A whiter shade of pale

My wife’s favorite color is stark white. The whiter, the better. I have often wondered whether this love of whiteness has psychological origins. Uncle Nunzi thinks she fell in love with a polar bear when as a kid she visited the zoo.

You may ask why this bothers me. Of all the peccadilloes a spouse can have, surely an infatuation with the color white is harmless enough. And yet …

Years ago when we had our kitchen remodeled, we had the contractor put in white floors and white kitchen accessories. The refrigerator, the dishwasher, the phone and the kitchen curtains are all white. The wallpaper had a blue-green stripe with a — you guessed it — white background. The ceiling was papered plain white. The baseboards and kitchen door were painted white.

The contractor finally intervened when she wanted white kitchen cabinets. At that point, our kitchen resembled a blizzard scene at the North Pole. I became the first person in history to come down with a case of snow blindness while eating dinner.

The mania for white did not abate through the years. All of the baseboards and doors throughout the house are painted a high-gloss white. When we did the front of our house, she went for white siding. We had a breakfront designed for our living room. It’s white.

My daughter believes the lack of color in our home betrays a certain insecurity. Uncle believes she will never get over the polar bears.

My wife loves to buy clothing for our grandchildren — navy and white. She also loves to buy them shoes — white shoes, although in recent years she has compromised on saddle shoes, which are only half white. The compromise is rumored to have come about when we "lost" one of our grandkids in the white kitchen.

During the years when our own kids were young, my wife often remarked that with all the spills and dirt all of us dragged into the house, it was a good thing we didn’t have white carpets. I believe this betrayed a secret desire to do the living room in white. The wallpaper is an off-white, I suspect, only as a modest guard against dirty handprints.

In a previous column, you might remember that I dealt with my wife’s affinity for mothballs. I suspect it is because they too are white.

As the years have flown by, our white kitchen set has gotten a bit shabby. Some of the wooden slats have come loose and the white paint has gotten nicked by careless feet. Although I must say the white Formica table has held up well and still gleams in all its whiteness. But it has long since become time for us to get new kitchen chairs.

We recently went shopping for the chairs. Frankly, the anticipation of getting some new kitchen chairs had me so excited that I really didn’t mind missing the baseball playoff game that afternoon. We looked at a number of chairs on display, any of which would honestly have suited my simple needs — mainly, that they not collapse in the middle of dinner.

Surprisingly, my wife’s eyes went to a stark-white chair with a blue cushion. "That looks comfortable," she said, "and it’s stark white." I already had my credit card out and was quickly calculating that I could catch the last two innings of the game on TV. I didn’t realize her words were uttered too quickly to be serious.

Sometime later she wondered whether another chair came in stark white. I muttered something like, "Let’s find a salesman, I’m sure they do." It turned out that although the chair did indeed come in stark white, the seat had to be another color. My wife was aghast. (I was also aghast, because my chances of seeing even one out of the playoff game were vanishing quickly.)

The salesman explained that none of the chairs he carried was available with a white finish on the seat. He felt the reason was obvious (wear and tear and nicks and such). The company evidently had gotten too many returns of chairs with nicked white seats.

It made eminent sense to me, although my wife logically pointed out that the seats were the only part of our chairs that weren’t nicked. The salesman tried to interest my wife in another color seat or one with a distressed white finish. I helpfully pointed out that we used seat cushions on the chairs anyway, so what the hell difference did the color of the seat make?

My wife didn’t think that remark was helpful at all. She couldn’t believe that for the price they were charging for those chairs, she couldn’t get a stark white seat. I felt our chances for getting new kitchen chairs ebbing away like the playoff game I would not see.

We never got the new kitchen chairs, although she is still looking. Each new day brings a new catalog of kitchen chairs wherein my wife points out there are stark-white chairs with stark-white seats. But for some reason we never buy them.

Uncle says next time I’m at the zoo with her, I should skip the polar bears.