Real Men Fix Things

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You could not have imagined a stranger sight: I was on my stomach, stretched out on the hallway upstairs, groaning with every twist of the hand, sweat pouring down my face, obscenities flowing from my mouth, and only the thought of, “How did I get here?” going through my head.

And then my wife came up the stairs and saw me in my deplorable state.

I was attempting to fix the bathtub plumbing. And losing.

Our bathtub had decided that it should water the kitchen floor beneath it any time we tried to take a bath. Since this is a rather inconvenient way to live, I had to remedy the problem.

I called a family friend who looked at the plumbing with me. He’s a contractor by trade, familiar with everything housework; however, not even he was sure what was happening. Best he could figure — we needed new pipes. Stores were already closed for the night, so it was up to me to replace the pipes first thing next morning.

Cards on the table: I am not, by any stretch of any imagination of any definition, a handyman. Tools and I don’t get along. I know basically nothing about taking care of a house. My plea to my handyman friend was rather comical and mostly pathetic.

You can imagine how helpless I was as I walked into the hardware store to get new pipes for my bathtub. My friend would have needed five minutes; I took twenty.

Once I arrived back home, I went to work. And after only an hour, I had it all done: new pipes were in, a new drain was sealed, and no more waterfalls flowed into the kitchen. Honestly, it was a success. I took on a new project and overcame it with flying colors.

I should have felt great afterward. And yet.

As I got up from the floor for the umpteenth time that day, wiping my hands on my jeans to “clean” them, I couldn’t help but feel upset. Something inside me didn’t feel great about completing this project. I felt sad. Empty. Depressed.

Most men would brag about their accomplishment, fixing their plumbing. They’d offer all the “lesser” men their expertise should they ever need it.

But I felt the opposite. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t want to brag about it at all. I didn’t feel proud of the work I had done.

I took apart these feelings later that day, and I don’t know that I fully understand them still. Perhaps it is another side effect of the poor relationship with my dad.

The man who should have shown me the ropes of housework while I was growing up was neither there nor willing to be there for me in that way.

Or perhaps I’ve stemmed my identity for so long in my inability to do this manly act. Suddenly, that obstacle no longer stands in the way; an identity I have been holding onto is gone.

Whatever the reason, I walked away from my plumbing masterpiece with more on my mind than I’d had before. I’m sure the next house project will soon arise, and I’ll see how I feel after that ordeal.

I just hope it doesn’t involve a waterfall in my kitchen, though.

Do you have any “manly” insecurities? Did your father teach you such tasks like housework and maintenance, or have you had to learn such tasks and qualities along the way?

* Photo courtesy dipster1, Creative Commons.

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  • I’m pretty much with you on this. I was taught a small number of basics. But I’m essentially oriented toward being fearful or paralyzed with a minor home repair issue. I’ve gotten better at it with each new crisis, but I know the feeling. There’s a lack of confidence in me till I’ve gotten through the challenge.

    • A Friend

      I thought I was the only one like this! I’m not alone! I feel great knowing others out there are like me. Woo hoo!

  • Brian

    I don’t know how to do any kind of car repairs or any kind of housework repairs. The only thing I was taught to do was mow the grass and that’s about it. I’m 31 years old and I still don’t know how to do any kind of car/household repairs. I don’t know how to change a tire!

  • I was raised by my mother, so I didn’t even know how to shave (my one and only attempt with a razor sent me to the hospital ER). Nobody taught me how to do ‘manly’ things, so I learned them on my own; plumbing, electrical work, sheetrocking, window installation, siding, roofing, painting, tile work, framing; you name it, I have done it in remodeling my home (my groovy bachelor pad had to become suitable for raising a family). It wasn’t just because I couldn’t afford a contractor. It made me feel like a normal man (whatever normal is). I even learned car maintenance, just to feel macho. I did all this on top of doing the cooking, shopping, playing tea party with my daughter.

    After the stroke, my macho façade took a big hit, as I couldn’t do these things without great difficulty. I couldn’t even paint a wall, much less fry an egg without breaking the yolk. Last week a major wind storm came through the city and blew off half the shingle off my roof. I got up there with my oldest son and we reshingled the roof. I felt good, MANLY! I wanted to bark like ‘Tim the Toolman Taylor’, I felt so macho. This would be a façade. The fact that I can reshingle a roof doesn’t change who I am. It just means I have a skill, nothing more. I can live with that I suppose, but I miss feeling like a man.

  • Brian

    Question: Is a guy doing household maintenance and car repairs on his own makes him a MAN? Should he feel more of a man, moreso than one who can’t do any of these things?

