We first met our builder a few weeks ago. I assumed the point of the meeting would be to go over the drawing, find out if he could build it, how he would build it and if it could be done within our budget. After working alone for five weeks of design, enough appliance research to make Consumer Reports start calling me and two weeks of gathering builder quotes, I was ready to meet with just about anyone. The homeless by Minute Maid Stadium were even looking like potential prospects for house conversation.
I walk up to the builder’s office and meet his administrative assistant. I get a glass of water and set my computer up in his conference room. My HP laptop is my life and she usually goes where I go, as I have the Desktop Housewife loaded on it. I recently added modules for Home Improvement so information about anything related to the project is at my fingertips. We do a meet and greet. I want to get started talking about the house immediately but I have to be patient and go through social formalities. UGH. I can hear my husband walking up the stairs so he was able to clear his schedule for the meeting as well. I am about ready to pop out of my skin – let’s do this! We do another meet and greet and the builder lays out my design on the conference table. There she is, in all her glory on a really big piece of paper.
What ensues for the next two hours is what I call the “penis measurement” phase of a project. I try to talk about the design and I’m put on shut down. I pop open the laptop and say, “Here, look…” Totally ignored. I have not been in a collaboration meeting of a new project for 5 years so I am out of practice. About 30 minutes into being shunned, I finally remember – it’s penis time. Penis time is when all the men gather in a room and establish alpha male status before a project begins. I close my computer and put my pen and paper away and just shut up because as the only woman in the room, I could be sitting there completely naked, drinking a long island iced tea with an alien going down on me and the men in this room wouldn’t even notice. I might get a glance and hear a comment like, “Dude, is that an alien?” But that would be it. This is going to be a while.
The builder, who is also a certified building designer so he will be drawing and building the house, every once in a while turns to me and says, “You know, I will be changing your plans, right?” I just nod and say, “Sure.” Work experience stories ensue about who has done what and how long they have been doing it. The builder doesn’t want to talk about my plans but keeps going over to a set of plans he has drawn up and wants to look at the foundation plan. My husband, the civil engineer, is refusing to even take a glance. The builder wants to go over the drawing product he will provide and my husband wants to know about building materials. Back and forth, back and forth and I just keep looking at my work on a big a$$ piece of paper. Every once in a while I ask, “Do you think you can build this within our budget?” And I get the answer, “It will be tight and I will be changing your drawing.” My inside voice is screaming, “The point of THIS meeting is to KNOW if you can build my house within MY budget!” I remain quiet as the other point is to make sure my husband will get along with the builder. I have already kicked two builders to the curb because after meeting them, I knew that was not going to happen.
Two hours into the meeting, penises are out, laying on the table, both are about the same size when my husband asks, “Where did you go to school?” There it is. I knew this wasn’t going to end well for the builder. My husband wins the penis game. The fact that the builder doesn’t have anything on display about any college and hasn’t mentioned “HIS” university, already indicated to me that he is not degreed. Having experienced the penis game for 30 years, I knew this was coming. When you do not have a degree (like me), this is the moment where you get to suck it up and take it. The builder gracefully put his penis back in his pants. It doesn’t matter if you have worked over 30 years in a field, it doesn’t matter if you out-perform everyone in the room, it doesn’t matter if the body of work that you have laid before the world in all of its glory surpasses theirs, somehow, someway, the college graduate will play that card and you, the un-degreed, get to suck it. I pat him on the arm and say, “I don’t have one either,” as he makes his case for not finishing his degree. He gives me a look of, “Whatever girl with an alien between her legs, why don’t you just drink your long island iced tea.” No one likes to put their penis back in, even me, so I let it go. Penis game completed, we walk out and let the builder know that we will be in touch if we choose to use him to build our house. After all of that, he repeated that he should be able to bring the house within our budget with some really fabulous features, and of course, he’ll be making changes to the plan.
We decide to use this builder and I send over the latest drawing in a PDF. I ask for another meeting because my husband has more questions that he wants answered before we sign on the dotted line and I want to know budget and discuss the drawing. The builder agrees and we head over there. We enter the conference room and I open my laptop, get out my pen and paper and think, “Let’s do this…” The builder has my latest drawing printed out on a big a$$ piece of paper. What ensues for the next two hours is what I call, “Bromance.” Penis game over, the two go into bromance mode so I close my laptop, put my pen and paper away and like the girl in Frozen, I let it go. I am relieved that my husband likes the builder and the builder likes him, so I change my attitude and accept that bromance will be the point of the meeting. Where’s that alien and long island iced tea? On our way out, I hear, “You know I will be changing your drawing.” Yes, yes, yes… I know… you will be changing my drawing.
The sketch and elevation arrive and I am thrilled. He has somehow managed to combine several of my ideas from the thousands of my drawings. Okay, there were only 7 but you get the jist. He added rounded windows on the art studio and master bedrooms, which I had in drawing 3. He added art niches in small hallways entering the bedrooms from drawings 4 and 5 (which I had in the first drawing I sent him) and split the area I had in drawing 1 as a toilet/utility room into a small guest bath and my art closet. The elevation is Texas Hill Country, which my husband requested, and it looks fantastic. The only thing that he really “changed” was the layout of the his/hers master baths and closets. I never thought to add a dressing hallway, which then allows both baths to have windows. He also moved the fireplace from the back wall to the left wall so he could put in a block of windows. Everything else, to include square footage, remained the same. And then I notice on the bottom of the sketch, he put his copyright mark. My five weeks of design work now bears his copyright. I suck it up, my dream house is the point of the exercise, not the copyright. I let him slap his penis on my drawing. He left the kitchen design basic as we will need to discuss it so I make another appointment with him and another at the appliance showroom.
My husband and I attend the morning appliance showroom appointment. He is finally on board with why I chose the appliances I chose. I sing hallelujah to the heavens when I hear him say, “Now I get it with the second dishwasher…” We head to meeting 3 with the builder at 2pm after a nice lunch. This time, I choose to bring my Surface Pro (it doesn’t have Desktop Housewife on it) but why lug my HP around when there is no point. We get into the meeting, with penis game and bromance established, I think I may have a shot of being heard. I get to explain how I want the kitchen laid out, where I will put my appliances and all that jazz. Bromance is still full force but I’m making head way. I say, if there is anything you think needs to be added because my house is weird, let me know. He says, you need a wall here. Yes, the wall I had in drawings 1 through 4, which when I had it there, was told, why do you have a wall there? Yes please, put it in. And then it happens, the builder turns his body towards me and makes eye contact. The alien, long island iced tea and nakedness disappear. I am finally visible. We shake hands as we leave, with the builder finally looking at me in the eyes instead of anywhere in the room but there.
The next step is to submit the drawings and material list to the bankers, both men. Wish me luck in the next round of penis games…