Dime Store Philosophy:
The Not-So-Handy Man
By Ismael Manzano
Once again, welcome back to my Dime Store, todayís specials are, my opinions, served generously with antidote sauce and lightly sprinkled with a message. The idea for this blog came to me last Thursday, as I attemptedĖATTEMPTEDĖto replace the old horizontal blinds that have pretty much fallen apart through age with new, more durable and very expensive blinds that will last a lifetime. Me and my wife searched online for a while before we found what we were looking for, and once found, we bought them right away. We waited several weeks for them to arrive and when they did, they sat on our porch for another week and a half. Why didnít we open those packages up and install our new blinds? Because before I ordered them I failed to remember that I would need an electric drill to install the braces that will house the blinds. The thought occurred to me the day the blinds arrived. I didnít see the point in bringing them upstairs to block up my hallway until I had the right equipment to install them.
You might be asking yourselfĖor you might not, I donít know any of you well enough to infer what youíre thinking from all the way over hereĖwhy I, a married male in my thirties who has never been discovered to be mentally deficient and has all of the standard set of limbs, does not own an electric drill. I mean, Iíve had thirty-three birthdays and at least as many Christmases, not to mention my engagement party, wedding party and various graduation parties. Hell, I even work a full time job and have been doing so for nearly thirteen years. Oh, and Iím a maleĖdid I forget to mention that part. So why in all that time have I not acquired or been given an electric drill, the ultimate phallic symbol. After all, it has customizing drill bits, easy to switch from small to large for just the right length. Itís big and bulky and has hours of lasting power (after sufficient amount of recharging time), and it can make a smaller hole into a larger one, making it useless for smaller screws to attempt to enter it.
Yes, the American drill is a staple of masculinity indeed. I, unfortunately, am not that handy. Donít get me wrong, I think itís great that men want to handle motorized hole-makers, that they want to squeeze it and control it and declare themselves men for their mastery of the device. Thereís nothing wrong with that. Me, I never understood the obsession. But that could be because I canít work tools the way most people can.
In all seriousness, Iíve never been too lucky with tools. Some people just donít have a knack for them. Iíve tried several times to build or fix or rewire things, but my efforts have always turned out to be little more than displayed ineptitude. For example: the medicine cabinet I hung on my bathroom wallĖit slants to the right; the windshield wipers of my carĖI had to ask the mechanic to install so I didnít spend hours staring at the simple device like a monkey discovering fire for all my neighbors to see.
My issues with mechanical devices extends not only those I attempt to fix but to those that I buy as well. Itís been a long standing joke amongst me and mine that everything I buy, I buy broken or will become broken exactly one day after the warranty runs out. Examples of this are: the wet/vac that would only wet but did not vac; the PS2 that had to be put in the fridge for ten minutes before it would start; the air humidifier that actually dried out my nose instead of...I donít know...humidifying it.
All these things combine to remind me that I am not the handiest of men nor do I fall into that category of men who define themselves by their prowess with tools. Which brings me to my pointĖI think. Society has a tendency to define people by gender stereotypes. Men are good with tools and electronics and are natural handymen and are always eager to resort to violence when their tiny brains canít process rational thoughts or they are puzzled by the complexities of fire. And whatís worse than these stereotypes is that many guys define themselves by them as well, pridefully so. Donít get me wrong, I would personally love to be able to fix my own car or put up a cabinet without praying to the god of straight lines and wall mounts that it not fall down on my head, but I would never look down on someone else who could not, nor would I judge a woman critically for having the ability to do those things.
Itís a shame to have to be confined inside a set of behaviors and personality traits that may not apply to you. That sort of confinement, leads to pretending and confusion. People start behaving in a way that they think they should act instead of how they really feel like acting. For guys that might mean they have to put on an overly macho attitude and for women, they may have to act passive and delicate. Women may feel ashamed that they can not cook just as guys may pretend to be mechanically inclined or interested in sports. Itís as if behavioral paths are already chosen for us before we even step out of the womb and those who do not fit into that mold are looked upon as misfits.
TANGENT: Go Yankees!! Go Yankees!! Yay, Yankees win!!! Donít mind me, I just figured that since the newspapers in NY had the Yankeesí victory on the front page for four consecutive days, it was a sure fire way to get some extra hits on my blog. Yankees!! Yankees!! Yankees!! Yankees!! They won their 27th World Series! I was beginning to worry that the team would be burdened with their pitiful 26 wins for the rest of their lives. I mean how embarrassing would that have been. What kind of losers only win 26 World Series and not 27 or more World Series. Now that theyíve won, all the other problems that have been plaguing this world will now be abolished. Wars will stop, universal healthcare will succeed, everyone will have a home and a job and food on their tables. All will be like God had intended it all to be when he made the garden of the YankeesĖerr...I mean, the Garden of Eden.
Back to my point. So ingrained in our culture is this connection between craftsmanship and masculinity that its words have become synonymous with sex. Nail. Drill. Screw. Saw....What? You canít cut a 2 by 4 with your penis? Wow, whose the weirdo now?
My view of this phenomena is that it is a perpetuating circle, one that will not be broken easily. All we can do is try to be comfortable with ourselves, our own limitations, and our own desires in life. If you love working with cars or toolsĖeven if youíre not good at itĖthen by all means pick up that tool and tweak that engine, whether you be a man or a woman. If you are not comfortable with it, then nothing should make you feel ashamed for not falling into a stereotype. And of course this advice goes beyond the narrow range of craftsmanship Iíve defined in this blog; it extends to all facets of life.
As for me, I finally got that drill, made the proper holes, secured the wall mounts and installed the brand new horizontal blinds...Itís not my fault the blinds were an inch too short on the width and would not fit properly into the mounts, forcing me to tie the blinds to the mounts with several layers of twine. Itís not my fault! I actually consider myself to be more of a handyman now because I managed to jerry-rig my windows that way. Yeah, I know, the damn things are probably going to fall down on me one day, but not today and until they do, Iím considering myself a typical manly man.
Thanks for visiting the Dime Store; you break it, you buy.