Ana Veciana-Suarez

McMansion envy? Don’t panic, you could live in a shack


For some reason that totally defies explanation, I keep receiving these glossy, doorstop-size magazines that remind me (with a jab) how the wealthy live. The uber rich, as you may suspect, surround themselves with beautiful things. And good for them. I do the same, but at a significantly slighter level.

But that’s not point. The accumulation of these magazines — in the wicker basket by the sofa that survived five children and a few four-legged pets — elicits a reaction that I don’t think the publishers necessarily intended. I’m consumed with envy.

Consumed, and overwhelmed, and green all over.

Excepting a Powerball win or an unexpected string of bestsellers, my chances of residing in some Mediterranean-style mansion grow dimmer every year. I don’t mean to imply that the odds were ever stellar, but for a couple of decades the possibility existed. Dreams are more fanciful when you’re young.

In the latest issue of one of these magazines — let’s call it, “Where You Will Never Live” — stunning color photographs show off a massive stone fireplace that overwhelms a room appointed with a chandelier worth the GNP of a small country.

“Hrrrmph!” I tell The Hubby disdainfully. “Like who’s going to use a fireplace more than once a year in Miami?”

On another page, the floor-to-ceiling windows of a high-rise residence overlook the blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean. The kitchen cabinets are an immaculate white, the bedroom walls are upholstered, and the powder room covered in mother-of-pearl tiles.

I manage this commentary to my landlocked household: “If we live long enough and the sea-level rise predictions are correct, we may have waterfront property, too.”

My hometown is a city not known for its restraint. Opulence carries its own tropical trademark here. If you have money, or even if you don’t, the idea is to flaunt, flaunt, flaunt. We love our bling, in whatever form it may come. So I’m not jealous — until I am.

Look, I know I have it better than many. Actually better than most. I only have to remember the bathroom shared by nine family members and the bedroom I slept in (with one sister and a brother, before the other two siblings arrived) to pull me back into the sphere of gratitude. My work as a journalist is its own reality check, too. I’ve interviewed people in places that truly merit the designation of hovel.

So why do magazines and cable TV programs about McMansions put me in a certain mindset? Why is it that, on occasion, I think that if I were only smarter, a better writer with a more distinguished wardrobe, I might be putting my feet up on a coffee table carved from a rare tree harvested from an exotic forest?

A friend, one of those people who seem perfectly content with life, claims that humans are programmed to want what we don’t have. We are forever comparing ourselves to others and as a result feel a little inadequate and a whole lot ugly. She’s right.

From here on out I vow to stop using material things as a measure of success. I vow to toss out those magazines and not think twice about what I don’t have and likely never will. Instead I will focus on what makes me happy. Good writing. My grandchildren. The purple orchid in my front yard. Sitting on my beat-up couch in my perfectly ordinary house. Feet propped on a table with no pedigree but pocked with wonderful memories.