We got cable a few weeks back (not without drama: you can read all about it at comcasticvoyage.blogspot.com), and I quickly became obsessed with the array of homeowner porn airing 24 hours a day. The setup is exactly the same as sex flicks: A good-looking guy shows up at the door, the homeowner lets him in, and everybody gets busy. But the nice thing about HGTV porn is that in the end, willing participants get flowerbeds and a slate patio instead of chlamydia.
The first time I saw this, I was dubious. “Y’all are crazy,” I said to the TV. “There’s no way you can build that outdoor living area in three days.” But John Gidding is a very persuasive porn star. He already had me using phrases like “outdoor living area” without realizing the slippery slope I was on. Soon, I was sketching ideas for landscaping, ignoring the fact that the only experience I have growing anything was putting a potato in a baby food jar and watching the root growth when I was 6 years old.
I downloaded landscaping software (the homeowner equivalent of writing slash fiction) and crafted our eventual patio, rock walls, and English country garden. All of this was still theoretical. We couldn’t make any major changes while my husband was in the extended interview process for a new job, which would have had us moving far away in very short order.
Then Preppy received word that the position itself was being eliminated as part of an elaborate corporate machination I will not pretend to understand. What I did comprehend was that this decision meant we would remain in Atlanta on our own terms and timetable.
It was certainly a learning experience: We determined that if one of us is presented with a glorious opportunity, the other will drop everything, pack up the dog, and start over someplace new. And now we don’t have to, which is awesome. It’s like agreeing to give somebody an internal organ and then finding out they don’t need it. You get bonus points for actually being willing to go the distance.
I celebrated by tearing the back deck off of our house. It was a weekend special the previous owner put in place about fifteen years ago, built with untreated wood, creating a delightful haven for carpenter bees. If we were going to remain in Georgia, then I was gonna see my HGTV porn become a reality. I enlisted the assistance of a handyman friend, Hunter, who’s from our home state of Mississippi and is therefore trustworthy. He also has the added benefit of actually knowing what he’s doing.
Two weeks later, my entire back yard is a pile of red dirt marked by various wood forms and concrete blocks. It looks like I’m excavating dinosaur bones. When it rains, we get a lake of sludge. I’ve washed my dog’s feet so many times she qualifies as a Primitive Baptist. I spend all of my off time digging trenches, which is ironic because that’s exactly what our schizophrenic next door neighbor has accused us of doing for over a year. Perhaps she’s clairvoyant.
But as I tote another wheelbarrow across the barren landscape, I’m buoyed by the need not only to improve our surroundings, but to silence the critics: My house porn has not caused me to lose touch with reality. While watching the pros, I’ve been taking notes. And when the fantasy becomes reality, we are all going to be very satisfied.
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at topherpayne.com.