Last week I bought a space heater.
There’s heat in my house, but not in my (pretty large) room and it was getting down into the teens at night and I began needing to sleep with multiple layers of pants. I also refused to stop insisting that Bonita sleep next to me (I required the warmth), and feared she would learn to dial Animal Services if this all continued.
So on a schoolnight when I had approximately thirty-one other things to do, I dutifully drove down to True Value hardware on Lomas and grilled an unsuspecting (and, sadly, woefully uninformed) salesman about which product would keep me warmest.
Once we’d (rather arduously) reached a decision, I thought of one last question:
“This thing is all set up, right? I don’t have to put anything together?”
“Oh yeah,” he assured me. “Just plug it in, it’s all good to go!”
It was only after getting the thing home and using my full body weight to heave it from its paper box that I realized this was not, entirely, the case. Before it could be “good to go,” one had to secure a set of unattached wheels. I saw odd-shaped pieces of metal. I saw screws.
I took a couple of deep breaths, wished that my (much handier) roommate was not in class, as she was for the next several hours, and set out to commune with the instruction manual.
My exasperation had reached only a mild pitch when, a few minutes later, my friend M called.
I welcomed the prolonged distraction, curling up to talk in my (heated) living room. We spent a while catching up, and it wasn’t until we started to say goodnight that I remembered the task that, still, lay before me.
“Ugh,” I said to him. “I can’t believe I have to put that thing together.”
His sympathy quickly gave way to mocking.
“You wish you had a man there to help you with it, don’t you. Just admit it.”
This irked me (as, I’m sure, it was meant to) for a couple of reasons. For one: as much time as I spend characterizing myself as a woman who badly wants a boyfriend, I am unfailingly, unreasonably sensitive about others doing the same.
For another, implicit in M’s statement, it seemed to me, was that I not only wanted “a man” around, I wanted him around. Which, of course, I did. But that’s another story.
Neither irritatation, though, had anything to with some feminist sensitivity: I have long come to terms with my lack of mechanical skills. I know lots of women who are highly adept at hanging and hammering and all manner of manipulating things. I would love to be such a woman. I am not such a woman. It is one of those skill sets, along with tongue-curling and general organization, that I have accepted will not be mine in this lifetime.
Unfortunately, this resignation conflicts with another personal resolve: that I would rather be single than committed to someone I’m not crazy about. The obvious corrollary of this being: I, usually, am single.
The root of the problem is that I grew up with three older, reasonably handy brothers. My father knows his way, too, around a toolbox. If ever anything in the house needed plumbing/nailing/fixing, male egos abounded for eager reinforcement.
In college, before moving in with my ex, I had a male best friend, P: no Ikea visit was complete (or, rather, made) without his reliable assurance to come help out with assembly.
In the post-college years, I’ve had some helpful roommates. I’ve had some capable guy (and girl) friends. I’ve had things that didn’t get hung up/assembled/fixed for weeks going on years. I’ve managed.
And most of the time, I am fine with this. That night when I talked to M, it didn’t even occur to me to resent that there wasn’t man to call up for help. (In all honest truth, there kinda was.) It only occurred to me that I was tired, frustrated and cold.
But, for the sake of giving M a hard time, I played along.
“Okay fine,” I said. “It’d be nice if I had a dude to come over and help. Only if he left right afterward, though. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”