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.