When the decision is made to change the color of a wall in the bedroom of a twelve year old in the interior of a house in the middle-to-upper-class suburb near the capital of our great nation, there is often some contention as to what the color should be, or if it must be changed at all. To say that the decision has been made is disingenuous, actually, as the population of the house will be active in the process whether their opinion is relevant or not.
For instance, if you were to decide that you wanted your bedroom to have black walls, in order that the room will be darker at night, conditions under which your sleeping habits will become more healthy, each member of the family will tell you why it is a terrible idea.
Perhaps your father will tell you that dark colors will only enhance your depressed state, and will drag your family with you into a pit of despair, by way of projecting his own emotional hang-ups onto you.
Your mother may tell you something about ambient light, I don’t know, something stupid.
The brother whose opinion you assign little value to may tell you that you should do it, as if you can afford the familial capital required to take initiative in the matter.
The brother who most values his own opinion will tell you it’s ok, but he’ll do it in such a way which suggests that it’s actually pretty stupid, and that you’re stupid for even suggesting it.
Your favorite brother doesn’t understand, but he thinks it’ll be really cool to have a black room.
The process isn’t easy, and you eventually get negotiated down to only one wall in the room, and it will have to be that wall that guests will see last, so that they can, as you mother may put it, “Admire your artistic talent,” before they see that embarrassing wall of depression and anxiety. From there, realizing you have no options, your parents will exert their authority, stifling your creativity by dumbing you down to a weak, almost childish, charcoal grey. Recognizing that it might be the best you can get, you agree.
From there, it’s off to Home Depot, because you represent the middle-class demographic of your neighborhood, which was rated in the top fifty neighborhoods in the country, and can’t afford to buy paint which can be described as being high quality. Of course this trip cannot be embarked upon immediately. First phones must be called and emails must be sent, Facebook posts posted, asking everyone your mother knows if they need anything from Home Depot. Once an appropriately lengthy shopping list has been compiled, you may then, and only then, go out and wait in the car for your mother to be done with whatever mothers do when you’re waiting in the car.
The paint section of the store will be the one you visit last, because your mother knows you won’t let her leave without the paint, and that makes it a low-priority item. She may also be hoping you forget, but you know full well that it won’t happen, and you won’t misbehave either, for if you do, she may use that misbehavior in order to confiscate your wall-painting privilege. She gathers all the paint chips for charcoal gray, and, failing to find the difference between them, asks the gentleman behind the counter. He can’t tell the difference in color, but he is knowledgeable regarding the the differences in quality of the paint. You don’t quite understand at the time, but by the time you have finished middle school, you will recognize that higher quality items are generally more expensive in the corporate-controlled field of high-quantity sale of paint. Martha Stewart probably had something to do with it, but generally, it’s in the best interests of these large companies to work with each other to determine which section of which market each company should occupy.
Creation of paint is more complicated now than it used to be, and your mother has many questions. The gentleman behind the counter does his best to explain. In the past, paint would be delivered to stores in the quantity that the stores wanted, based on demand for certain colors. Turns out, though, some people have lousy taste in house paint color, and those people represent a significant enough portion of the population that no company can afford to alienate them. These days, paint is colored in the store. Each company provides cans of their paint base, which isn’t white, but closer to an unsalted buttery cream color. This is what the companies actually produce, and is what determines the quality of the paint. The primary colors are red, blue, yellow, black, and white, and each paint chip has a number in the corner which determines the ratio of each color which goes into the final color. These colors are available on tap, like cheap beer, and the attendant, salesman, or paint expert will pry open the can, create the paint color in the can, and seal the can before placing it in a special machine to mix it up. This machine, the automatic paint mixer, is the reason for the standardization of paint can size. There is one machine per size at Home Depot.
