No One “Dines” Anymore: Redefining Our Rooms

When I go to open houses these days, I’m struck by how many rooms are included in houses that we just don’t use anymore, or at least don’t use for their stated purpose.  We’re still using 18th century labels for 21st century living spaces.  It’s high time to redefine what we use these spaces for, and who better to do it than me?  Actually, I can think of a lot of people better qualified to do it than me, but they have more important things to do, so yeah.  You’ll have to settle for me.

queen-anne-dining-room-table-and-chairsDINING ROOM

A French writer – Dumas maybe? – said, “animals feed, men eat, and
gentlemen dine.”  To that I would add, “and Americans shove chips into
their mouth while watching Netflix on the sofa.”  No room is more
obsolete than the dining room.  Most people use it, at most, three or
four times a year.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, maybe a birthday dinner.
And that’s fine!  They didn’t even have television in Dumas’ time,
much less the internet.  Dining was the only form of entertainment
they had after the sun went down.  Not so anymore.

There’s also this persistent myth that dining as a family is enjoyable
and virtuous, but usually it just leads to arguments and awkward
interrogation-style conversations.  (“What do you mean, ‘your day was
fine’?  ‘Fine’ doesn’t mean anything.”)  Nor is it useful to pass on
the wisdom of generations.   I vividly recall many tidbits of parental
wisdom that were passed on across the dinner table, and I can say with
utter certainty that they were all nonsense.  The best one is probably
when my father, solemn-faced and totally serious, told me, “if you
decide you want to marry a woman, before you propose, make sure she
doesn’t have any history of violent insanity in her family.”

I don’t even think we should repurpose dining rooms, per se.  We still
eat, it’s just that we do it separately while doing other stuff.
Maybe just knock down the walls and merge it into the living room.
Oh, but don’t call it a living room …

yellow-wallpaper-living-roomLIVING ROOM

“Living” room is sort of an oxymoron, isn’t it?  I mean, when I think
of “living” I envision, like, whitewater rafting or drinking on a
rooftop or some other corny thing that, admittedly, I wouldn’t be
caught dead doing.  But still.  Sitting in your living room is sort of
the opposite of living.  Which is why I think we should go back to
calling it a ‘drawing room.’  Drawing room is a derivative of
“withdrawing” room, which makes way more sense.  What are you doing
when you sit on the sofa watching “The Bachelorette” if not
withdrawing from reality?  And that’s fine.  Reality is intense.  I
can only take, say, three or four hours of reality before I get an
intense urge to withdraw.  To my withdrawing room.

traditional-family-roomIN-LAW SUITE

Ha ha!  In-laws want to visit?  Tell them to get a hotel room.  Wait,
what?  They want to MOVE IN?  *Spits out drink*  This is a terrible
idea.  Generational mixing always ends in disaster.  (This is why I refuse to go to
weddings.)  And it’s not just the younger people who suffer;  the old
people hate it too.  The lifestyles just aren’t compatible, especially
now that culture has accelerated so much.  “Why are you always on the
twitter, what’s so interesting about the twitter, OH MY GOD PUT OUT

Besides, moving your parents in is mostly a non-American thing, and there’s a reason for
that.  American parents are terrible parents.  From the paternalistic
negative reinforcement-based “rules are darn rules” model of parenting
to the mushy, confusing “i’m not your parent, i’m your friend, go
ahead and smoke DMT instead of doing your calculus homework if that’s
what you really want” model to the suffocating helicopter philosophy
of “DON’T DO THAT AGH DON’T DO ANYTHING!!”, American parents are the
undisputed world leaders in ruining kids.  Ha ha, and now they went to
spend their golden years, rent-free, in your lavish basement
apartment?  How about this, instead of paying rent, you just pick up
the tab for my ongoing therapy?

We should just re-christen this the “my significant other found those
texts from that person in my office but we have kids and our finances
are intertwined, so we’re just taking a quote-unquote ‘break'” suite.
Other contenders are “the Congressional intern with a trust fund who
pays our mortgage with his rent” suite, or the “is the economy really
that bad, or should my child just not have majored in Comparative
Literature” suite.

coastal-inspiration-breakfast-nook-03BREAKFAST NOOK

Come on, no one eats breakfast anymore except couples who are still in
the honeymoon period (and then only on weekends), and aristocrats.
The rest of us have jobs to get to, and since we can’t very well cut
out showering, getting dressed, or looking at Facebook for forty
minutes while laying in bed, breakfast gets the cut.  Plus, skipping
breakfast is an easy way to slim down.  I take extreme issue with all
these articles that come out constantly, saying that eating breakfast
makes you lose weight.  This is plainly not true.  I’ve eaten every
type of breakfast and all it does it make you bloated and drowsy for
the first half of the day.  I’m convinced the “eat breakfast, you’ll
lose weight” movement is a conspiracy set forth by all our bosses.
“We’re spending insane amounts of money keeping the break room stocked
with snacks, and no one does any work before the desperate pre-lunch
burst of activity from like 11:45 to noon.  What can we do about
this?”  “Hmm, what if we tell them that eating before they come to
work will help them lose weight?”  “Genius!  But will anyone buy it?”

Every single person I know with a breakfast nook uses it as a
repository for piles of unopened mail from collection agencies and
student loan lenders.  We should call it a “debt nook.”  Though some
of us might need more room.


Ha ha, books!  (Sob.)  I was in denial about this for a long time,
being a writer and general literary-type person, but I’ve finally come
to accept that books are like Civil War reenactment or flared denim;
there are definitely people out there who are still into these things,
but by and large, the culture has moved on.  But it’s not like houses
(okay, luxury houses) come standard with a room especially for musket
storage or cuff-stretchers.  Whereas every seven-figure house on the
market has a wood-paneled room with floor-to-ceiling built-ins.  What
can we do with these rooms?  I don’t have a clue.  For a few years
there, people tried to go the “media room” direction, but nobody even
buys physical media anymore.

I’m sort of stumped as to what to do with this room.  Shoe storage maybe?  There are tons of shelves.

One response to “No One “Dines” Anymore: Redefining Our Rooms

  1. I was hoping for some valid insights. However, I am sorry that your life and your relationships with family are described in such a negative fashion. Homes are meant to be lived in and enjoyed with family and friends. Perhaps you intended to be humorous?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s