It was a checklist meant for a handyman: Chop the firewood. Replace the doorknob in the garage. Level the chairs in the kitchen.
I had a whole week to accomplish them, as I had last week off from work. It didn’t sound like that much.
Once the time off began, it occurred to me: I’m not equipped to do these things.
I know it’s not terribly manly to admit you don’t know how to do basic home repairs. There are plenty of things I’m completely competent doing around the house, including rewiring light switches.
But what is it about the Y chromosome that supposedly hardwires all men to be good at home repairs? It’s not like we’re all born with a zest for sawdust. The patriarchy is expecting things out of us that we don’t necessarily know how to do.
This kind of thing really used to bother me. I hated bringing my car to quick oil-change places. I always felt like I gave them half-hearted lies to cover up for the fact I couldn’t change my own oil: I’m working a lot of overtime. It’s my wife’s car. I don’t have a good place to dispose of the oil.
One answer I never offered: I’m just not good at this stuff. What you can do in 10 minutes might take me all afternoon.
I know plenty of men who are good at these kinds of things. They are manly men who look good in flannel and spit farther than I do. I also know that they call me when their printer stops working, so I do provide something of value in the exchange.
It’s OK that we all specialize in different things. It’s OK that my wife is better at painting a room than I am. It’s also OK that I’m a little stronger than her and can take out the garbage, a stereotypical man job if there ever was one.
It’s also all right to know your limits and ask for help when you need it.
For what it’s worth, I did level the chairs. I did replace the doorknob in the garage. And I did chop the firewood. It all took a lot longer than I wanted it to take and a lot longer than it would take a better-trained person.
I’m not sure I did any of it particularly well. Then again, I never said I was a handyman. I’m just a man, trying to be handy around the house.