It is difficult for an amateur to control the paint once it’s on the wall in such a way that looks like it wasn’t done by someone who has no idea what they’re doing, which is exactly the case. The fact that you are an amateur is irrelevant. If you have good taste, you want it to look like it was done by someone who does know what they’re doing, and in order to simulate the precision of an actual painter, painter’s tape may be applied to the edges of the desired area. Using short sections of tape seems messier, but again, if you are an amateur, you probably want to have the most control possible, and short strips are the way to go. Similar to the lifting of an object by two stings, there is simply not enough tension on the tape to ensure that it goes exactly where you want it to if you grip it by the ends. If you grasp the tape by the middle, the ends will curl. If you grab it by the ends and the middle at the same time, you have more than two hands, and your time is better spent juggling. Naturally, no one will offer to help you. It’s too late in the day. You also have the option to wait until tomorrow, but you’re not about that life. You’ve been looking forward to this moment all day, and you aren’t going to let anything like sleep-deprived clumsiness ruin your painting experience.
Painting is a singular experience. One moment, an object is a color which reflects certain wavelengths of light in a certain way, catches your eye in such a way, matches the other walls in the house to a certain degree. The next moment, you are an individual. You are the only one in the house with a single, vertical roller mark of charcoal grey matte in your bedroom. Perhaps you would like to take a minute.
Nice, wasn’t it? Well, anyway, now you’re committed, and that paint needs to be moved around a bit so it doesn’t drip. You know that much. Up and down, like I showed you. Don’t worry, I can get you a ladder. Careful to keep your back straight. Yes you look stupid, but you know what else looks stupid? Young people with back problems.
Someone once said, in my general vicinity, that something was as boring as watching paint dry. Paint is neither a liquid nor a solid, but a mixture of both, a substance in a category sometimes referred to as being a ‘compound liquid.’ When paint is applied to a surface, the surface, if dry, absorbs some of the liquid, allowing retention. After the paint has been left alone, the paint on the outermost layer (yes paint has layers) begins the process of separation, in which the liquid on the outside evaporates, leaving the solid behind. Aren’t you glad you used the tape? The paint must be mixed to an appropriate density, or impressions of the application device, be it brush, roller, or sponge, will be left on the surface of the paint. This is considered to be unattractive in most circles.
This is a process, and takes time, as any progression must. During this time, you are not as isolated as you might like to be, and your brothers may interrupt. Your youngest brother, free as he is, will come in first, because he isn’t as afraid to show interest in what you’re doing. He likes it, but it’s clear from how he looks at the wall when he talks to you that he didn’t fully comprehend how the room would change. You’ve been pretty into it, and haven’t stepped back to see the whole thing yet, and are saving that experience for later. No, I’m not going to help you, I’m only here because technically, these walls belong to me, and I’m not about to let you mess them up by painting poorly.
You’re not going to live here forever. I won’t let you.
You have to grow up. Everyone does, but you get to decide what you want to do. Yes painting is fun. You can take a break when you’re done with the first coat. I’ll be back with the ladder.
When you have finished your first coat, you may notice some changes in the ambiance of the room. The color of the ceiling is heavily dependent on the color of the rest of the room. If the room’s lighting is recessed, the light never actually touches it without first colliding against the floor and walls. Is the ceiling white? It was painted that way, but is it really? If the floor is a defined color, that color will be adopted by the ceiling. If the walls have been painted white, in a manner not unlike the ceiling, the color will gently fade into the color of the ceiling. Only at the lowest portion, where the wall meets the floor, is the true color of the wall visible, as this section is least affected by the reflection of the floor’s light, and most affected by the recessed ceiling light. But is this actually the true color?
The brother who only likes the color ironically thinks so.
All light is an illusion, and because no one can truly see what we see in the manner that we see it, the true color of anything cannot be determined. And so we, blinded by our own intellectual pursuits, neglect the beauty of the world. Your ceiling is now one color on one side, and a different color on the other. The new color in your room doesn’t make you happy. I suppose you never really thought that it would.
A.G. Abrams lived comfortably on the quiet side of a town near Washington D.C. and attends Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts. He aspires to someday write professionally, draw recreationally, and eat waffles at least once every weekend.