ShareThis Page
News

Removing layers of bad taste is grueling work

| Saturday, May 31, 2003

For a while there, my new favorite thing was peeling off wallpaper. I spent several blissful days ridding my old Victorian house of the ugly walls I had been complaining about for so long; I was getting my ya-ya's out skinning the place alive.

There is nothing so cathartic as lifting a corner of an egregious purple floral and seeing how much you can shuck off in one piece. My personal record is 20 square feet at once.

Before I can free my house from the gaudy Steel Magnolia grip of the previous owner, we must get rid of the wallpaper. Scott, our painter, began Monday by hauling steaming equipment and vats of acid up to the master bedroom. After draping smocks over the shoulders of a chair and dressers, he set about giving our room an exfoliating facial.

The top layer came off as easily as a blistered sunburn.

"This is fun," I yelped as I went around the room grabbing loose corners of the paper and stripping it off with big dramatic swoops of my arms. "Ta da!" I would sing as another uninterrupted swath of skin rolled off the wall with a satisfying crackle. Scott would move toward a loosened panel of paper and I would leap over him, shouting, "That's mine!" as I cut him off, reaching out to flay another sheath.

Why was this so exhilarating• Part of it was the sheer joy of removing an aesthetically offensive layer from my house. The bedroom was covered with corrugated wallpaper the color of margarine with flecks of burnt toast and a pattern of cattails in brown flocking. The paper was a sin. But was my glee in removing it more complicated than that• Perhaps it reflects my need to reveal my true inner self. Perhaps I secretly wish women could lose weight simply by peeling off layers of their bodies. I don't know. But I will say that while peeling the paper I did have a flash-back to my days as a Brownie, when a bunch of us were banned from the craft table for deliberately covering our hands with Elmer's Glue so we could peel it off.

That's the kind of fun I was having with the wallpaper. Until things turned ugly.

"We're not done yet," Scott said as he scratched his knife across a patch of dried wallpaper paste.

Beneath the paste was a layer of birds and gazebos, an oriental pattern in blues and metallic silver. It did not come off in big sheets. I spent most of one night hacking at the birds with a putty knife.

Once, when I lifted the wing of a bird, I was horrified to find what appeared to be grapes. Under the birds and gazebos was a layer of paper featuring green grapes and zaftig ladies carrying buckets. The steamer would not budge that layer, so Scott had to exfoliate the ladies with his acid.

Living for all those years beneath the grapes and ladies was a blue and beige geometric print. And under that was another round of fruits, this time apples and pears. I was beginning to fear that by the time all the wallpaper was gone the room would have grown by a few feet and I would have to call the carpet man back to re-measure.

As we got down to layer seven, I wasn't having fun any more, and I abandoned Scott. I would walk past the room and hear him muttering about the poor taste and laziness of generations of women who thought fine decorating meant slapping another fruit pattern on the walls without bothering to remove the previous layer. That's 120 years worth of ugly fruit and birds.

If these walls could talk, they would thank me.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me