It’s Sunday afternoon. I’ve read the Sunday Times (skimming the Week in Review and studying the wedding announcements), fiddled with an essay in progress (taking out a paragraph and putting it back in again), called my sister to hash over our insecurities (which parent was more to blame?), and watched a rerun of Girlfriends. Still, there are two hours until dinner. What to do?

Fortunately, my husband has circled an open house in the local real estate section, and we’re off on a familiar Sunday jaunt.*

There are two sorts of open houses that my husband and I tend to frequent. One is for glamorous, million-dollar “stretch” houses that occupy former farmland on the border of town. These houses have a fascinatingly freakish quality: They are too large for any self-respecting family and too small for their… More…