Before telling my little story, I thought it might be helpful in understanding my perspective to reveal a few things about myself. I was born in January of 1946, so you can't hardly get any closer to the front of the Baby Boom than that. My father, like most men of his era, was more predjudiced and less self absorbed than I. He could fix most anything, and did his best to show me how to practice the manly arts, but mostly, I just lost his tools. I was always more interested in books and music than how to tear apart an engine, though I can unbolt old parts and put new ones in their place well enough, you would want to look elsewhere for someone to work on your car. Put a hammer or saw in my hand, and my IQ drops to single digits.
Ironically, after I got out of the Army, the best job that popped up was an offer from what was then Humble (I kid you not) Oil, now Exxonmobil. They had tests that said I had mechanical aptitude, so who was I to argue? The pay and benefits were as good as it gets for someone without a college education, so I spent thirty six years in the oil industry. For the most part, I fooled them well enough-staying close to the operating end of things, where being able to visualize what goes on inside of a pressure vessel is a valuable skill, and sometimes even impressed people. I ride a motorcycle and, thanks to my time in both the military and the oilfields, know just about every profane or obscene expression in the English Language, though I must admit I had never heard about tea bagging. (If you don't know the street meaning of that expression, you'll have to get from someone else)
In short, I come off as hopelessly masculine, and it suits me fine to be thought of that way. My wife, seven years younger than I, is about a feminine as a woman can get, and I like that just fine too. The trouble is, when she was ten or so, her dad was building the house in which she would spend the rest of her youth, until she married and moved out. She watched every thing her dad did, how made sure things were square and level. She even helped nail up the chicken wire that they use to make stucco stick. Her and her first husband built a house, where she saw how windows were installed and learned about the unreliability of contractors. I, on the other hand, had never seen any of this stuff until we started remodeling.
She has taken classes in woodworking, and, if you have the time, (she's a perfectionist!) she can build you a piece of furniture that will pass muster anywhere. Carpentry, not so much, (she's not good with things that require a fair amount of strength) so that falls under the male domain in our household, and I pretty much suck at it. If you want big and strong, with lots of wood and everything overbuilt, I'm your guy. You just don't want it to be something that shows. Things don't quite match up, joints are not precise, and things don't usually end up level or square.
This week, her widowed Mother needed a replacement for a rickety ramp that comes up on one side of her front porch. My stepdaughter is in a wheelchair, so she needs it to get into the house without assistance, which is her right, I think, and Grandma may need it herself soon-she's eighty-one and has a right to easy access into her own house too. It fell to me to make this happen. My son and I put in the basic ramp in two half days, and everyone agreed it looked pretty good. If he had a better idea, he would make a suggestion, and usually took his advice without qualms.
The trouble began when my wife and I went over to finish it up. It sits at the front of the house, so it needed to look right. I was feeling edgy right from the start, anxious to get this over with. I'm a writer, not a damn handyman. Some stuff needed to be trimmed and I had at it without much thought and made a bit of a botch of it. My wife had a suggestion for a neater way to do it, and I started bitching and complaining, wanting to be left alone, and soon enough, she obliged. Then, I did exactly what she had suggested, since it was obvious to even a fool like me that she was right.
This got me to thinking of previous projects, which usually ended looking reasonably good, but left us snippy with each other for a few days afterward. It was pretty clear that I wasn't quite as secure in my masculinity as I thought, at least in front of her. She was never critical, but she knew what I was doing was going to end badly, and she would have to wait for me to bash my head into a stone wall long enough before I was ready to heed advice. My generation was supposed to change the paradigm about that sort of thing, but obviously things haven't, in my case at least, changed as much as I thought. Really, I just don't want her seeing me at my most inept.
The intimacy of marriage makes many things important that are not important in other relationships. Every vulnerability is evident, every flaw exposed. I have other flaws, of course, many worse than being a lousy carpenter, but some vestige of the old idea of what a man is clearly still lurks inside me. My wife and I have been together nearly thirty years, and have a few changes to our bodies that we regard as the battle scars living has dealt us-certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Still, my wife uses one of those things that give you extra air at night because there is something wrong with her septum, or something. She refuses to let me she her using it, just as I become petulant when what I percieve as my most glaring weakness in the whole guy thing. I know younger people who act threatened at odd times, and I'm going to try to keep in mind my own personal pathology the next time I encounter this sort of behavior. And I will always knock before entering her bedroom.
Causes David Beemer Supports
Wife works as an advocate for Seniors. Sponser a child through World Vision