Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Those Who Can't DIY (Anything)

Yes, I'm back from the grave! Actually, things IRL have just been keeping me so exceptionally busy that I haven't had a chance to update here.

But now I'm back, and it's a gripe that's really gotten so under my skin I had to vent and see if I'm alone in this.

Img from Popular Mechanics, 1949
My husband is currently at a nearby co-worker's house being a wonderful, generous person and taking care of some handyman things around her house. Things like hanging a picture or two, hooking up her printer, and other assundry fix-it things that I wouldn't bat an eyelash at. Except she can't do these things. This is what floors me - it's not that she doesn't have time or is just not able. It's that her husband isn't around for a while, and apparently she never learned and has not intention of learning how to do these things. (For the record, she stated in her email that she didn't know how to do them - not that she was bad at them, which is a fair statement. I can at least give you credit for trying. Some people just aren't meant to play with tools.)

I don't know this co-worker very well, so I asked my husband how she didn't even know how to hang a picture, and his answer was that maybe her dad never taught her. Now I get that I grew up in a family of girls who were tomboys, with a father (and grandfather) who had a wood-working shop in the garage and gave us our own set of tools to go off to college with. So yeah, I realize that I was lucky in that, and that my interest in power tools may be higher than the average human. I am pretty proud that half the tools downstairs in our basement are ones I've purchased over the years and when I was living on my own.

But is this a gender-based issue? A woman who plays the helpless female card so men can do these things for her? She didn't have a dad around or who cared enough to teach her to fend for herself? Or is it just that she has no interest and always had someone around to do it for her?

I think what I just can't wrap my head around is that she never had need to hang a picture herself. Really? Is a hammer that difficult to use? You can't stop by Target and pick up a picture framing kit that has all the stuff in a little plastic box neatly organized into handy little compartments? And you can't go on the internet and check the bajillions of websites that tell you how to do stupid little things like choose what nail or hook to hang a picture with? Or look at the directions that came in your printer box that tell you how to hook it up? I just, I don't get it. I'm practically speechless with not getting it.

So - thoughts? Am I just being completely judgmental here and I'm more independent than most because I can use a hammer? I could use some perspective here.

(This is an awesome set of tips from Popular Mechanics, BTW - even if it's just to see images from their magazine that date back to the 1910s!)


lisa said...

Ahhhh, I hear you on this!!! I did grow up in a "don't worry, Daddy will take care of that for you" kind of household and yet my skin just crawls to think of asking a man (who's not my husband ;) ) to do these things for me. Even at home, sometimes I ask Erik, but often I take care of it myself -- usually with the help of the internet, just as you say. And I'm always very proud of myself after I've done it. ;) (And happy I've saved Erik the trouble, because half the time he doesn't know how to do it either, and would just be consulting the 'net too.)

Some things I understand, of course; it's pretty daunting to try to go under a car hood (especially if you have to get messy as well... or god forbid, do it in public -- that's multiple gendered notions you'd be side-stepping!), and sometimes it really does help to have someone around with more upper-body strength. I actually never would have considered using a power drill until I saw women using them on one of those DIY TV shows and was like, "Huh. Guess I could do that too." So there is an issue with lack of role models.

But I think with a lot of women it's actually a learned reaction: everything they don't know how to do is "guy territory" and as such, gets instantly handed over to the nearest guy. No thinking involved. Just like a lot of guys go all wobbly-kneed and queasy at the mere thought of anything to do with menstrual blood (seriously, guys, I get that it's foreign territory, but really?! you know what the stuff is for, right?!).

I think what really drives me nuts, though, is when women can do this stuff on their own, but then act like they can't, when there are guys around. Arrrrghhhh.

Claudine Caro said...

Yes, you are being judgmental. But I'm not judging you for it. :)

I have the same reaction to women who play the helpless card. But I think it's because I never felt that I had to play that card.

I have always been independent and curious and have existed on the thought that "get out of my way, I'll do it myself."

The word 'can't' is not one that I often use in my vocabulary and I cringe when I hear a young girl using that word. But I could choose to seethe under my breath, or I could try and be the encouragement to her and show that yes, she can do it.

I think an interesting end to the situation you described is if instead of the Hubby going over to do the handywork, you go over and SHOW her how she can do some of these things on her own.

Liz said...

I think it's sweet of Andrew to go help (no surprise that he would do so!) but I have to say that the whole helpless thing.. makes me crazy. I get it, there are a ton of things I don't know how to do, things I called me dad for instructions on, things I now cheerfully say, "oh hubby can you help me please? (aka take care of this thing).

I've learned several things since marrying an uber handy guy. One, strength matters. There are a lot of things that I wouldn't have been able to fix cause I'm not as strong as him and I'm a fairly fit girl. Two, it's really easy to slip into 'that's his job' trap. I married an awesome man who can fix most anything, but he has sometimes forgotten that I lived without him for years, owned my own house and had to fix crap on my own. and 3) the number for a reasonably priced handyman can not be undervalued.

When I was on my own I needed help sometimes. I just didn't know how or couldn't do it. Or I'd get overwhelmed with a project, call my Dad and get help. I tried snaking the drain in my old 1950's house and managed to get the snake stuck so badly that it took us an hour to get the damn thing out. After that I just added an annual plumber's visit to the budget.

Yes there are a lot of things I can do. There are also things that I can't do and I get help. I just don't have to pay for it anymore (with cash at least).

All that being said, I can't believe she doesn't know how to hang a picture! HOLY CRAP GIRLFRIEND, GET A HAMMER, PUNCH A HOLE AND KNOCK THAT S(*& OUT!


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