Monday, 21 May 2007

"Sisters" published May 20

One of the benefits of being a sister of the revolution is that somewhere along the line, about 1976, it became okay for a woman to pick up a hammer.
We were allowed to swing it and get a nail home if we needed to fix something. We were also eventually allowed to buy power tools from the hardware store and use them to sand a table, chop down a small tree or drill holes for a curtain railing. But we could practise our new skills only occasionally because those of us who like to get a little handy know that you are well advised to keep your efforts to a minimum and make sure you do them when there are no men around. They are still a bit sensitive about it all (whisper).
Recently after a worrying night’s sleep caused by the total lack of hot water in the house the night before I ventured out into the pre-dawn darkness around the side of the house which is inhabited by a jungle of rampant weeds. Dressed in my pyjamas and gumboots and armed with nothing but a screwdriver I managed to work out that the pilot light on the gas heater had gone out after much clearing of convolvulus and the discovery of a lost tub of conditioner which had fallen out the bathroom window. I carefully followed the instructions and re-lit it. Emerging a little worse for wear I crashed into the bedroom and woke my husband with the fantastic news that I had fixed the hot water crisis!
“Yeah I knew that.”
“It was the pilot light, I was going to do something about it today.”
“Oh so that’s why you said last night when I was wondering if we’d have to get a plumber out on a Sunday: ‘don’t worry it’s just the pilot light.’”
“If I had said that you would have had me out there in the dark to fix it and I needed my sleep.”
Let’s be clear about this. Urban men are never going to be on the level with their country counterparts when it comes to lugging bits of four by two. But when it comes to my urban man we are about equal in the handyman stakes. He not only chopped down the lime tree, he also pulled out the roots with his bare hands, which were then brandished with Fred Flinstonesque pride. He is also the more sensible one of us, pausing wisely at the prospect of ambitious home repairs and consulting the Yellow Pages. I on the other hand have been responsible for totally munting the kitchen faucet after trying to attach some unique spraying device I bought at the $2 shop for $5 which would shoot across the room whenever you turned the tap on. I have also drilled holes in plaster all over the house trying to find a piece of wood to hold a screw and therefore a picture. Who knew there were professional picture hangers? And I managed to water blast most of the paint off the house instead of giving it a wash. Is it my fault I never did woodwork or metalwork classes?
Clever women of the revolution just don’t go there. They have realised that as our men struggle with this whole equality thing they need something to write home about. No one is particularly impressed in boy town that he changed the baby’s nappies, nursed his wife back to health after a crippling bout of the flu or cooked a three course meal. They will be deeply affected if he built his own pergola or concreted the driveway, preferably in his short Stubbies, tool belt and flanny. So we women might be high flying executives hauling in twice as much cash as our hubby and that’s okay. But get out the hammer and fix something in front of him and he’ll be devastated. That’s just taking the revolution too bloody far.
So we do the little fix up jobs at dawn while they sleep, as my recent hot water escapade illustrates. And we never, ever skite about it. We know that they know things aren’t falling down around the place anymore, but no one will mention how that is happening. We learn to smile patiently as our fathers, who we use as our secret handyman advisors, respond to every question about how to fix things with: “You don’t want to be doing it like that.”
And we hope like hell every Mother’s Day as we are presented with our highly insulting bright pink “toolkit for Mum!” that no one discovers the arsenal of weapons grade tools you have hidden under the bed.

No comments: