Princess: Do-it-yourself is a foreign concept |

Princess: Do-it-yourself is a foreign concept

Alison Berkley Margo

My house is a construction zone.

I’m actually sitting here at the breakfast bar as I type, surrounded by paint cans and paint color strips and battery-charger things for power tools and boxes of nails. Half the furniture is in my office, where my desk is marooned behind stacks of chairs, paintings and our big Ikea bookcase.

This all started a few weeks ago when Ryan pulled the ugly sage-green carpet up while I was at the grocery store. That’s when he was at the “Let’s do this” stage. Several weeks and a few thousand dollars later, he’s at the “What have I gotten myself into?” stage.

That’s when we flew in the cavalry.

Having grown up in a Jewish family, I’m used to men who have an aversion to tools, believe in something called “sweat equity” and use jobs like home renovation as an incentive to make more money so they can just pay someone else to do it.

My dad is one of these guys who somehow can turn a tool into a weapon that he inevitably and unwittingly turns upon himself, hammering his thumb instead of a nail and that sort of thing. He’s also like an absent-minded professor — the awkward genius who is more in his head than connected to the world around him — so he sort of stumbles and bumbles his way through the simpler things in life while solving the world’s problems. This is a guy I once watched take a swig out of a ketchup bottle and mop up the counter with a piece of toast he assumed was a sponge. This is not someone you want wielding power tools, especially ones with sharp edges.

It’s not like you need power tools to paint walls, but still. My mom’s idea of painting the house is to hire a painter and then spend double the money when she decides she doesn’t like the color she chose after all.

When I bought my first condo in 2004 I dabbled in some do-it-yourself home painting. I’m pretty good at picking out colors, and unlike my mother, I get the whole test-it-first thing. I once painted my living room a burnt orange, the perfect color for a single girl who doesn’t have a man around to tell her that she’s essentially just converted her living room into a coffee shop. I even did the sponge-paint thing in my bedroom with a rich shade of light blue, another sort of girly, dorm-like choice a man would never tolerate.

The other thing about my approach to painting is that I enjoy slapping paint all over the walls and all over myself. But I’m not so great when it comes to the detailed parts of the job, like putting the tape down just right and not coloring outside the lines. There were always splatter marks on the ceilings and the floors that never got cleaned up and those hard-to-reach places like behind the fridge that never got painted at all.

So when I met Ryan it was odd to be married into a family that has a work ethic and enjoys doing projects together and getting their hands dirty. They know how to use tools and fix things, and they actually help one another with these projects, convening at whatever family member’s house that needs a fence built or a wall painted or a garage cleaned.

In the five years we’ve been together, I’m still not entirely used to the fact that his parents are willing to hop on a plane or drive 17 hours only to spend their vacation doing the home projects we’ve started but never finished, mostly because I’m a product of my parents and Ryan works full time and then some. He leaves the house most mornings when it’s still dark out, which means it isn’t morning at all but really still the middle of the night.

So, as I sit here and type, Ron and Maribeth circle around me in their paint-spattered clothes, knee-deep in primer and armed with rollers and paintbrushes, I realize one thing: You can’t paint stripes on a horse and call it a zebra — or however that saying goes.

The Princess is trying to decide what shoes for fall she should buy first. Email your love to

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