Appearances never tell the true story

Have you sold a house lately? It’s a whole new ball game.
Stagers. That’s the magic of selling your property now. Stagers have been around for a while, but they have become standard practice.
You pay someone to tell you the 17 piles of magazines dating back 30 years have to go and great-uncle Bob’s floor ashtray really has no place anywhere in the house.
Stagers feel a bit like the Emperor’s new clothes: your house looks naked when all is said and done.
I recently listened to a stager work with a friend of mine while he readied his house for sale. She wandered from room to room, making notes and snapping photos.
I kept wondering, as I followed along behind, if I passed as if I was being graded for my personal appearance. Did I floss?
The whole exercise boiled down to one simple thing: remove all evidence you ever lived here; that anyone lived here and ever received mail, read a newspaper, plunged a plugged toilet, brushed their teeth, or looked at a calendar.
Are we fooled by this generic display of neutral tones and vacant life? It seems we are. We’re conned into believing we could live in this space, make it our own, but the sad news is that once we move in, there’s no time for Granny Smith apples sitting cheerfully in a colourful bowl on a countertop devoid of breakfast dishes, coffee crumbs, and reminder notes to pick up the dry-cleaning.
I think I’d like to have my “life” staged instead of just my house. I’m mostly an accountant this time of year to pay my rent. I love numbers, don’t get me wrong, but movies usually poke fun at accountants, especially Canadian accountants, as though we’re a pedantic bunch of anal-retentive number crunchers.
I suppose we could be. I picture a woman dressed in high fashion, a pen at the edge of her mouth while she examines my appearance, trying not to wince noticeably.
“You’ll need to tuck that in,” she says, tapping her pen on my middle-aged, four-baby abdomen.
“Some highlights might divert the eye away from those greys,” she adds, lifting the edge of my shoulder length hair with her pen.
“Are you willing to dye?” she asks, shaking her own mahogany locks that clearly have avoided aging of any kind.
“Some bleach on those teeth.” Then she stares a little longer.
“Accountant,” she says slowly, her tongue hitting the back of her teeth. “That won’t do.”
I offer up that I’m a writer. Her eyebrows dart together hopefully. “Romance?” I wilt. Me writing romance would be like Sarah Palin passing a geography test.
My “life stager” might make me wear high heels or blow-dry my hair, so that half my face is covered and I’d have use of just one eye. That wouldn’t work, I’d fall down.
She might make we wear green-tinted contact lens and wrap my body in duct tape so that I appear seamless.
I picture her a bit like the Wizard of Oz, digging in his bag for some props that would make me appear “real”—like a medal or a testimonial or a diploma.
But when I crawl into bed at night and tuck under my aunt’s faded quilt, wearing my dad’s T-shirt that has lost all evidence of ever having been new, I like who I am.
I wish my teeth were whiter, I wish I was thinner, I wish my eye-lids were less weary, but I like what’s on the inside. I like that I love my children so much that some days it hurts.
I like that I remember the silly useless facts about friends from childhood. I like that I’m saddened and moved to action by the misfortune of others.
You can’t see those things on a house or a body that has been staged because, let’s face it, we’re just judging a book by its cover. You have to get to know a house, understand its creaks and cracks, and you have to get inside someone’s shoes to understand her heart.
wendistewart@live.ca

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