Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Screw On, Screw Off…(or Don’t Fuck with a Woman’s Battery Operated Tools)

What is it about men and tools? (I know, rhetorical question)

The other night I got a hair up my ass and decided to assemble the Critter’s high chair. He’s getting bored with the recumbent position of his bouncy and is demanding to sit up all the time. So the high chair seemed appropriate.

But the minute a screwdriver or hammer appears in my hand Curt turns into this condescending toolmaster who bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Miyagi of Karate Kid fame. He becomes intently fixated on my technique and if I don’t successfully get something screwed all the way in within 5 turns or less (or whatever time period he deems appropriate) he begins to offer such annoying advice as “it’s all about the leverage”; “you’re approaching from the wrong angle” and "visualize the hole". You would think I was holding in my inept hand some kind of subatomic particle splitter cleverly masquerading itself as a roughly machined, crude shank of metal by the level of complexity he assigns to the operation of said device.

It’s a freaking screwdriver! It’s not that hard! Or at least, wouldn’t be if he would only keep the battery of the electric screwdriver I brought to the relationship properly charged. But no – he’s got this warped love/hate relationship going with the tool where he loves the big comfy grip of it, and loves how you can quickly switch from phillips head to standard head, but he only uses it in locked/ manual mode which makes the magic that is the electrical power absolutely redundant. Which would be fine if he would just leave the battery in the charger so it’s good to go when I need it. But again, no. Apparently the heaviness of the battery provides a great deal of the heft that makes the device so appealing to my dear husband in its dumb, inanimate state. So he leaves it dead in the toolhandle, sadly bereft of its magical electric charge.

For the record, I bought the damned electric screwdriver back in my single days for assembling furniture and the like because I don’t really see the point of getting my hands cramped up doing such a simple task as torquing a screwdriver when I can get my pals Black & Decker to do it for me. Apparently some men feel differently. Why have a machine do what your hands can do just as well? They think. These are the same men who watch Yankee Woodcrafter on PBS. And I imagine, are a little intimidated by the battery powered toy collections of their women. Sidenote to any such guys in the audience: the problem is the hands often don't do as good of a job. We're just too embarassed to admit it. But I degress.

I must admit, his behavior leaves me feeling a bit betrayed. You see, when we first met I made a point of specifically testing Curt on his M.C.Q (mechanical condescension quotient). Because I find this characteristic in a man that insulting. Not because I’m some kind of Sally the ToolGal expert, but because it is very important to me to figure stuff out and do it myself. Pathetic, I know but I take a great amount of personal pride in my independence. I’ll ask for help when I want/need it, and won’t get too annoyed if you politely offer to help before I ask, but if you rudely INSIST on helping* after I’ve also politely said “no thanks, I can do it/ I want to do it” or Maude forbid, pushing me aside to do it FOR ME all hell will indeed break loose. Because this indicates that you think I am incompetent and are, in fact an insensitive ass.

Back to the test: when he requested a second date, I told him I was planning to replace the sparkplugs in my ’69 Mustang** that night, but he was welcome to hang out with me while I did so. I figured – no truly annoying man prone to mechanical condescension would pass up the opportunity to delve into the engine of a muscle car, and if he did resist the urge to do so (or didn't have it at all) and let me bumble around and do it myself, why then he was a keeper. He proved to be so good about failing to comment or instruct until I asked for his input that I couldn’t help but fall in love.***

Fast Forward: You’d think he’d catch a clue when I gave him that look and said “Honey – I don’t give a flying fuck if I’m not mastering screwdriving technique to your high level of expectations. If it pains you to watch my clumsy attempts than by all means kindly leave me the hell alone. If I need help I’ll ask for it.” But in case he didn't, let me make myself perfectly clear: Before we get a divorce some fateful Christmas Eve after trying to put together Duncan’s first bike or swingset, please use your own damned screwdrivers and leave my electric one alone. Thank you.

Love, your oversensitive wife.

*Now, (like all men who aspire to behave in a chivalrous manner) in Curt’s defense he was taught that it’s rude NOT to offer to help someone. Which is true, provided – if that person a) agrees there is a problem requiring help in the first place and b) agrees they cannot help themselves. If either of these conditions are not met then quite simply, your help is neither needed nor appreciated. So don’t be surprised when it’s not well received.

**Given to me by my Gramma, who bought it new over Grampa’s symbolic dead body after she was physically attacked walking home from work one night (though she didn't tell him that was why). So needless to say I rather enjoy the opportunity to get up to my elbows in oil and personally maintain the car.

*** Apparently I underestimated the cleavage/auto distractability quotient while crafting this test. Later review of that fateful date has shown that he was so intent on the girls peeking over my low cut top while I bent over the engine that he wasn’t paying any attention to what I was or was not doing with the damned sparkplugs. And yes, I am aware that not all men possess the chromosome that instills a fascination with muscle cars. The test was supposed to establish that inclination, as well.

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