I lost interest in the avatars after I exhausted the full range of their sexual behaviors. Building a beautiful house was my singular preoccupation. I bought a book of home plans at Borders, and then set about re-creating my favorites in the online world. I had no interest in living in the communities I very carefully planned. I was an online land developer. And just like so many of my real-world counterparts, I eventually lost interest and moved on to other things.

Last week, Preppy’s parents came to visit, and we built ourselves a big damn fence, separating us once and for all from Anita, the screeching lunatic who lives next door.

Anita challenged the property line, lawyers were called, the police came by a few times, we were accused of putting smoke bombs in her car… but in the end, we have contained the crazy. As the hardscrabble frontier folk taught us, good fences do indeed make good neighbors.

Shortly after the fence went up, my Dad called and started talking about making a timeline on the other improvements we’ve been talking about doing since we moved in. I don’t know if it was the fact that we had finally done our first actual upgrade to the property, or if having the in-laws contribute raised some sort of competitive spirit in him, but Dad was suddenly ready to pick out some bathroom tile and get to work.

I really think it was the hands-on involvement of Preppy’s parents that got him interested. My sister’s in-laws are not the sort of people who come by and help you sheetrock, so there’s no competition there. But Preppy comes from very task-oriented people, and I think Dad didn’t particularly care for the imbalance that was happening here.

It’s the way of the Southern man, isn’t it? “Let me show you I love you by completing the following tasks on this list.” Preppy and I are more than happy to encourage this behavior.

Dad told me to get measurements of every room, and sent me software called “Sweet Home 3D.” I did as I was told, and something amazing happened: It was “The Sims” all over again. Only this time, I didn’t have to get a job as a pizza boy to buy virtual wallpaper. I had free reign to create the virtual version of our home, and I did so with gusto.

There’s the “before” plan, which looks like our house now, and the “after,” which is the most beautiful home in the entire world. The only way we’d ever have the “after” house is if one of my scratch-and-wins paid off, but I do not care. I want to live there right now.

This might not have been the best idea. Because now, living in the Before House is a bit disappointing. After House has a porch. It’s always 70 degrees and sunny at the After House. Screw you, Before House.

Preppy, forever the pragmatist, reminds me that the After House was created to clarify our goals. Having our 3-D tour is the equivalent of putting a picture of a guy with great abs on your fridge to remind you not to eat ice cream. I tried the hot-guy-on-fridge thing once, and lasted a week before I got sick of looking at that smug bastard and threw him away.

Between the two of us, I can see Preppy has the healthier outlook. These things take time. Five years ago, I never would have thought I’d be planning improvements on a home I share with my husband. And I sure as heck never thought I’d have two sets of parents offering assistance. So really, anything’s possible. I’ll just take a few more 3-D tours, so I’m ready when it happens.

 


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.

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