I’m deeply fond of my tools and my huge toolboxes: pliers, screwdrivers, saws, drills, levels. You name it, I’ve got it. I love designing and making stuff, even if it’s simple stuff — living in a one-bedroom apartment doesn’t allow for table saws or big workbenches.
The last thing I want is to walk into my local hardware store, run by the great-grandson of the man who founded it, and find tools covered in flowers and groovy patterns. Greg, thank God, probably wouldn’t let this stuff into his shop.
Why exactly does anyone think this is appealing?
I love the plainspoken utility of standard-issue tools. I love my screwdriver with all its little inter-changeable heads, adaptable to virtually any need. I enjoy using my drill and hammer and saw, and the pleasure of knowing I can use them competently.
Women who take pride in their ability to work with their hands aren’t the sort of women who need, or want, pretty little patterns on the things we use. The women who need that sort of reassurance — it’s OK, hon, you won’t break a nail! — just aren’t going to do their own home repairs.
Most men in a long-term relationship know the moment their sweetie really counts on them — when they’re handed (or asked, nicely, to consider) the honey-do list. For those who’ve yet to get or give one, it’s the list of household tasks summarily delegated to the man of the house.
You see, the trick to dealing with the “Honey-Do” list is not to actually get things done, but to pretend that you’re getting things done. Let me show you what I mean.
Every Saturday morning when Catherine asks me what I’m going to be doing that day, I grab the “Honey-Do” list off the fridge, give it a very serious look, and say “I think I’m gonna try and knock some of these out.” What happens next depends on what she does.
If she stays around the house, I’ll make tracks outside and hang out somewhere for awhile, usually with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. After a few hours, I’ll spritz myself down with water to make it look like I’m sweating, cross off the first 5 or 6 things on the list, and then proudly show it to Catherine so she can see that I scribbled through some of the tasks. She’ll give me a big smile because she thinks I actually did something, at which point I’ll go upstairs and pretend I’m taking a shower while I rewrite the list in the bathroom and put the things that I had crossed off back on at the bottom of the new list. To her, it appears that I’m making headway, but since the list never actually gets any smaller she won’t add anything more to it.
And bada-boom, bada-bing, just like that I post it back on the fridge and I’m off the hook for another week.
Yet some women love their tools and toolboxes, their drill finger itching at the prospect of the next project or repair. This weekend I’m borrowing a cordless drill (mine has a cord but the garage has no outlet) to polish the grime and cloudiness off our car’s headlights. The living room window needs re-caulking and our balcony bench a fresh coat of paint.
As someone who enjoys working with her hands — away from the bloody computer keyboard! — I love having a list. The sweetie? Not so much. I can’t blame him, by the weekend weary from a crazy job and long commute, by which point the pleasures of the driving range or the golf channel look a lot more alluring than the honey-do list.
I’m not alone in my love for a good set of tools and the satisfaction that comes from using them — more hardware stores are starting to cater to women. I was bowled over recently at my local Home Depot by the first female I’ve met in that world, Marilyn, a 50-something employee who was the best salesperson I’ve met in decades: smart, funny, super-knowledgable.
“I love hardware,” she told me.
I own my home so I want to take good care of it. While living alone, I designed and built bookshelves and a cornice and my partner and I have built three simple plywood flowerboxes (whose copper flashing feet are both decorative and functional) now heading into their fifth or sixth season. I can’t imagine a life without full toolboxes near at hand.
I love talking to seatmates. Inevitably, when I sit next to a woman in business class, I hear about how their husbands, boyfriends or partners have a list of projects to do around the house. To a one, they always say that the jobs never get done.
I always reply that they can do it themselves. I started my first business after hearing my mom and her friends complain about how many jobs needed to be done around the home and how their husbands were too lazy to do them.
Most of the jobs really aren’t that tough. It just takes some common sense and some good directions. One of the things I’ve always stressed is that women need to be prepared for life’s little emergencies. A good tool and good directions on how to use it can solve a lot of problems.
What’s on your list?
Who, really, will pick up the hammer/pliers/drill and get it done?