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life as a house

June 28, 2011

Have you read Rachel Meeks’ blog, Small Notebook?  It is one of my favorites, and in a recent post she compared house-hunting to the bad kind of dating.  Because recent days have found me consumed with the idea (not, sadly, the event) of selling our house, and because later this week I will leave a treasured job I’ve held for over four years, I considered that showing a house is much like interviewing for jobs.  Why, you may ask?

  • When interviewing for a job or showing your home to prospective buyers, you never put anything but your best side forward.   Maybe you are interviewing for a jeans-and-t-shirt job, maybe you will don a suit approximately 5 times in your entire career, but you will always dress up for an interview.  Before an interview, you might get a haircut or a manicure.  At the very least, you will check your reflection to insure there is no residual tabbouleh wedged between your two front teeth. The bottom line:  you don’t want your slovenly appearance to be the reason you don’t get the job.  For a showing, your house will wear freshly shined hardwoods and sparkling bathroom mirrors.  Its Windexed sidelights will be accented by the large potted geraniums you pray you can keep alive until the damn thing sells.  You can control the condition of your nails, your teeth, and your geraniums.  You know there are a lot of hopefuls desperate to be snapped up, and you work your exterior into fighting shape.
  • Thus, your blemishes are unlikely to emerge in interviews.  You know not to ask about vacation time right away, not to badmouth your former boss.  Your inability to meet a deadline may only become evident weeks after your hire, buried deeply as it was beneath that freshly pressed Ralph Lauren jacket.  And your house?  It looks like a Restoration Hardware catalog, all retro-modern fixtures and flawless paint.  The black mold in the bathroom has lived there all along, even if it only makes its presence known when you crack open the drywall for a remodel.  After all, everybody knows that pretty might get your foot in the door — it might get your signature on the contract — but rot always eats its way to the surface.
  • What is best about you may never emerge in an interview.  It’s unlikely that an hour in a faceless conference room will foretell your peerless red velvet whoopie pies, baked for every office holiday party for the next seven years.  You probably won’t reveal your reluctance to engage in office gossip or your tolerance for verbally abusive customers, either.  Similarly, your house won’t tell prospective buyers of spirited kitchen table conversations, unsteady first steps across its sunny back deck, or summer ice cream cones melting on its front steps to the wild whispers of a cricket symphony.  The best of you — the best of it —  unfolds like waves.  The best is carved out over time.
  • But there’s so little time in an interview or in a house showing.  There is hope, however, in spades.  Occasionally (as Rachel writes) this hope is founded on projections of what could be rather than what is.  You interview for a job hoping that its prestige or its responsibility will make you a better version of yourself, just as prospective buyers look at your house, breathing in its possibilities. “It has a wired workshop!” one nudges the other, “Just think of  what we could build in there”  (never mind the fact that they’ve never darkened the threshold of a Home Depot).  Both the interview and the house showing reflect who we could be, if we dressed impeccably, boxed up our knickknacks, and greeted the world daily with a certain trepidation.
  • Of course, interviews differ from showings in that interviews are conversations.  There is no interchange in a house showing.  Your house can’t respond to the expectations of its potential buyers, morphing its verbal CV to highlight extensive sheltering experience or spotless new windows.  Both experiences end with the winner taking everything.  Feedback such as,  “You were one of our top two!” may ease the sting of loss a bit, but it doesn’t alter your reality.  If you win, you think little about the outcome.  If you lose, you want to know where to attribute the loss.  You upgrade or update, reevaluating your strengths.  You may ruminate about your kitchen counter tops, or curse that “C” you earned in English.

In case you haven’t caught my tone, I hate job interviews.  I hate showing my house.  If I had my way, I’d sit down at the kitchen table and have a conversation over mugs of coffee.  I’d do my best to lay it out — the ice cream cones, the missed deadlines, the broken blinds, all of it — and I’d try to live with the outcome.

As much as I’d love a conversation, I’m not sure our real estate agent would embrace that approach.  So, I’ll shine the floors.  I’ll water the geraniums.  I’ll let you know what grows.

“Excuse me.  Didn’t she say she would get back to us on Monday about the unicor — er, fantasy novel she’s reading?  What is up with the compulsive lying?  Sheesh.”

I did unintentionally lie, and I do apologize.  I was so busy preparing both my immaculately turned out house and my graceful/frantic exit from my job that I just ran out of time to finish Magic Bites. 

[Side note:  perhaps I’m just a curmudgeon, but I prefer reading actual books to reading e-books on a computer.  Is it just me?  I’m afraid the e-book medium might have negatively influenced my perception of the book.  I’m trying not to let it.] 

Anyway, I am almost done with Magic Bites and, while I will reserve my final opinion until I’ve read the final page, I’m challenged by it.  It reads sort of like chick lit…  but with werewolves. And vampires.  And lots of blood.  It’s not as though I am above chick lit — I’ve read plenty of Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Weiner in my post-baby days —  but if I commit to a pink-jacketed beach read, I’d rather it feature a cosmopolitan  setting and a quirky best friend than a saber-wielding mercenary.  Still, I will reserve judgment until I reach the bitter end.

Stay tuned, folks.  My Entertainment category ends Thursday, and I’m looking forward to challenging myself with a final June exercise.

I wish you nothing but a clean-swept porch, bountiful fireflies, and a suit that you wear once every five years.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    June 29, 2011 8:34 am

    This really hits home… if you’ll pardon the pun. I’ve been looking for a job and haven’t had much luck. One opportunity seemed really promising–I had two interviews for a position at a private high school–but it doesn’t seem to have panned out. Now I find myself wondering what I said (or didn’t say) during one or both of those interviews that cost me the job. Or maybe my resume wasn’t quite impressive enough? Or perhaps one of my references gave me a less than glowing recommendation? I’m trying to remind myself that they probably had to choose from among several highly qualified applicants. Maybe it was a difficult decision for them. Not that that helps me any…

    Anyway, good luck selling your house.

    Oh, and I tend to stay away from “unicorn novels,” too. Bleah.

    • June 29, 2011 12:46 pm

      Ugh. I am so sorry to hear about your frustrations with the current job market. I always find myself second-guessing everything I said/did/wore during an interview. I hope you are able to ditch this line of thinking, though, because the likely reality is that you are up against some reallllly stiff competition. My guess is that it was, indeed, a tough decision for those hiring. I wish you nothing but luck on your search — whoever hires you will be glad they did.

      • Jeff permalink
        June 29, 2011 6:07 pm

        Aw, thanks!

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