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Monday, May 18, 2009



One thing that makes Other Bill and me a good fit together is that neither of us gives a shit. You can tell that by looking at our home furnishings, our clothes, the things we eat, and the way we behave.

We pretty much live for comfort, and we don’t care how that looks. We have a 30-year-old maroon leather couch in the living room that is the summer lounge for Bungee, because it sits right under an air conditioning vent. It is really comfortable. It has great lumbar support and just absorbs you when you sit in it.
Every now and then, Bungee gets curious as to just what makes that couch so damned comfortable, so she’ll slice open a worn bit of leather, pull out a tiny bit of stuffing, and then, satisfied with her answer, goes back to her gin and tonic, Eve cigarette, and another afternoon in front of the Soap Opera Channel.

Her little slices have been taped up with not-very-well-color-matched maroon duct tape. This couch is pretty much the first thing you see when you walk into the front door of our house. Does it cause us embarrassment? Not in the least. We don’t give a shit.

I would rather wear a 30-year-old threadbare t-shirt that rips every time you stretch than any other shirt in the world. Nothing feels better against my skin than soft, aged cotton, preferably so old that it weighs less than a Q-tip. After work and on the weekends, what I wear is basically fabric vapor. And usually it’s stained or holey in small areas that aren’t that noticeable. Oddly enough, my ancient t-shirts and frayed shorts are now being replicated and sold as mock-vintage stuff at stores like American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch. My stuff is just genuine, and usually costs and weighs about 95% less.

We don’t have nice things. We don’t want nice things. I was surprised that when the burglar broke into our house in March, he didn’t just turn around and walk out. We don’t want to spend money on new things. Our home is furnished with a mishmash of thrift and antique store furniture that doesn’t match or particularly look all that nice but is functional and comfortable. Practically everything we owned or have ever owned is secondhand. Even Bungee was used when we got her. Twice used, in fact. We could afford better stuff (including a better dog), I guess, but the thing is, we don’t give a shit, so why bother?

When I was a kid, we got plenty of hand-me-down clothes from a well-to-do family of 10, and apparently I have trouble letting go of that ritual. These days, our benefactors are Billy and Ron.

Billy and Ron’s house is immaculate. Everything is new, clean, shiny, and unblemished. Because Ron is retired, he has a lot of time for making their place lovely and downright perfect. Even though they have two dogs, they don’t have any dirt on the floor of their patio. We have one dog, and our patio floor is 45% concrete, 55% dog track-ins.

Billy and Ron have high turnover rates for their stuff. And they are always comfortable calling us to see if we want their old stuff before they put it out on the street for gypsies to take. We have their old mini-fridge sitting on top of our mini-freezer outside on the patio. When they called and offered us the fridge, even though we didn’t need it, we accepted, because you can’t just throw away a perfectly good refrigerator. So we went and picked it up, even though nothing says White Trash louder than exterior major appliances. Luckily, we don’t give a shit.

Billy and Ron are good friends, and in turn we are also their own personal Salvation Army. Other Bill and I are thinking about starting our own 501(c)3 for them just so they can get a tax credit for the stuff they give us. It’s the least we can do. It’s not like there’s anything in our house that they’re going to want. For the most part, they’ve already proven that.

We have their old patio lounge chairs now sitting in the breezeway in front of our house. Billy and Ron got a new patio floor covered in elegant earth tone paving blocks that appear to be self-vacuuming. They also bought some really nice rattan cushioned furniture, which I am praying will mildew in a year or two so we can put it on our patio. Since a lot of their possessions eventually end up in our house, you’d think they’d make it a point to take us shopping with them when they buy new stuff to make sure it’s something that would go with our motif once they’re done with it. The problem with that is, we have no motif.

They don’t know it, but when we are at their house and are not looking, we have stuck labels on many of their possessions we’d like to have. “The Bills would like to have these if you’re getting rid of them,” the labels remind them.

They also have really nice cars and pretend not to mind us being passengers whenever we go anywhere with them. On the other hand, they’ve never asked for us to drive one of our cars, for the reasons shown below. Their cars never lose the new car smell and have things like global navigation systems, roomy, orthopedic leather seating, and steering wheels that have memory positions. Other Bill drives a 12-year-old Toyota Tacoma truck, which could use a significant body work, a paint job and one of those nice cardboard deodorizers that swing from the rearview mirror, but it comes in handy for picking up hand-me-downs. I now drive a Honda Fit, which is frequently mistaken for a cockroach because of its size. Pedestrians at crosswalks frequently pull off a shoe and smack my car with it as they make their way across the street. SUV’s that pass me on the interstate often hold passengers who lean out their windows and spray me with Raid.

