Jewish World Review July 12, 2002 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Remodeling: Blueprint for Disaster | What keeps our marriage going strong is that my husband and I have the good sense never to attempt major home improvement projects.

We have friends who nearly busted up over putting a faux Italian finish on a basement wall. Then there's the couple down the street that almost split trying to install new kitchen cabinets. Nothing can kill a marriage faster than home improvement.

I offer as proof the home improvement programs on the home and garden channel. Ever notice how warm and friendly the happy couple is when the show's host first introduces them? Dave and Marge wrap their arms around one another as the host asks them to affirm that the beautiful, expansive house behind them is actually a broken-down dump unfit for sewer rats. Dave and Marge nod in unison and then Marge gives Dave a little peck on the cheek.

Dave and Marge hold hands as they stroll the property, pointing out which walls they want knocked out, which roof lines they want altered and where they want the bonus room and the sixth garage stall.

When the remodeling project starts, the grass is green and the trees have leaves. As the remodeling begins and the camera records the daily action, the trees begin to drop their leaves. The snow comes. The snow melts. Daffodils bloom. It's summer once again.

The next time we see Dave and Marge, that they are no longer standing side by side. Dave is on one side of the host; Marge is on the other. This is because Dave and Marge quit speaking four months ago. They avoid eye contact. Things are frosty with Dave and Marge and the outdoor temperature is over 90.

Marge stares straight ahead as Dave explains they're just about finished, all they have left to do is bring in a stand of fully mature sycamores, rotate the house a quarter turn so the breakfast nook gets morning sun, stencil the driveway and air-condition the dog house.

Dave and Marge do talk - to the construction workers. They're on a first name basis with the electrician's apprentice and Marge bought baby gifts for the tile setter's daughter who just had twins. "Say hello to Heather, for me," Marge shouts to a hard hat on an earth mover. Dave and Marge march back inside the house - using separate doors.

The show's host now introduces a high-speed clip of the work that has been completed thus far. This is always the point where it would be fabulous if a little cash register popped up in the corner of the screen to tally exactly how much the project has cost - the 35,000-foot addition, the Grecian water feature, the severed water main, the custom-built shower with enough water nozzles to wash a team of Clydesdales, and the cost of the marital counseling. The zeros would whiz by, which would also explain why Dave and Marge are in the background, shouting and waving their arms like windmills while the veins in their necks bulge to the size of drainage pipes.

The home improvement lesson as it relates to marriage is this: Often it's better to stick a For Sale sign in the front yard and simply move to a different address.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman