Seniors & Aging

Pam Stone | Learning a little bit about envy

Women have often been told by psychologists that we suffer from a two-word phrase, a rather vulgar one, the second word being, “envy,” in regards to what men, exclusively, have. I have always found that accusation both ridiculous and insulting.

Because let me tell you, after this past week, living like a frontierswoman, with Paul, in the third world conditions of the Unabomber shack (also known as my former radio studio), I have sucked it up, busted my butt and have been highly successful in turning the entire experience into a whine-free zone.

An added bonus, I believe, is that I can now speak, with some authority, on the “tiny house” experience now sweeping our country:

It’s cozy, cramped and unplumbed.

It’s also the sort of place you need a tetanus shot before approaching.

“Radio Shack,” from the outside, is a bit of an endearing Hobbit hole: about 16-by-16 square feet in size, pine cladded and engulfed with climbing roses second only to a kudzillian effect. “A perfect writer’s retreat!” one might think.

Had one not experienced the interior.

Think not of a fresh scrubbed, heart-pine floor, large iron bed with crisply ironed linen sheets and gauzy cotton curtains, murmuring in the breeze through flung open windows.

Think, instead, of a sagging sub-floor and, as aptly put by Karl Pilkington, describing his hotel room in India, an “en-suite tool shed.” Picture a framed portrait of Bonnie, our Jack, painted on a turkey feather, extension cords hung in neat loops next to hammers and garden shears, and, balanced carefully in the corner on twin sawhorses, a DeWalt sliding chop saw.

Finally, imagine if you will, shoved in together, cheek by jowl, our sofa and love seat, which served as our sleeping arrangements (with two dogs and three cats) over the past seven nights.

And you know what? It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all.

First of all, the farm has never looked so manicured. Eager to stand fully upright and stretch, we burst from the shack each morning before 6 (fueled by coffee from Paul’s french press), and while I saw to the horses and barn chores, Paul attacked the rose beds, weeding before the heat of the day and applying golden brown mulch, weed-whacking the fence line and hand mowing around the house and barn. I bush-hogged the fields and edged around the paddocks. Our daily reward, after climbing the treacherous ladder to our upstairs bathroom to shower, was a Greek salad at our neighborhood diner, the result being a noticeable roominess in the waist of our shorts.

And, naturally, each day, we simply had to open the front door and peep in to exclaim how lovely the floors looked, the dark chestnut stain drying at an agonizingly slow rate in the humidity.

In the evening, after a trip to the fridge, now parked, fittingly for the rural south, like a sentry on our front deck (awaiting, I am sure, a couch and a transmission hanging on a chain from a tree to keep it company) we absconded to the shack with bruschetta and hummus – too tired to cook – spread upon whole grain crackers and pulled a couple of beers from the cooler, which also served as an ottoman for our weary legs.

Hooking up his computer in the shack, Paul began to stream Netflix’ onto his monitor and, really, our evenings in third-world conditions were astonishingly similar to our lives in our home: cocktails at 5, Brian Williams at 6:30, yelling at the screen for an hour (also known as “House Hunters International”), followed by English “Brit-coms” and assorted mysteries.

The best part of all was, when our eyelids became heavy with sleep, we just crashed as we were on the sofas – no getting up, clearing away plates, scrubbing out pots and pans, then climbing the stairs to bed, now thoroughly reawakened. Nope, beer bottles rolled away handily toward the sag in the floor, Paul’s martini shaker was placed near the dog’s dish, and the terriers squeezed through the cat flap for their own adventures.

It was a bit like camping, really, and even with my legs draped over the arm of the love seat with a cat on my head, I managed a decent night’s sleep – expect for one thing.

As mentioned before, the shack isn’t plumbed. Which means Paul, like all men, could simply stand outside on the stoop and, for lack of a better description, water the roses.

And I, when the beer knocked on my bladder at 2 a.m. and I chose elbowing a horse out of the way in a stall as opposed to stumbling through the dark to the house, suddenly realized exactly what that “envy” phrase was all about.

Exactly. And there’s a whole lotta truth to it.