Kitchen Rock Who Loves Kids also loves books.   Of course.  Duh.

Oh, I have another idea, which is that in the living room, there will be a fireplace with a mirror but it will be one of those fireplaces with two sides, so on the other side, there's a family room, which is more rough and tumble, more Pottery Barn than actual designer-ish impressive furniture, and on that couch, the children will sit and watch, say, thirty minutes of TV every day, without eating in there and getting the goddamn crumbs everywhere because we are imagining, why not?  Who pictures crumbs?  Nobody!   No one tells you about the crumbs that get stuck on absolutely every surface, along with the mysterious stickiness that plasters itself over everything you own the very second you have children.  If you don't have kids yet or you're pregnant, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  There are going to be crumbs.  Not on HGTV though, just in real life.  

Anyway, your happy kids who love each other agree on the show and watch it quietly and thoughtfully and then they turn it off when they are done without having hysterics or lying about when they started watching it or just flat-out ignoring you.  This isn't real, so maybe after that they help their dad or stepdad or whatever, you know, the Rock, the nice guy who is in the kitchen, still, right now, they help him clean up and they tell each other jokes.  Jokes!   Really funny ones.  They'll film themselves telling a joke and it will go viral on YouTube and you'll use the money you earn from that to put them through college.   The best college or at least the most fun one where nothing unthinkable happens on the reg.  They aren't going to have terrible, soul-sucking corporate jobs when they grow up, either!  They will save the world or do art or save the world with their art or build bridges or save kittens.  That's an actual job.  I saw it on Facebook.  A team of guys who go around and save kittens from trees!  What a world.  The point is that the kids will go to some kind of school that will spit them out at the end even happier and healthier than when they went in, which is some kind of benchmark because already they are the happiest and healthiest kids alive.

Anyway, from the now-clean kitchen, you can hear your daughter belly-laughing and your son laughs so hard that he gets the hiccups so he pours a glass of filtered, totally safe and fantastic miracle water from the fancy water thing you just bought for the counter.  This is not real money, this is just HGTV, so that's fine, that works.  Good water.  And the kids drink 8 glasses of it a day!  They need to because they are super active.  I mean, look at them.  

The Rock starring as Kitchen Man has just come out of the kitchen and put on some kind of JCrew windbreaker and he's going to take the dog for a run on the beach and the kids can come too and he'll hew for them a kite out of driftwood and seaweed that he's woven together and in the meantime, why don't you go out?  

Why don't you?  

Well, golly.  

That sounds nice.  You could meet a friend for drinks!  People do.  You saw it on that miniseries that starred Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern and some other gorgeous women.   That was a good miniseries.  Pretty.   It was in California, I guess.  Maybe that's where you live, actually.   You wish you could remember what that show was called.  Oh, I know!  Big Little Lies.  I mean, clearly their lives weren't so great, but even just the setting would be enough.  The setting was amazing.  All those cliffs and crashing waves and gorgeous homes.   Anyway, those people always were meeting each other for drinks and in real life people meet for drinks, too.   This is made obvious by the fact that bars and restaurants and pubs exist and don't seem to always go out of business because everyone is too busy to go to them. So you can do that, pulling your front door behind you as you leave in your nice leather shoes and perfectly fitting jeans and some kind of technical cashmere top that makes you look like Cindy Crawford or whoever is hot now that it's not 1989 anymore.  The door locks automatically behind you, gently, like those kitchen cabinets with the soft-close that you see sometimes on kitchen renovation shows.  This front door is like that, soft and solid at the same time.  You don't have to bang it three times, really hard until you actually think what will likely happen is that the door will one day just fall apart into a big pile of Jenga-like blocks of wood and then what will have been the point of slamming it in the first place?  You go down to where your car is parked and it will start.  Your driveway is not cracked and broken, which is a nice feature in a driveway.  The car is not a fancy, expensive thing because you eschew fancy cars in favour of donating money to charities that raise money for cancer or orphans.  Oh, maybe it is a little bit fancy.  I mean, heated seats would be nice and one of those back up camera things.  

