In Which I Am Pointlessly Indignant

I am such a colossal ninny.

When The Man and I separated we were at the end of a twelve year renovation. Within a whisker of everything being completely finished. All that needed to be done was to install an efficient heating system, and build some shelves in the tiny ground-floor study. The Man had been meaning to build those shelves for, oh, maybe a year. But his stressful job and our stressful relationship kind of got in the way. Eventually, as everything irrevocably fell apart, we realised that The Man was never going to build those shelves, so I had a joinery firm we had used before come and measure up to do the job.

The nice young man came and asked me what I wanted, and I told him. Then I forgot all about it and he went away for three months because they 'had a lot of jobs on' as these firms inexplicably always seem to do when you want them. Then the shelves turned up in a van the other morning, and another nice young man started putting them up.

I popped downstairs after about half an hour to see how things were going. Now this is the point where I should have looked at the monstrosity he had put up on my wall, when it was held in by a mere half dozen screws, and shrieked, 'Good God, that is hideous. Take it down right now and put up the simple shelves I thought I asked for.'

Instead of which I squeaked, 'Oh yes, that looks so good,' and went back upstairs and kicked the wall. Truth is, I suffer from Over-the-Top Politeness Syndrome. Think Hugh Grant, but female, and less charming, and more like a prim librarian. I do not make fusses. I hate to hurt peoples' feelings.  I am crippled by a sense of social awkwardness where I am afraid I might offend a stranger. I am the person who says, 'Sorry,' when someone else steps on my toes.

I was incapable of sending that poor young man back to his workshop with an unwanted, hideous set of shelves because he must have worked SO hard to make them. So I just let him put them up, and I will hate them forever and grin and bear it, because that is also what I do. Because clearly it was my fault. I must have said 'yes' when the nice young man proposed this monstrosity because I often say 'yes' to tradies, just to make them go away. In fact, I said 'yes' to the vision in my head where there were more shelves, narrower and closer together, but we only ever talked about it, and I never saw a visual representation. I am a very visual person. I should NEVER say 'yes' to something I have only heard about, with measurements I somehow agreed to without seeing what they would look like..

Aargh, I am so very spineless, with not a determined, predatory bone in my body. By the time the nice young man had spent some hours hammering fillers into the side of the shelves to jam them between the walls, and nicely puttied up the screw holes and filled all the cracks around the edge, it was Too Late to stop being a jellyfish. I waved off the nice young man and glumly started under-coating the hateful shelves, absolutely furious at myself for not being able to make a decent A-grade fuss about things I am not happy about.

I have stared down the beastly things for two days now as I paint them. If this were a novel or a movie, this would be the moment that I would take a sledge hammer to them, crash them down and build the shelves I want with my own two bare hands. This is not a novel or a movie. I have reluctantly conceded that the shelves look marginally better now they are white rather than dreadful MDF brown. I cannot stand the thought of the mess, the cost and the fuss of ripping them down and getting something else put in its place. The tiny traitorous thought has occurred to me that being so incredibly large and over-engineered, I can store every single homeless item in the house on those shelves. Practicality has won over indignation. But the indignation is still there. Every time I look at those shelves a tiny flame of indignation is fanned. I will not always be a jellyfish. I will find out what I really want. I will ask for it very clearly. And if I don't get it, I will absolutely, positively almost certainly say, 'Excuse me, um, there seems to be a, um problem with this thingy that, but, well yes, it seems it is not quite what I um.... want. After all. Sorry.'

I will be like Arthur Dent after he has worked up a real head of steam. I will be Unstoppable!!

The hideous bank of shelves which look like they belong in an accountant's office. Actually, they do look marginally better now they are painted white. 

The simple plank shelves on the other side of the room which I like. I thought I had asked for more of the same on the other wall, only longer and thinner, but clearly not... I also took the opportunity to paint some baskets white while I had the paint out.

The best thing about my study is the view. It is the only room in the house which looks out at the garden from ground level.

Artichokes and bottlebrush and the pink flowers my mother calls kiss-me-quick. Their official name is centrathus ruber, but that is boring.

All the cups of tea, lined up in prim librarian style. The girls keep bringing them down to me. I think they are worried about the constant, slightly mad muttering coming from inside the study..


Unknown said…
You are adorable and i fear not alone in say yes when we really want to say no no no. I don't think the current generation have the same affliction Jo. They know exactly what they want and will tell you so. So i guess this crippling politeness has been bred out.
Anonymous said…
We librarians are not allowed our prim-and-properness anymore; it is all about Customer Service - the next thing you know we will be made to take barista training and serve espressos while we assist customers with their wifi issues and e-readers!

I think the new shelves look every bit as nice as the old ones but maybe that's just me?
Judy said…
What beautiful cups.

It wasn't your fault this time - 3 months is a long time to wait, he was bound to get it wrong and then just caught you off guard. Don't beat yourself up, you have got more important things going on right now and that is were your strength is. :-)

Once the shelves are full you won't see them, only the beautiful baskets and books you put on them. I also rather like shelves that have the front edges trimmed with bunting or floral materials. Maybe you could use something like that to disguise them further.

