You know your Jagermeister-chugging days are over when you bookmark your first home DIY blog. Now that I have a home to remodel, the possibilities have been vast, frightening and filled with words like 'ducting'. Overnight, appliances that were just background fixtures in a room - the air-conditioner, ceiling lights, refrigerators - have ballooned into life-altering and anxiety-wracked choices.
For the last few weeks, my choice of air-conditioner, for example, has plagued my dreams. There is more at stake over which box I will use to blow cold air at my being, than over which man to marry. A bad decision about the former is infinitely harder to undo than a bad decision about the latter - which, if Beyonce is to be believed, can be accomplished by very specific instructions to scooch over to the left.
Visiting the local forums has only made things worse. I am now wise to all the things that could possibly go wrong during air-con installation, thanks to the accounts of forumers which read like Dante's Seven Levels of Hell. One poor chap had to call the service people back to his house several times after his brand-new unit stopped emitting cold air and instead began dripping water on his new wooden floors. Then, the workers mistakenly connected his new air-con unit to the wiring for an old unit and caused a brown-out in the house. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, on the last house visit, the workers stole the ang paus. Meant for the homeowner's elderly parents. During Chinese New Year.
The air-conditioner is not the only offending white good. The refrigerator, which heretofore only sat there and kept your grub cold, has developed a labyrinthian mass of dimensions, door combinations and new-fangled features. I found a refrigerator the other day that, I swear, lets you access Google Calendar from a touchscreen panel on its front. I'm already being bossed around by my smartphone, my Wifi-enabled lighting system and my voice-activated iPad, so this is an additional blow to my self-esteem.
What has been especially astounding is just how hands-on the average homeowner has become. The forums here are filled with people nonchalantly slinging about terms like "G22 copper pipe" and "Class O Thermaflex". Where do local men find the time to become experts on appliance tubing between their day jobs and telling Brendan Rodgers how to do his?
At the same time, my cultural milieu is filled with people who have mastered what was once known as "DIY stuff", but is now variously called "artisanal", "makeover art" or "bootstrapping". Everywhere, on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, there appears to be someone in Brooklyn or Portland who has ripped a tree out of the ground with her bare hands, power-sawed it into submission and chiseled it into a living room credenza covered in homemade organic biodegradable lacquer.
These people tend to be from my generation, born in the 1980s. They would have graduated from college right into the trauma of the Great Financial Crisis, and lived to see corporate America fall apart while jobs disappeared. Maybe, this is their way of rebuilding a part of the world that has betrayed our generation - a part that they can control.
Me, I'm dealing with the fallout through my own brand of artisanal therapy. It's called "Ikea".