Friday, September 24, 2004

...A Few Small Repairs

I am nothing if not realistic. I pride myself on living in the real world as it actually is, not some idealistic fantasyland of my own creation. So am I aware that what “sounds” good is not always the way things actually are. I’m sure that if I were to peruse the profiles at any random Internet dating site, I’d see lots of profiles stating that “I am interested in meeting someone nice, sensitive, intelligent and with a good sense of humor”, and while that is all fine and good, experience has shown me it is rare that the good-looking guy loses the girl to the kind and sensitive one. I’ve also worked in sales long enough to know that despite the platitude that “money can’t buy happiness”, earning a large income can allow an otherwise ordinary guy to date women who would ordinarily be way out of his league. At my last company you could always tell who the top sales reps were by the respective hotness of their dates to the Christmas party.

And I’m more than aware that despite whatever changes have occurred in gender roles over the years, most men are still attracted to women with stereotypical feminine attributes. For example, as much as it often annoys me that my wife’s beauty regimen makes us perpetually 3 hours late for everything, at the end of the day I have to admit I enjoy being married to a woman who likes to look pretty, smell nice, and dress well.

On the flip side of the coin, there is definitely an element of truth behind the porn fantasy where the suburban housewife is so turned on by the plumber who heroically rides in to fix a problem for her that she decides to fuck his brains out. I’m not so archaic as to not understand there are many women out there who are more than capable of handling such things themselves, but this does not take away from the fact that a man’s ability to perform these tasks in a competent manner can only make him more attractive to the opposite sex.

If you ever want to hit me where it hurts, to pinpoint my deepest insecurities and self-esteem issues, just bring up my complete lack of talent in this area.

I don’t think I lived a particularly privileged childhood or anything, but ours was a house where you called someone when anything went wrong. My mom kept strings of handymen fully employed just by consistently having them do major and minor work around our house, leaving me without the opportunity to develop any “do-it-yourself” skills. We always had a gardener so I never learned how to mow or edge a lawn.

I was able to keep this deficiency hidden throughout most of my 20s, when I lived almost exclusively in apartments. It was known only to the various maintenance crews of the apartment complexes I lived in, who I would call to help me with everything from repairing a broken garbage disposal to fixing a closet door that had come off its tracks.

When I bought my first home all was exposed. I gave mowing my own lawn the good college try, but having literally no experience in this area, it always came out looking like a bad haircut. My wife had previously explained to me what a waste of money hiring a gardener would be, but after seeing the results of my labor she flip-flopped her position quicker than a politician.

Worse was the fact many of my close friends happened to buy their first homes right around the same time I bought mine. Unbeknownst to be, these guys had been secretly hiding “Mr. Fix-It” skills that made me look all the more pathetic in comparison. Countless times over these past few years I’ve had to experience the degradation of listening to my friends explain how they just repainted half the rooms in their house, retiled their bathrooms, installed ceiling fans, replaced sinks, planted sod in their backyards, built decks, etc., while their wives absolutely gushed at the extreme masculinity possessed by their husbands. I felt so bad these were services I simply couldn’t offer to my own wife. I often felt like just handing over my balls and tapping out.

A typical repair scenario in my house is exemplified by the following situation that occurred last week:

We had a leaky faucet in the kitchen. My first inclination was to ignore it hoping it would go away. When our tile threatened to ruin amid the river that was quickly developing on the kitchen floor and as the smell of mildew started to permeate the house, I could no longer avoid the issue. I took out my tools and went to work, but in all honestly, my incompetence in this area is so complete that I may as well have just grabbed a scalpel and tried to perform open-heart surgery. Not only did my attempt at repairing the faucet not fix the problem, it appeared to actually cause a second, more pervasive leak, requiring an immediate call to a plumber.

Does it come as a surprise that the plumber ripped us off? That he claimed there was no way to fix the leak and the only solution was to replace the faucet altogether? Most guys in this scenario could have easily called his bluff by replacing the faucet themselves. But that would require knowing how. Or having the aptitude to learn. My sweet, long-suffering wife stayed quiet to spare my feelings, but I could see the look of disappointment in her eyes as I committed hundreds of dollars to a project that could have been easily avoided if I had anything resembling normal masculine skills in this area.

To regain some of my lost manliness, I chose this same day to replace all of the locks on the house myself. I was able to complete the task, but I’m not going to lie to you – based on the quality of workmanship, I don’t like our chances should someone decide to break in.
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