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What’s Really Wrong With America

There’s alot wrong with America these days, but almost all our beloved country’s ills lie in one place. The house. The American house is simply too big. Hear me out.

I’ve been in alot of houses in my day. Houses were my thing for years during my “I wanna be an architect” phase. I dragged my poor father to every open house on the East Coast, and I saw my share of gorgeous homes. But it’s only been in the last 15 years that I have seen what has come to be the modern American home. And it’s a problem. A big one.

Let’s start with the foyer. The McMansions all have one. They are two stories high at least, and my first question is who cleans the chandelier in there? These new foyer’s make the one JR Ewing used to descend look kind of shabby. But I wonder just how often the typical mom needs 800 square feet of space to greet the Prime Minister of England? Just how often is he coming to your house? What’s more likely coming to your house is a gaggle of teenagers, and the echo of that alone is enough to send someone reaching for the anti anxiety meds.

The kitchens are nice. They’re really nice. If you’re on skates. You need wheels to get from the double door sub zero refrigerator to the below counter kid friendly juice cooler in time to stop little Herbert from smashing his fingers. Oh wait, you don’t have to worry about that. It has one of those slow closing devices on it. What a shame that Herbert is at the Little Gym every afternoon and never has snacks at home. The triple oven is fabulous for those nights when we cook for our 12 kids, but a little overboard for heating up the pizza that most families eat for dinner. And those marble countertops are something awesome if you are Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. No baking has ever seen a surface like that in a house before. But just when was the last time you made fudge from home? Watching Martha do it on the 52 inch plasma over the dishwasher doesn’t count.

The Great Room attached to the Kitchen that would feed every Roman Catholic in America might have been a great idea. The thought behind it was to put the family near the cooking and create a cozy family space. That could work. But it presumes that someone is a) home .b) cooking and c) can hear each other over the echo of the cathedral ceilings. I’m not sure it’s easy to ask young Ethan about his possible porn addiction when you have to shout at him from 700 feet away and have your voice bounce off the ceiling. And the LL Bean Golden Retriever cozy thing doesn’t work when the dog falls down in a fit of exhaustion from crossing the room. The weekly choir ensembles sound terrific though. We all know how popular they’ve become. We’re going to need to crank up the heat when the choir comes over, though. Only problem with that is that it’s become a little embarrassing that it costs more to heat the Great Room at home than the Sanctuary at church. One piece of good news is that it’s a big enough room to host those Al Gore movie parties. The bad news is it’s starting to feel a little oddly uncomfortable to do so.

It’s all ok , though, because you can walk outdoors for some fresh air. The deck has spectacular views. Of other layers of the deck. How can a trip to Atlantic City’s boardwalk compete with the boardwalk that is out there? Is it every day that the American family needs a dance floor for 87 people complete with its own orchestra pit and chimnea? Don’t Ma and Pa Empty Nester get a little lonely out there? Especially since the dog is still resting from the Great Room?

The kids’ rooms are in their own wing. Now I ask you how you’re ever going to know if Junior smokes alot of pot if he has his own wing, his own bath suite, his own ventilation system, and zoned air conditioning? And if he has his own balcony, you not only don’t know what he’s smoking but who he is smoking it with. By the time you get a whiff of something, he’s not only flushed it and sucked the oxygen out of the room, he’s had time to call 911 to help you with that out of breath problem you’re having from running from one wing to the next.

Last but not least is the Master Suite. The endless closet space is pretty darned attractive, I have to say. There’s nothing like having your own personal Gap in the house. The his and hers bathrooms are pretty fun too considering all the fights that emerge from that little issue. But it’s mighty challenging to be intimate with someone in a super king size bed that floats in the middle of a room that looks like your average high school gymnasium. If you like to do a few lay-ups as foreplay this could work. But by the time you found the person you might want to cuddle with, you’ve already got a migraine from lugging that miner’s cap on your head. There’s not a lamp in all of QVC that could light a room that size. I suppose it’s good for the folks on “Dancing With the Stars”, but the average American couple just doesn’t usually fox trot to the bed and double flip each other onto it. Unless I missed out on alot.

