The Ugly Truth

In 1988, I had an epiphany: I have no taste.

I had just moved into my first apartment with two college buddies, and my mother graciously donated her couch to the cause. She also gave us an old painting, an abstract in electric orange and black. They were now mine, and their renewed life boldly proclaimed, “Here is a couch. You can sit on it. Next to a painting of, well…something.”

No more thought needed. Time for beer and pizza.

I came home to find my roommates looking over the new additions with pained expressions.

“Dave,” one said, “we were wondering. Was the painting created for the couch or was the couch created to match the painting?”

They collapsed into snorty chortles. And that’s when it hit me: That couch was electric orange. It was simply the ugliest thing ever created. And the painting was an accessory to the crime.

I grew up with this couch—watched cartoons on it, spilled soda on it, wooed girls on it. I never considered its aesthetic. It just existed, like those decorative metal chickens in the living room.

I have been thinking about that couch a lot lately, as my family is redecorating our house and all the women in my life want to evict my furniture.

While my wife, Amy, has wonderful taste, she has a hard time deciding what looks good where and with what color. My vision falls into three design theories: (1) We’re doing what? (2) Why? and (3) OK Dear, do whatever your sweet heart desires.

We needed help. We figured paint color was a good place to start, so we called a dear friend with a flair for decorating to come over and offer color suggestions. Here’s what she suggested: Firstly, country-chic armoires are so 1990s. And they do not belong in dining rooms, especially when their sole purpose is to house stereo parts. Second, not all inherited furniture pieces are antiques…or attractive…or worthy of existing. Three, CDs on living room bookshelves? Again, Dave, please join us in the 21st century. And finally, my leather chair–my Archie Bunker nest. I purchased it at a thrift store and considered it the deal of the 20th century…Well, there are special places in hell for things like that.

“But I paid $99 for that chair,” I declared.

“I’m afraid they overcharged you by $90,” our friend said gently, as if telling me my dog had been kidnapped.

To be clear, she has amazing suggestions and did, indeed, offer painting advice that parted the clouds for us. She even presented us with a notebook—organized with tabs—called “The Schlenker Design Project.” She’s good.

We are actually pretty amped, and I am now excavating years of fallen snacks from the depths of my leather chair.

We’ve all been here, finding that delicate balance of common sense, taste, renewed spirit, HAZMAT regulations and, most importantly, making the ones you love happy.

And maybe that explains the orange couch. I loved my mother, and I’m sure she loved banishing Satan’s love seat from her home. After all…it never really matched the metal chickens.

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