I love quirky Southern sayings, particularly this one:
“Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.”
Not to be confused with the labor-intensive (and costly) treatment of adding a coat of lime to red brick for a desirable rusticated finish, this expression refers to adding water to paint to cut the cost of regular home maintenance.
Throughout childhood, I heard the cliche used to describe variations of financial irony, such as when a person could not afford upkeep on a rambling ancestral home, or when she earned too much money to apply for financial aid.
But this weekend I inferred a different, less fiscally literal, meaning.
The garbage rollout drawer in my kitchen is fabulous, if I do say so. Large enough to house a full-size metal trash can–the kind that Oscar the Grouch might inhabit–it occupies the cabinet space immediately beside the dishwasher, allowing for easy disposal of anything that doesn’t go into the chicken/compost pail.
Of course, all that scraping invariably results in an Abstract Expressionist splatter of gravy and kombucha mother on the top of the garbage rollout drawer. I am sure that June Cleaver or some other domestic goddess would maintain a clean garbage rollout top by regularly scouring with Brillo, Clorox, or whatever it is that responsible people use to keep a tidy house. But, no, that doesn’t happen Chez Fox. We just live with.
That is, until this weekend, when I stood at the garbage rollout drawer with a paint roller in hand — from an unrelated project — and realized I could just paint over all that scum. A few back-and-forths with the paint roller, and all those rings of dried syrup and coffee would disappear.
Of course, painting is not that simple. To make paint stick for the long haul, you have to clean, scrape and prime the surface first.
So, I thought, perhaps the wiser course would be to start with a June Cleaver-style elbow-grease-and-Clorox deep-cleaning of the cabinetry, then hit it with the paint.
Standing there with paint roller in hand, I deliberated: Clorox first, then paint? Or just paint? Clorox? Paint? Clorox? Paint?
That’s when a bastardization of the old saying sprang to mind:
“Too dirty for paint, too lazy for Clorox.”
And that’s when it dawned on me that the paint-versus-whitewash dilemma isn’t so much an expression of financial limbo as it is an adage about paralysis, a cognate of another favorite dictum, “Don’t let Great be the enemy of Good.”
All too often, particularly when it comes to creative pursuits, I get derailed by Paint, Whitewash, Great and Good. The choices overwhelm me, and instead of creating The Best Thing, I create Nothing.
So that’s my resolution for 2020: to write, make and do more things, even if they’re not the best things. To that end, I’ve committed to meeting with my writers group more regularly in 2020.
In the meantime, I rolled right over the stained and sticky top of the garbage rollout drawer. The fresh paint looks great, and I might even feel a little proud.