    • A real man is one who worships and reveres the one true God! All else is a false construct.

  • A Friend

    God bless this author! This article was a salve to my soul, as I was raised just by my mom and had absolutely, not one iota, itsy-bitsy sign of any male guidance, help, assistance with repairing things or any kind WHATSOEVER of training, except for being yelled at for being so “stupid”–even to the point that my mother told me that I’d never amount to much, if any, of a man. That day was awful, and repairing things brings me–no joke–shaking from the fear of failure, and also for having no idea what to do. When I’ve shared with men’s groups at church, it’s the same thing: “Look on YouTube and you’ll get it!” I just wish the church would be more sensitive to the likes of us. Oh to find a mentor.

  • Jeff Brady

    Ya, I can fix stuff, but I would rather pay someone else to do it. That way I have someone to blame if it ain’t right. My Dad could fix, build, wire or plumb about anything. He enjoyed doing it and saved enormous sums in the process. Some of his projects took a lot of time. I just want it done so I can do something else…like go fishing.

    My manly insecurities amount to this. I am afraid to get close to people because then I have to share who I am. And while I am out in most places, the newbies I meet, want to know more. And even though I have NEVER had a bad experience coming out to someone, it scares me every single time that I have to do it again.. I effing hate rejection and I am sick and tired of of having to explain. My thought is, just love me or get out. I don’t have time for this. Getting close to people creates other responsibilities too. I don’t like the way it ties me down. Sometimes I would rather be free and alone. Ya. I know, what if Jesus took that attitude? Most people know right off, I am not Jesus. He can fix things though. He was, after all, a carpenter. Not sure how He would have done with a bathtub. I know He’s been refusing to fix me for 40 years. Something about, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness.” OK. Fine!

  • mike

    I think a real man can call a plumber! Plumbers need to earn a living and I think God loves plumbers a lot :). I’ve never tried to fix a pipe, but have leaky faucets and toilets to prove to myself (mostly) that I’m a real man. My wiser wife has said “call the plumber” and she’s right. I relate to the emptiness of that kind of silly effort on my part.
    It’s this thing in all men: to get their identity from their work and to move up the corporate ladder and accomplish big to prove something especially for us SSA guys needing to fix ourselves.
    I like when the disciples asked Jesus: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” His answer speaks to a real man’s identity I think: “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.” This speaks to where a real man is at every moment: when things go right (to whom does he give credit and praise), when things go wrong (does he fall apart because his identity is threatened), and when things go very wrong (where does he go for comfort and clarity).
    Not all of us can fix a pipe but all of us can cling to Jesus and feel good about that. Very good!

    • Brian

      Mike, when you said, “I think a real man can call a plumber”, I was thinking that a real man is one who admits that he can’t fix everything and needs to ask for help. Men don’t often like to ask for help. We like to fix everything but I think we need to realize that we’re not God–we can’t fix everything! We must admit to our incapabilities and ask for assistance. Sure saves time and heartache in the end!

      • mike

        “we can’t fix everything!” Especially ourselves Brian. Especially can fix ourselves. Need help — from Jesus and our brothers. So good!
        I’m presently working in a drug rehab house where guys are at bottom. They know — humiliatingly know that they need fixing. Such a safe good place to be!

  • Alan Gingery

    My dad never wasn’t good about expressing his love verbally (words of affirmation) or with physical touch (affection), but he did give his sons the gift of quality time. He taught us how to fix cars and plumbing. He taught us how to make things with our hands and other skills. He took us camping and taught us outdoor skills and how to hunt and fish.

    Most of my childhood and teen years I struggled with feeling my dad loved me, because we didn’t really speak the same love language. As an adult I clearly see that he did love me and my brother and he expressed it in the way he could: he spent time with us and he helped us learn to do things and not to fear to try something just because we had never done it before. Thank you Dad! I know you love me. I love you back.

  • Eddie

    Speaking to Dean first, I am very proud of you being able to repair this major plumbing problem in your home. From your words, it sounds like you showed initiative and dedication throughout the endeavor. Kudos to you sir!
    For me I think I do harbor some manly insecurities like doing repairs on my home or car that might be easily explained through a YouTube video. Recently I paid my mechanic, $75 for replacing both my air and cabin filters for my car. In retrospect, I should have refused him as the incident diminished my confidence and after seeing what little work was involved. I tend to chalk it up to wanting to just get it fixed right the first time then move on. The DIY opportunity is lost as well as the emotional uprising in my self-esteem.