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Lend a Hand

Open the closet door for your local handiwoman

by Angie Vicars

I've been operating under a mistaken identity—until quite recently. I've been convinced that I am handy. But moving into a new house has done what nothing else could. It's outed me. I'm just wearing a tool belt so I can pass. Those who are really handy sense the truth. I have the equipment, but not the know-how. (Not enough, anyway. Oh the shame, the shame.)

When I couldn't connect the dryer by myself and yelled, "!&*$!" so loudly that my roommate and her boyfriend came to help, I began to question my calling. When the second set of bathroom shelves (first set was too tall after assembly) just missed my head on their way to the floor, I grew confused. (Perhaps those shelves did clip me on the noggin after all.) When I drilled myself in my own [email protected]&*%*! arm, I finally had to acknowledge the truth.

I'm lacking something. And it's not common sense, despite what you may think. There is some sort of handy gene that's been stolen from my pool. There are handy traits that were never passed on to me. There's a handy kit I can never find for sale.

I see other women being handy. I'm not saying they're in the majority, mind you. But I'd guess that at least one out of every 10 females is handy. Or has dabbled with being handy, at some point in her life.

I know I'm one of these handy women. I feel a kinship with them that I can't explain. It's just an innate part of me. So, I buckle my belt. I wield my screwdriver. And still, I can't get my closet door open.

This doesn't add up. I've watched the men in my family being handy for generations. My great-grandfather was handy. My grandfather was handy. My father is handy. I just want to be the family handy woman. Is that so wrong?

I got off to the right start. I can tell you that. I was born with a hammer in my hand. I hammered in the morning. I hammered in the evening. I hammered all day long. My father still has wood blocks with the gazillions of nails I drove into them. You wouldn't find me in a pair of high heels, playing with a tube of lipstick. When I was a child, I pulled on my overalls and hammered as a child.

Now that I'm grown, I have to disinfect my own drill wounds. But while I was disinfecting, ("Ow! [email protected]*^#%!, it!") I realized something—I never did that many handy things myself. I mostly held things while my father was being handy. I held the screwdrivers, the wrenches, the flashlight, the measuring tape, even the occasional chalk line. (But I didn't walk it.)

He was the one doing the connecting, and the assembling, and the putting up of new items. I suppose I could've asked him questions. Like, "How do you tell the size of something if it doesn't say on the box? Without assembling the item in question?" But I was so good at holding. And hammering. I thought I could get by.

I just got off the phone with my father. He's working on my house. While I'm not there. (Imagine my eyebrow raised. Because it is.) He and my mother have set up my bedroom furniture.

So, I get brave. I ask him about the shelf brackets I put on my bathroom wall. "They're not level, are they?"

"Did your shelves fall down? You have to push these arms that hold them till they click in place. Did you hear them click?"

!*$#!, they click? "I might not have done that."

I have to face facts. I know what to do. Ignoring it won't work any longer. I have to let go of my anger. !*@%#^$! it. I have to forgive my parents for not raising me to be the handy woman I know I am. (They did give me all the tools I could ever use, after all.) I have to put on my tool belt. Look at myself in my mirror. And say, "I'm handy enough. I'm woman enough. And doggone it, people like me."

I have to start hanging out with other handy women. There may be a handy support group I can join. To get in touch with my own inner handiness. (But not too in touch. That's a bit of a touchy area.)

I have to shop at Home Depot. Regularly. I have to stroll down the aisles, realizing that in a very real way, I've come home. I have to watch HGTV. Regularly. Respecting Bob Villa's practicality and recognizing the underlying handiness of Martha Stewart. (Even if she's more inclined to cook my goose than clean my pipes.)

I have to start collecting books about being handy. I have to read them 'til the spines are cracked and loan them to others seeking advice and illustrations about being handy.

And most of all, when I see another woman, perhaps wearing a skirt and squinting through her glasses, struggling to get a screw into a hole, I have to be willing to lend her a hand. Or two.

May 17, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 20
© 2001 Metro Pulse