So my point here is that the American Home does not lend itself to the proper workings of a healthy American family. If you can’t talk amongst yourselves, watch your kids, make love, or dine together, then there isn’t a great chance at making a great country together, now, is there? If you can’t have a proper fight and then be forced to bump into each other in a few hours, then grudges can persist forever. And it seems to me that a very large house divided against itself is sure to fail. I think Lincoln said that. He started out in a cabin. He made it work.

c.2010 Lisa Wiffledust

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Comments are closed for this blog post

Comment by wiffledust on March 27, 2011 at 1:42pm
thanks, maryrose!!! thanks for reading!!! xoxox
Comment by Maryrose Orlans on March 27, 2011 at 1:40pm
So spot on!!  Well written!  Excellent stuff, Lisa!
Comment by Elizabeth Geyer on May 24, 2010 at 8:26pm
yes I agree some space can be good Lisa.. your blog shouted at me because I am a bit extreme about this subject though, don't know why, only ever wanted to live somewhere small, spent half my childhood in the cupboard of my bedroom. This one bedroom apartment feels enormous! Great blog.
Comment by wiffledust on May 24, 2010 at 9:07am
thanks, elizabeth! i enjoy space if i can have it, but it should be in scale. i don't want to be hollering to my guests or need a bike to get from one side to the other! ;-)
Comment by Elizabeth Geyer on May 24, 2010 at 2:31am
I AGREE.. on all points.. it's the same here in Australia. I could happily live in a loft, cupboard so long as it is clean and warm with a good window. Well said Lisa.
Comment by wiffledust on April 3, 2010 at 5:50pm
it's so true, sheree. these houses are spiritually void. it certainly seems that way to me. they almost scream, "i don't care about the environment, i don't care about the homeless, i don't care about our kids, i don't care about neighbors..." i wonder who they are showing these houses off to? i worry they need it to feel ok within themselves. i don't even know how to have a marriage in houses like that. it's like they are building show cages for themselves or something.
Comment by Sheree on April 3, 2010 at 2:08pm
I spent 8 years as assistant to a group of interior designers in Dallas so I've seen a number of these mcmansions in all phases of completion. My recurring thought each time was that they are probably the coldest houses I've ever been in. Not only physically cold, but emotionally and spiritually cold as well. And, as amazing as it may seem, most of the ones we worked on were owned by empty-nesters!!! Yep, 2 solitary human bodies occupying more space than most of our local restaurants. I even had one woman complain when I called her that I needed to call later in the day so she didn't have to run across "this big house" to grab her phone. Really? Spent too much on the house and can't afford a cordless phone?
In an area of the country where "big" takes on a life of its own, I've learned to turn a blind eye to the number of single house lots used to provide enough space for one of these and even worse how many gallons of water are wasted on the massive lawns that just have to go in or the wasted electricity used to adorn them with more Christmas lights than any of their neighbors. It borders on disgusting. And, unfortunately, so do many of the homeowners!!
Comment by wiffledust on April 2, 2010 at 8:42pm
that is dead on perfect, lisa. thank you for that!!! and i would go further by saying that this search for "bigger" is leaving us feeling more and more empty and hurting our communal spirit in so so many ways!
Comment by wiffledust on April 2, 2010 at 5:47pm
i just saw the video, will! thanks for that!!! first of all, your neighborhood and home is absolutely beautiful! when i grow up, i want to live there ;-). the newscaster brings out the key point. these mcmansions are out of scale. but they are not only out of scale to the neighborhoods, they are out of scale to human beings! i'm really fortunate that where i live we don't have too many, because the land was developed long ago. but some renovators are trying to sneak in some behemouth additions that are absurd! atlanta seems to have far more mcmansions than we do. how do people pay for those things????
Comment by Will Pollock on April 2, 2010 at 4:52pm
Great post Lisa. The money line: "But I wonder just how often the typical mom needs 800 square feet of space to greet the Prime Minister of England?" LOL! And so true. We are in a "bigger is better" culture and it seems the wheels are off that wagon with no stopping it. So... how do we want for what we have? Seems like we're always wanting more, more, more, in our consumer culture. I've attached a "McMansions" video (courtesy of CNN's Open House) from my YouTube channel that features my house, shot unbeknownst to me, as an example of old-school neighborhoods set against the scourge of the behemoth homes. check it out:

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