Sunday, 30 June 2013

Things I'm just not good at ...

I have a book on my shelf entitled 'You Don't Need a Man to Fix It'.

I am a feminist - I believe that women and men have equal rights to the good things of life, to education and employment, and the right to walk down streets safely.

I also believe that there is nothing intrinsically masculine about mending things. Women can wield a paintbrush or screwdriver as well as a man. I know there are a few things that require brute strength - but you get the basic idea. There's no fundamental reason why I shouldn't be able to put up a shelf or paint a window.

Some years ago my iron died. (This was in the days when I did ironing. When I was travelling all my clothes lived in a rucksack and I discovered that, however, crumpled my best shirt might be, Nothing Happened! So I stopped ironing). Anyway, my iron died. So I found a screwdriver and took it to pieces, putting everything down in a logical order as I knew I'd have to put it together again. And then I looked at my book and found the instructions: it is impossible to mend irons; buy a new one.

Undeterred, I decided to sand the windowsill - it had too many overflow stains from plant pots. What a success - the windowsill was smooth as silk, and I even managed a coat of paint on it without spilling too many drips on my shoes. I turned to the sideboard: I would take it outside to sand it, I decided. Which meant taking the double glazing apart across the back doors ... my book had no instructions on what do to with several panes of glass and wooden struts when the whole thing collapses.

Soon after than the cat flap fell apart. No, I decided, I'd not try to mend it. I'd just buy a new one. Which was fine until I discovered that the holes for the old one were in a different place on the door ... a neighbour came with his four-year old to fix it.

I have tried. Honestly, I have tried. And I now accept I'm simply not good at it. I can blame my education (I was brought up to make pastry while my brothers mended the punctures on my bike). Or I can simply say that handy-stuff, like gardening and cooking, is just not one of my skills.

I'm stuck with the dissonance of knowing I should, and knowing I can't. So when the man who mended my wooden garden chairs suggested I give them a coat of something I nodded, as if I knew what he was talking about. And something else on the metalwork, he said. I nodded again.

To be fair, I managed to buy the stuff and coat the chair with weatherproofing, and it doesn't look that terrible. But if a knight in shining armour had galloped across my garden and offered a cup of tea at that moment when I dropped the can and splattered a pint of 'dark oak' across the flagstones I might have kissed him.

Does that make me a bad feminists?


  1. It doesn't make you a bad feminist - it makes you a bad mender. If you take out the sexism bit of all of this and think of a different talent - say singing - would you think you're letting your gender down if you sang flat? No. You would just accept that you're not be a good singer. We all have our talents, they aren't linked to our gender, they're linked to our abilities.

    (I just changed a fuse in my car because my starter motor wouldn't work. A very nice AA man showed me how, two weeks ago when he rescued me, the first time the fuse blew. I don't feel particularly feminine/masculine because of either incident.)

    1. Oh, Ann, that fuse shouldn't keep blowing, should it?!

  2. I love this post, Jo. I think you are right. As I see it, there are things you are really good at (i.e. spunk, travel, doing stuff that many other women would baulk at, me included) and there are things that are technical and maybe this was not in your gift pack at birth. My mother was a feminist. She brought four of us (two boys, two girls) up to be multi-skilled. My brothers learnt to sew; my sister and I learnt to wield hammers. My sister enjoys sewing, I love doing woodwork. It's just what we happen to be better at. I won't say good, because I'm not, but I love messing about with wood and am fairly useless with a needle. Just the way the way it goes.

  3. Like Ann said, it just means you're not good at mending although you're right about our education. My husband learnt woodwork and gardening while I did cooking and dressmaking (yuk!) But I can't dressmake so that blows that theory. I also know a number of men who can't fix and mend. So in other words, it's a mixture of nature and nurture!

  4. Um... I feel like that about household DIY AND needlework. I think it's really a matter of the ten thumbs disease, Jo :)

  5. No, it just means you are rubbish at DIY. BH, as you know is also rubbish at DIY. Does that make him a bad masculinist? People are gifted in different ways. I'll have a go at doing DIY. Sometimes it works ( stripping an old chest of drawers and re varnishing) sometimes it doesn't (taking the Dyson to bits....don't attempt this folks...) Hey... you have MANY other talents. And, by being not good, you are giving someone else the chance of earning money.

  6. Thank you all. I don't feel quite so feeble after all this support. Next time I wave a paintbrush about I shall think of you all. (And the eat bought cake - I'm pretty rubbish at cooking, too!)

  7. I think it's more what you are interested in that determines what jobs you tackle at home and in the garden.I'm just not interested enough in gardening to be good at it.I'm the painter in the house so I do most of the decorating but only because I have more patience than hubby.He's more the knock down walls and cut down trees kind of guy although he does turn his hand to most things he's not into finishing them the way I would like them to be finished and that's when I take over. When would you have time to travel and to write if you were doing all those other boring jobs Jo? Just find a man who does! That's what men are for!