March 30, 1994|By Allegra Bennett

THE wallpaper was gorgeous. The pattern was a pale peach accented with a thin silvery stripe that repeated every three inches. Its satin finish gave it a luxurious look. It even had a name: Peachglo. It made a poor girl mistake herself for a princess.

Unlike royalty, however, the princess worked like a scullery maid, single-handedly (well, double-handedly) applying the final panel of paper on the difficult section of wall that angled up the stairway.

It was March, and I'd been at it since Christmas. When I left for work that morning, I was mightily impressed with myself. I blew the walls a kiss as I left. I couldn't wait to get back home.

When I returned, I couldn't contain the giddiness. I unlocked the front door with images of my handiwork dancing in my head. I floated across the threshold.


Things at the manor had regressed remarkably since morning. Much of the blasted just-too-cute wall covering had tumbled to the floor. One of the panels was still hanging like a banana peel, clinging stupidly to the wall as if it had been ready to detach but had frozen in place when it heard me unlock the door. Seeing me, it proceeded.

You have nightmares about this kind of stuff. I didn't feel much like royalty. I was numb. My brain was channel grazing, and every station was showing Greta Garbo as the sickly Camille. She was dressed in a delicate peach look-of-wealth satin dressing gown with a thin silvery stripe every three inches. Camille was whispering something I could not make out.

When sound finally came out of my mouth, it sounded like Ricky Ricardo laughing at Lucy's latest hairbrained scheme. I couldn't stop for a while. If you're going to do your own wallpapering, a sense of humor is critical. And if you don't come with any, rent some or a professional paper-hanger.

I was caught in a netherworld of decision. I had put too much time into this little job, told too many people about it, bragged all day about it. People were coming to check it out. I considered ripping the rest of the paper off and applying some sensible off-white paint.

But the ego said, "Nah." Clearly, I had to do the job over again. But I didn't know what I had done wrong. I went over all the steps in my mind. I had done everything right. Well, maybe not everything. The information sheet that had come with the wallpaper was on the floor. I picked it up and sat down on the hall steps to read it for the first time. Greta's asthmatic panting grew louder in my head. Now I could make out what Camille was saying. She was gasping, "Wrong paste! Wrong paste!"

You see, had I read all of the label in the first place, I would have learned that a "vinyl to vinyl" paste especially made for covering over old paper was necessary. But I didn't read it. The moral of this pathetic little tale? Ignore the labels and you can plan to do the job again real soon. Laziness can make you work.

Allegra Bennett is a Baltimore writer.

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