No, this article is not about Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Sure, they are the quintessential power couple. Sure, they effortlessly balance fun, hard work, creativity, and desire. Sure they are handsome and wholesome and every other good and perfect quality. But these are things to admire, not internalize. Apart from a love of shiplap, there are very few things I’ve actually learned from them.
There is something there, though. A quality in the veins of every HGTV show that is both alluring and revelatory. Whether it’s Nicole Curtis’ Rehab Addict, John and Drew’s Property Brothers, or yes, even Chip and Jo’s Fixer Upper. Something about this channel makes us want to watch its programming over and over again, connecting us to humanity on a visceral level.
I think I’ve figured it out. It’s the renovation. And more importantly, what it reveals.
We crave beauty.
Every one of these shows starts with a property that is outdated at best, in disrepair at worst. Houses with teeny tiny rooms, dingy hallways, dilapidated exteriors. And what do they do? They tear down the walls and create an open concept living space — light, airy, sunny, spacious. Freedom. Beautiful, comfortable freedom. Tall ceilings, clean lines, light colors. A beautiful space that makes you want to relax.
We marvel at the before and after shots. We cheer the open concept. But most importantly, we delight in the redemption. To take something forgotten and downtrodden and make it beautiful again — that is the fantasy. We want to be that overlooked house someone glances at and says I see you, I’m going to pour my heart and soul into you, and you’re mine. We await the partner that is willing to work with us, on us, to create something beautiful.
What we want and what we fear are close neighbors.
To achieve the breathtaking outcome we must embrace the current state. The landscape of our lives is, well … compartmentalized. We are the outdated property. We have small, segmented rooms of our heart and mind, places we don’t let certain people see. Spaces we keep cornered off and hidden from other parts. The walls are thick and rigid. The air is musty. Sunlight is minimal. Rarely do we let people see all of us when we open the front door.
We are deathly afraid to have the demolition. Afraid to bring down all the walls. The probing question our actions dance around is this: if I unveil all of who I am, who I really am, will the other person stay? Our greatest fear is that we show up in a relationship, we have the demo day, we bring down the walls to create this open space, and the other person looks at it and says This isn’t what I signed up for. You’re too much. The parts of you that you are most fearful of bringing to me, actually, when you bring those things I’m going to leave. It terrifies us.
But while we fear demo day, it is also the the thing we want most. We crave acceptance — not rejection — at that critical juncture. We want to tear down the walls and have a different reception: Babe you are incredible. I love every part of you. Even the parts that are under construction. We want someone to witness the breaking and putting back together. We want someone to marvel at the beautiful thing we become. And yes, we want them to work alongside us as we become this beautiful thing. Total acceptance. Joy in the journey. Anticipating the outcome.
HGTV has taught me many things. It’s taught me that subway tile is *always* a suitable back splash. That killer biceps are a result of scrubbing bathtubs. And that sometimes, real estate agents are glorified marriage counselors. But most importantly, it’s taught me the gravity of segmentation, the value of demolition, and yes, the beauty of redemption.
Archives by Month