(Of course, anyone with any sex parts could handle being immolated in a steam room, too — anyone can die just about as well as anyone else, and one-hundred percent of us are going to, masculine and feminine alike.)
Recently, I bought a house. This is the third house I’ve bought and second house I’ve bought and inhabited alone. This house needed — and continues to need — a lot of work. Work I like doing myself. I love a hardware store, oo, I love them. Especially a good over-stuffed locally-owned one where someone helps you personally sort through mysterious trays, halls of trays, endless trays of nails and screws and anchors and washers. Where someone gives you advice, where you can’t take two steps without coming across help, and you can lay out, in no hurry, the whole grandiose story of your project and all its pitfalls. I’ve been visiting my hardware store two-to-four times a day.
But back to the point. See, I keep stripping screws. I keep messing up. The little stuff is tough — the towel bar is level when I mark the locations of all the screws but unlevel when I screw everything in. The drill bit is too small; the wood is splitting; the screws are too long or too short or too wide or too narrow. The anchors aren’t anchoring — can you tell me why? What am I doing wrong?
I had a husband once, a marvelous person who wore nail polish and tutus and tiaras and sang and danced and did jiujitsu and borrowed my racer back tank tops for yard work and made garden art and could refinish table tops and sand and paint and knew his way around a power saw and hung everything on our walls deftly. I want to know why those people we call “men” seem to be good at this stuff. It doesn’t make rational sense — as in, physical sense. It’s not like one is born with a penis and a sixth-sense in home-making. Yet somewhere along the way, I, as a sexed female and social woman, grew to struggle with machinery while it appeared to come easily to my gender-bending, extraordinary, penis-packing mate.
Men must help each other out? Or after a lifetime of consistently being expected to be expert, all that practice, maybe one simply learns. But can we unlearn this gender gap? Will males please start sticking female kids and lovers and moms and aunts and sisters under cars and sending them out to blow snow and leaves, to cut some siding for the new shed and hang the new hooks in the closet? Can we pass these skills around? It doesn’t help anyone to be helpless. And the gender gap in machinery is as nonsense as gender gaps anywhere else. Some women might be as afraid of breaking nails or getting dirty as some men are, but there’s no need to make a caricature.
I’ll tell you one thing — my dad can’t hardly hammer a nail into a wall. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him saw anything, and we never had any power tools around the house, nothing more technical than a lawn mower. So there’s hope — hope in the exceptions. My parents call on me for mechanical help, god help them. Because since I was in high school, I enjoyed the stuff. I bought towel hooks and hung them myself in my teenage bathroom. I built a little bookshelf for my room. I gave myself the practice, the experience, because it’s fun. It’s play.
So while I might not be as good at not stripping screws as my ex-husband, I am much better at not stripping screws than my father.
Is that progress?