Real Simple

He Promised to Love, Honor, and Respect… His Wife’s Color Choices


IT WAS A TUESDAY. In April. One of those warm, sunny spring days that make a a different house paint color than the one he and his wife had decided on.

Steve and I had been living in our forever home for three years, and the time had come to paint the exterior. It was something I’d been looking forward to, considerin­g the booger-green hue was the only thing I didn’t like about our home when we bought it.

Knowing you should only paint a house in our area every seven or so years, Steve and I had not made the color decision lightly.

I had driven, jogged, and walked around our neighborho­od, coming to appreciate a pale-yellow-with-whitetrim combo that looked lovely against the summer trees and projected a patient hope in the gray days of March. In April, the dogwoods would bloom in front of this ever-so-light butter yellow and lift my heart.

I’d just renovated our kitchen, and I was well schooled that white is not white and yellow is not yellow. So intimidate­d was I by the stacks of paint cards that I hired my interior designer to consult on our color choices.

Paint chips were mailed back and forth. Yellows were discussed at length, held up against the whites, looked at outside to see how they fared in the harsh light of morning and the warm glow of dusk. Steve was brought outside to agree.

We hired painters, and on the day the stripping was finished and the colors were to be applied, Steve drove to the Home Depot with the exact names, numbers, and paint chips. I left for work and suggested he bring Lori, our babysitter, along for the ride.

What happened at the paint counter shall remain a puzzle never to be solved. Someone—Steve? Lori? The paint-mixing specialist?—looked at the chosen yellow-and-white combo and suggested that the contrast was too subtle. The yellow was so light that it was almost white, and certainly this would not look good. The three of them—a group that did not include me or the designer I’d hired—made a gametime decision that a brighter, “more lemony” yellow would be preferable. Thirty gallons of the lemon choice were mixed, shaken, and purchased.

I did not cry when I arrived home to find the painting in progress. I did not yell. I did not call a divorce attorney. I looked at Lori’s and Steve’s beaming faces (they had saved the day, you see) and I did the math. It wasn’t the cost of buying the right paint that stopped me from doing anything other than smile. It was the price of having Steve and Lori know the depth of my anger, and my dislike for the lemon they’d chosen—when they were standing there anticipati­ng how happy they’d made me.

“It’s just a little sunnier, brighter. Better, don’t you think?” Steve asked, Lori grinning, the painters watching me expectantl­y, their supervisor lifting his eyes (but not his head) from his phone.

I decided in that moment to not hate the yellow. In a show of emotional maturity I’d never managed before—and haven’t mustered since—I smiled, breathed in deeply, and said, “It’s lovely.”

 ?? Photograph by Ari Michelson ??
Photograph by Ari Michelson

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