I too have been brought up not to say no and it has got me into lots of trouble. It is very hard to go against all that polite upbringing and being over-sensitive to other peoples feelings.
CJ said…
I know exactly how you've ended up with shelves you don't like, I've been know to be the same. We must practice saying "No!" with authority! I also think that once you've got some pretty things on them they will become more invisible. The view is gorgeous, I'd spend far too long looking out of that window. CJ xx
Anonymous said…
OK, so if you know you can't speak up to tradies, then there is no point beating yourself up when you get something you don't like. You are only go to doubly and pointlessly punish yourself and make yourself feel extra bad - "I hate that and I hate myself for causing."

And even if you could speak up, doesn't mean you necessarily get what you want. Eg, Maybe the shelves needed to be attached to their own backing and couldn't have the under supports the same as the ones you like because they poke out of one side of the wall.

And really, maybe you just need a friend to tell you you're feeling needlessly negative towards the shelves.

I'm with Dar. I think they look fine. In fact, I'd prefer them to ones where you can see the boxy supports underneath. I hate shelves like that.

And once all your books and nice nick-nacks are on, the shelves will look beautiful.

I will try to find this decorating site where she put coloured or patterned paper on bookshelves. It looked so gorgeous.

And that view!!! So beautiful.
Anonymous said…
Here's the site. Clearly this woman has too much time. But it is so organised.

Jo said…
Morning lovies! I knew you would make me feel so much better about my tragic incompetence. I was in two minds whether to 'fess up, but I'm glad I did:)
Lynda, you could be right - although one of my daughters is very similar to me. I fiercely coach her in the importance of getting what she wants, and hopefully she will develop that core of steel. She is showing promising signs so far:)
Oh Dar, I do sympathise. The silly powers that be even changed the name of Tasmania's libraries to LINC which is an acronym for something that no-one can remember. It is an OUTRAGE I tell you. Posy's school still has a fierce old-school librarian who appears to like her books much more than she likes the children - an attitude I have a sneaking admiration for!
Judy, I hear you - I sometimes think I attribute feelings to other people that they don't even have. Projection of course. I just can't imagine that everyone else isn't such a delicate snowflake as I am!! I see this very clearly in the daughter who takes after me. She is so careful of the feelings of other people - mostly feelings that the careless people around her don't even have. For instance two of her siblings who don't have noticeable feelings at all:)
CJ, yes, I will practice saying 'NO'. I will start with the children. 'No, you can't have anymore sleepovers this term,' would be a good start.
Lucinda, I HATE confessing to other people how tragic I am, but I forced myself to confess to my gym buddy the other day. We both agree that getting fitter is secondary to the therapy aspect of spending an hour complaining about everything that is bugging us while incidentally lifting weights.. and of course I felt better when I had told her, and she confessed that she had lived with a vile splashback once for the same reason:)
Jo said…
PS Lucinda, just looked at that website. I am in AWE at the level of organisation in that house. I mean!! Surely it must hurt to be that organised?? But yes, shelves, she is all over shelves. I will take notes.
Linda said…
I used to be very shy being the youngest by far of three girls. So I was used to being told what to do and following the lead. I couldn't say No as I didn't want to upset anyone or let anyone down. So eventually I found myself on so many rotas, Chairman of the Scouts, on three committees, attending many meetings, sometimes being called upon to take the minutes if the usual Minutes Secretary was away, I found I wasn't having time to do what I wanted to do: hospital radio and patchwork. So I withdrew from everything and learned to say No! Still find it difficult to say No to many calls on my time with our family but that's another story! So I think as you get older saying No comes much more easily - once you have done it once it is definitely easier to say No every time after that! And I think the shelves look fine. Enjoy arranging your baskets and treasures on them.
Jo said…
Linda, well done you:) It is very hard to be the person who says No. Just reading this made me realise that several years ago I said No to lots of the busywork I was doing that was taking me away from my family and the things I wanted to do. I am very encouraged to remember this. What do you know, I can say No:)
I do admire the fact that you worked out what was meaningful to you, and pursued it. That is something I need to do too.
Bek said…
Oh no! That is terrible. I hate dealing with tradies, but my survival strategy is not to be polite and just say yes, but to say to hell with it and just end up doing it myself. I don't think I necessarily end up with a good job, but at least then I can only blame myself.
Thank you for identifying the pink flower. I've had them in my garden forever, as a relic of the previous owner, and never knew what they were. Cheers.
Jo said…
Bek, I have to admit I did contemplate ripping out those shelves and building my own, but then reality kicked in..
The other common name for Centranthus ruber is False Valerian. Really of course, it is a rampant weed, but very pretty:) I seem to have a light pink and dark pink version, which I love when it pops up next to each other in the garden. I have also seen it in white, but don't have that one.
must admit i'm a little bit like bek. i get very firm and direct and clear. and once i can see i have a comptetent one, i'm friendly and bring out the tea and biscuits.
i hope once you have put your lovely things and vases of flowers on the shleves, they will 'disappear'.

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