Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Crimes to the Third Degree.
Yesterday, a male reader wrote me about an old entry from my archives, one where I talked about a trip to the hardware store to buy an axe and the resulting Pavlovian response of the men I encountered there. He writes, “The fact that you were at a hardware store, with normal clothes and a very natural look, and were buying power tools puts you in a class of your own.”
But why? I honestly don’t get why that’s so different.
Are men so put upon by women wanting them fix up things around the house? Or are most women so worried about breaking a nail (what’s that???) that they’d never deign to pick up hammer?
The kids were making fun of me this past weekend because I sent them after a hammer, and it was in a very handy drawer inside the hallway altar, where I could get to it easily. Made perfect sense to me to have three hammers and a couple of screwdrivers in the bedroom…. shrug.
I grew up with a mom who worked on the farm…and I do mean worked. She could fix all kinds of things—and could shoot any dangerous varmint that ventured within 500 feet of the farm. Whether it was in the air, on a fence post, weaving through the water, or slithering toward me in the grass, once she spotted it, the evil little critter didn’t have time to regret its transgression. She taught me to be self-sufficient because you can’t count on other people to fix things for you. She didn’t use those words to teach me that, but it was clear by her daily actions that that’s what she believed.
At 19, I re-wired my apartment, thanks to a library book. I’ll admit, whenever I drive through that town, I glance in the direction of my old stomping grounds to see if the place has burned down, but it still stands.
I was at least 30 before I knew what a honey-do list was, and still I was confused by all the women I worked with when they talked about having their husbands fix things around the house for them and when all the men at work talked about how they had to install new lights or cut down trees or something over the weekend because their wives had been nagging them. All I could do was frown and be clueless.
Since my divorce, I’ve been playing catch-up on various maintenance items that weren’t done over the years or that I no longer pay someone to do.
In the past two years, I’ve learned to wield a chainsaw, mix gas and oil in just the right formula, not electrocute myself while refitting electrical outlets that were surprisingly never done right to begin with by whoever built my former Parade of Homes house, fix underground sprinkler systems, remove a leaking toilet, tear out a busted floor, demolish rotted wood, and a host of other things that are just a fact of everyday life in my world. And a lot of my female friends are the ones who advised me on the easiest way to do it all.
I guess I don’t like to “have to ask a man for help.” Learned that from my mom, I guess. Maybe that’s because in my early years, asking a man for help on anything meant being told I was just a stupid female.
Not that the man I asked would teach me how to do it, even when I begged. That was for my brothers to learn and for me to be berated about. So that’s the origin of that, huh?
So picture me in a gunslinger’s belt, twirling a different kind of screwdriver at each hip before holstering them.
But I will admit that it would be nice to have some help with these fix-up chores. I still want to replace a ceiling fan in the high-ceilinged living room, but I don’t have the upper body strength to do it at that height. So, I’ll do without the new fan/lamp fixture I love or wait for until I can take a day off and pay a handyman to help. It’s okay either way, and it’s not a demand on any man’s honey-do list.
Meanwhile, my darling daughter just made me a proud mama—she’s asked me to teach her to install light fixtures.