Recently Other Bill told Billy that when they get done with their sleek, quiet, comfortable Infiniti, we’d be happy to take it off their hands. But it was too late. They had already traded it in on this year’s model. Next time we’re over there, we’re putting labels on their new Infiniti as well as Ron’s candy-apple-red convertible Mustang, which I know for a fact never gets shoe-smacked or sprayed with toxic chemicals.

When we got married in September of 2008, we made a big mistake in the gift registry process. Having never had to face posting a list of demands for “things” that friends should spend lots of money on for us, we instead told people we were registered with Wachovia. Further illustrating our ignorance of these matters, we neglected to give people deposit slips, so we ended up getting no gifts at all. If we’d been smart, we would have informed our public that we were registered at Billy and Ron’s House of Nice Things. Maybe we would have gotten some nice granite countertops or one of the quiet-flushing toilets they have. Or even one of their nice, clean dogs.

You’d think we’d be ashamed that we have several pieces of dog-ruined furniture in our house, two of which are covered over with sheets and towels. They do go well with the taped-up couch. But because we don’t give a shit, we are shameless. In fact, we are always on the lookout for additional benefactors who have great taste, big wallets, and the ever-evolving urge to redecorate; philanthropists who would love to come over for dinner, but don’t want to be in a house that looks as if it was decorated by a group of mentally challenged NASCAR fans. Or is that redundant?

I could easily say that we are doing this for the good of the environment, that we are dedicated to recycling and saving the planet. But that’s not necessarily so. The real reason is that we just don’t give a shit. When hand-me-downs come to us, they stay here until they further decompose over time, and when it’s our turn to throw things out, the stuff usually has less than 72 hours before it disintegrates, evaporates, rusts out or rots into the earth. Our home is a holding tank, a middle ground between the retail store and the compost heap. Well, maybe a little bit to the right of the middle ground. Maybe a lot to the right. Okay, our home is the compost heap.

We both think that if you have nice stuff, the more traumatic the time will be when you spill something on it, scratch it, dent it, crack it, have it stolen, or otherwise devalue it. The great thing about not giving a shit is that the dog’s tongue can satisfactorily clean up spills adequately for your needs, and you never know if the scratch, dent, or crack came from you or if it was like that the day you unloaded it from your 12-year-old scratched, dented Toyota Tacoma. Worrying is a thing of the past, and you don’t run around your house during a party with a can of warm club soda and a sponge. You can stop being that skinny, mink-wearing in the Sixties who avoided the buffet table at The Club in order to prevent herself from dipping her stole into the Swedish meatball pan. Not giving a shit sets you free.

I can’t tell you steps to take to stop giving a shit. It’s not learned behavior. My mother gave a shit. She had a psychotic meltdown and didn’t speak to me for a week after I spilled a bottle of red ink on the new powder blue shag carpet she spent years saving for. It was a big, bloody-looking, horror-movie red stain that made it look like carpeting that was dragged out of the home of a Manson family victim. Maybe not giving a shit is something you’re born with. Nature, not nurture. When I took a razor knife to the ink stain, and cut it out and replaced it with a scrap of leftover carpeting, you could still see the outline of the hole where the ruined carpet had been. It was an improvement. It was good enough. Who gave a shit? Certainly not me.

I thought that not giving a shit was something that came with age. When I was in my twenties, I wanted everything beautiful and immaculate, matching, and awe-inspiring. I even made my bookshelves beautiful with enormous, expensive art books (which, to be honest, I stole from the library I worked at). I thought that as you age and move, you let go of things and learn to live more simply. But that’s not necessary true. Billy and Ron are a little older than we are, and they still give a shit. They give a lot of shit.

The bottom line, I guess, is that not giving a shit is the basic result of inertia. It takes work to give a shit, as well as motivation to seek better jobs that pay more money. And it takes time. You have to shop and browse catalogs and develop vision and a coordinated color palate. It’s so much more relaxing just to lean back in our sagging recliner sofa, click the remote and watch reruns of Judge Judy.

Maybe it takes retirement to have the time to give a shit. Maybe vision and the hope and possibility of living in a house that looks nice come with spare time. Maybe one day if I’m ever able to retire, I’ll experience that. If I ever learn to give a shit, I’ll call you. You can come pick it up.

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