To get the obvious out of the way, Home Depot is the place where no one will judge me for showing up in the same pair of sweatpants I’ve been wearing for years, stained continually over time, and should probably be in the trash at this point since the tiny hole in the crotch area has widened. No one cares, not one person. When I show up at Home Depot, I am showing up as my truest self, on a path towards guaranteed accomplishment by way of home improvement. It’s almost as if the achievement itself discredits any potential judgment for the way I’ve chosen to show up. As if there’s a brief moment in time where I can show up somewhere unapologetically. But where I can show up here authentically, I feel I have to show up elsewhere with a forged personality. What if I showed up unapologetically elsewhere, as I do when I arrive at Home Depot? Can I reach this level of authenticity in other aspects of life that are clearly begging for it?
Upon arriving at Home Depot, walking in, the large and wide automatic sliding doors open somewhat dramatically. I am immediately greeted by a host in a bright orange apron, my nose instantly inundated with the smell of wood that feels like it’s just been sanded, and then I think to myself – let’s fucking get it.
As I squint in my attempt to read the aisle signs as I navigate myself around the store, I am reminded of the vast community one can find there at any given time. This community can consist of a young couple learning about the different wattages in light bulbs, a father projecting toxic masculinity onto his son while handing him a power drill, the cat-lady in the garden area excited to be expanding her varied plant collection, and/or a retired couple investing in an outdoor living set. But of course, last but not least, one can always find the perturbed straight man, seen blowing raspberries as he waits in line, obvious his wife has asked him so many times to fix something that this morning he was on the receiving end of a well-deserved threat and passive-aggressive insult, which has given him no option to delay this chore any longer. What I’m trying to say is Home Depot is the place where people come together to better themselves in the best way they know how to.
Contrarily, the admission I feel in Home Depot leads me to think more in-depth about the other places I think I am needed to shrink to feel accepted. This is where I start to pay attention. These places could be the workplace, it could be school, but more likely, it could be the people closest to you. Pay attention to your circle, specifically those who don’t listen when you have something important to say, instead turn the table of conversation back to themselves. Pay attention to your performance when you’re around others. If you mold yourself into a foreign character unbeknownst to you, rethink this relationship. Pay attention to the people who refute your grief and, even worse, attempt to manage it. Pay attention because, in the end, the only person that this afflicts is yourself.
Sure, sex is cool but have you ever come home with sandpaper to shave down an old nightstand, caulking to spruce up the tiles in your moldy shower, and new mulch for your Fiddle-Leaf all in one day? One could say this feeling of empowerment could be stemmed from the gaslighting we’ve endured in childhood that taught us our self-worth is solely dependent on what you accomplish. Still, it feels good to check things off my list that’s been pending for 6+ months, to sit on my throne (my couch), and revel in the way I have made my kingdom (apartment) better. Yes, I will be putting my feet up today, I have just reached peak domestic, don’t mind if I do.
While on the topic of achievements through domestic bliss, I would specifically like to recount how seen I felt in 2003 when Will Ferrell’s movie character in Old School, a middle-aged man in a loveless marriage, drunkenly expressed his excitement over the errands he and his wife have scheduled for the following day:
“Well, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”
Ultimately this movie marriage ended. Mostly because he disclosed to wondering what another woman’s panties looked like while out on a date with his wife at an Olive Garden, then ultimately revealing his panic over the idea of only having sex with one woman for the rest of his life. As I think about this 17 years later as a full-fledged adult, my chaotic brain can’t help but wonder if it’s the lack of purity this partnership needed in other ways, like how it felt when they ran errands together. Obviously, suburban America loves to run errands because we are the most honest with our individuality when we do.
Perhaps Home Depot is my metaphor for attempting my most genuine self in other ways, like writing this essay, like finding community in people who can agree that Home Depot has undeniable soothing qualities. This pursuit, up until now, has been held back by mostly fear, self-doubt, and shame, all projected by outsiders. Perhaps I’ll view the world as a giant Home Depot, the gateway to authenticity by way of wide automatic sliding doors, and my community of defenders all wearing bright orange aprons. Imagine what we’d get done if we felt safe in the space to do it.
Anyway, does anyone need anything? I’m headed there now.