You get in and you back up and you don't accidentally back over the neighbour's cat or the kids basketball hoop or anything.   Down on the beach, the sun is setting and it's making a million colours in the sky and it's so gorgeous you literally can't breathe, and silhouetted against that are your joyful kids and the famous actor playing the part of your husband.  It's pretty nice, actually.  And all this from just that one half hour show about how to redesign the flow in your laundry room.  It's nice to know that my imagination is still firing on all cylinders and you know, turning an ad for laundry detergent into this full-blown fantasy existence!  That's healthy, right?   

I'm getting off track, OK, sorry.  I know you want to get to the end at this point.   So let's say that you're breathing again now because you blinked or the sun finished setting or whatever.   Nice moon.  Full.  Glowing like a ribbon of silk on the road, like you're actually inside some kind of poem.  That's your life now, all big white-toothed smiles and free verse.  Anyway, you drive to the restaurant, and you meet your friends and everyone is happy to see you and you are happy to see them and everyone hugs and you order some food that isn't accidentally full of things you're allergic to, because this isn't real, might as well not be allergic to everything, and you eat it and you don't feel guilty about whatever it was because Kitchen Man doesn't care if you gain a pound or eight or even eighty because he sees you as an actual human being and not as a particular body type that you have an obligation to maintain because he went into it under the understanding that you would remain totally unchanged through the years, always the girl he married, even though he's gained a few sitting on the couch watching sports on the TV, which is getting bigger and bigger every time you blink, almost in inverse proportion to the amount of time you have left to live, if you live to be an average age.  By the time you meet your doom, that thing will have obliterated the fireplace, the living room, the couch!  Think about it.  Actually, by then TV will be 3d or 4d or just holograms, running around your now empty living room while you get out of the way so you don't get shot or eaten by zombies or whatever happens on TV.  

Anyway, you'll have a nice time with your girlfriends and boyfriends and everyone you know and have ever met who all love you and want to drop everything to meet you for a drink right now, and then maybe after you'll all get a manicure or a pedicure.  Do you know that in real life, I've never had a manicure or a pedicure?  I'm well past the point of ever doing that.  I just cannot get my head around paying someone else to paint my nails.  It's not that hard to do for yourself.  I mean, it wouldn't be if I ever did it, but mostly I don't bother because I'm pretty busy and I'd rather read a book. 

Like I said, I don't watch a lot of TV, yet I bought into this idea that you have a couch and a fireplace with a TV above it.  Mostly I forget it's there.  The kids watch it constantly.  If I see Kate Hudson talking about compression fit leggings on Disney XD just one more time, I'm going to commit a crime.  I don't know what it would be.  I was going to say something violent, but I'm not a violent person.  Maybe I'll just shoplift an eyeliner or something, but actually, no, I'd feel too anxious and I like to not be anxious, so I'll just pay for it.  So I guess I'll buy an eyeliner and then I'll come home and pour a glass of wine from a box and eat popcorn for dinner and watch HGTV.   The kids are at their dad's.  If they were home, I'd make vegetables or something.   Popcorn actually really gives me a bad stomachache as it turns out.  Who knew?

You know what?  Those holograms might be nice.  I'm looking forward to that invention.   Not if it was CSI or the Living Dead or whatever most people watch, but for Fixer Upper.  Like you could watch in an empty room and Joanne and her golden retriever of a floppy, happy husband will tear down all the walls and make it one big room with a rusty gate on the wall and somehow it will look unbelievably luxurious.  At least there won't be a bunch of laundry on the kitchen counter and a pile of dog vomit on the rug!   That's something.  I think we can all agree to that, and if we have to have a couch and an ottoman and a fireplace -- although actually fireplaces are kind of outdated because of all the wood and flames and smoke and general messiness and hard work that they entail -- and TV all arranged exactly the same way, then so be it.  I can do that.  I think we all can.   We'll just sit on our couches now.  Let's just wait for stuff to happen.  It's going to be good, I think.  It must be.  Otherwise, why did we do all this?   It has to have a point.  Everything does, right?   It all leads to a happy ending.   I believe that.   I really do.