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Publisher’s Letter: Expert witness

It was the day after Christmas, and I was in my 14-year-old daughter’s bedroom standing atop a ladder wearing a shower cap, disposable clothing, plastic gloves and my reading glasses. You are going to have to imagine this in your mind’s eye because—no surprise—I didn’t take a selfie and post it on social media. In fact, when Elizabeth walked in and shrieked in laughter, I remember my exact words:

“If you take a picture of this, you are dead to me.”

To be fair, she didn’t look much better. She, too, was in old clothes with her middle-school swimming cap covering her long brown hair. This was the first day of a three-day room redesign, and Elizabeth and I were painting the ceiling while trying to keep the paint from splattering our hair. I’m pretty sure professional painters don’t need a shower cap.

Now I’ve painted a room before. In my early days of marriage, I painted the entire interiors of an older house we lived in. But my husband does. not. paint. I knew this going in. Right before our wedding, we were painting the living room of the first house we purchased together. He stepped back and knocked over a full can of open paint. Then, in a rage, he threw the wet paint roller across the room and hit the wall. He doesn’t paint. So when our downstairs needed updating a number of years ago, we hired painters to quickly and competently get the job done.

But one room? I could do that.

Here’s what I love about America. Everyone thinks that they can do anything. I blame our encouraging parents who collectively said, “You can be anything you want to be.”

Yes, yes. We live in a free country which allows us to try and be anything we want to be. And with much practice in a particular field, we might get better than many. There are self-help books galore telling you as much, and these authors have decided they are writers and now they have books on Amazon to prove it. Nowadays, everyone is a writer/blogger, everyone is a fashionista and everyone, thanks to our phones, is a photographer. So during this particular venture, I decided that I was not only a painter, but I was also an interior decorator.

“Whatcha want with semi-gloss paint?” He was a large man, and he didn’t smile from behind the counter. I was in paint-splattered clothing with a streak of white ceiling paint running from my temple to the base of my jaw.

“I’m going to paint a wall.”

Long pause. “Nobody paints walls with semi-gloss.” We were in a stare down. He suggested a satin or eggshell finish. My sister-in-law stood next to me and, never having painted a wall before, she had no idea what he was talking about. But I knew the lingo. I lived in America. And I had just enough knowledge of satin finishes to stand my ground.

“I’m only painting a dark accent wall in semi-gloss,” I explained. “The rest of the room can be in eggshell.”

He still wasn’t budging. “What room of the house is this going in?”

When I told him it was a teenage girl’s bedroom, he relented. “Fine, if that’s all it is. I thought you were tryin’ to make your whole house shiny.”

I appreciate this man and his love of the craft. He is a professional. Clearly, I am not. And although I can watch YouTube how-to videos to learn how to cut in on the corners, I will never be a true painter. Sometimes professionals are called for. Although my husband doesn’t paint, he is an attorney. And I, for one, want a real lawyer with me when I’m standing in front of a judge. I want a real engineer to design the bridge I drive across. I want a real surgeon holding the scalpel when I’m on the operating room table. There are reasons we rely on professionals.

That day, the paint professional let me walk out with a gallon of semi-gloss in a dark aubergine hue named Camelot. The result was a shiny success. And although Elizabeth’s room isn’t professional-perfect, she does feel like a Camelot princess in her new space. Obviously, I’m not professional enough to build a high rise or replace a hip. But I can paint a wall. Just don’t call me an expert, because I still have slick purple paint wedged under my fingernails.