I fell in love with my husband for plenty of reasons that don’t include his ability to fix a leaky faucet. Which is great news, because he can’t. I married an unhandyman. Since buying our first house a few years back, we have outsourced pretty much everything from building simple shelves to painting the bathroom to hanging the new flat screen and wiring up the surround sound. One of the things my husband loved best about the house is that its tiny backyard is almost entirely patio, meaning there’s no lawn we would have to (pay someone else to) cut. His 80-year-old father returns from a long and hopefully relaxing winter in Florida to a list of chores we’ve saved up for him: fixing the grill, oiling the squeaky door, caulking, taping, patching.
It doesn’t bother me, exactly… except when it does. And then the fact that I’m bothered bothers me more. After all: What sort of gender egalitarian would I be if I expected my husband to want to install a fence or cruise our yard on a riding lawnmower – just because he’s a man? I don’t do his laundry; I can’t say I’m super interested in having a baby. We both work for ourselves, and he doesn’t resent me those years I earn more than he does (in fact, he’s probably sort of psyched). So can I really be irritated, or surprised, that he barely knows the difference between a slot head and a Phillips head, and feels not a bit of shame about it?
I tell myself that I should admire his complete lack of interest in conforming to (my?) gender expectations, not to mention his unwillingness to be threatened by the handier men in my past. My father spent summers re-siding or building onto our house; a furniture maker ex-boyfriend built me my first adult bed. That boyfriend is, in fact, responsible for what’s now my family’s sole toolbox, bright red and notably pristine, a parting gift of sorts. He’d shown up at my apartment with it one day, and I understood: He wouldn’t be around much longer. That winter, I learned to check for studs, hang a picture on my own, and celebrate my independence. But if I’m honest, my heart wasn’t really in it.
And, now, neither is my husband’s. When he challenges me with, “why should I want to take a chainsaw to that tree about to come crashing down onto our roof causing untold damages,” or whatever, “any more than you?” I can’t help but admit he’s right (and, in questioning my expectations, possibly a better feminist than I am). So I’m learning to come around to his unhandiness, or at least his right to it. Do I bump into my high school sweetheart and find it immensely attractive when he says he renovated his entire house himself? No doubt. But if I were married to that guy, I might wish my super handy husband would stop installing sheetrock with his bare hands all weekend and hang out with me instead.