2Y Two One Handeds in the Land of the Handicapped

September 4, 2007

At one time, we thought S and B might build a house on the five-acre lot next to us. That would have been pleasant, not only for us, but also for the Friendly neighbors. Mr. Friendly Neighbor is a very talented and handy man, a skillful woodworker who makes his own furniture and carves artistic works with a chain saw.


He and his wife built their house together, though they occasionally made use of experts for specialized tasks. I remain in awe of this accomplishment, in that an effort by my wife and I to carry out a similar project would result in a headline in the island newspaper: Husband and Wife Arrested in Double Attempted Murder Attempt followed by a story beginning, An island couple, Mr. and Mrs. Random, attempted to beat each other to death with carpentry tools, but their almost complete lack of skill saved their lives.

Although we are both incompetent with tools and projects, since I was a child I have been convinced that I am incompetent. My wife on the other hand, believes tools and raw materials will bend themselves to her will, so she is seldom discouraged, just as forty years of not very successful attempts to bend her husband to her will have not left her very discouraged.

When Mr. Friendly Neighbor chats to us about one of his projects, I respond with befuddled incomprehension; though my wife will cheerfully ask a not very knowledgeable question, providing Mr. FN an opportunity to explain something to us in a clear and non-condescending manner, which delights everybody.

As he is very polite and respectful, when he helps us with one of our projects, as he frequently does; with gentle and amiable sexism, he will often ask me (as the man of the house) for a technical opinion, for example, “What kind of gate do you want to build for your garden?”

He is slightly set back when it is almost always my wife who answers, as 90% of the time, she is the one who has an opinion on such matters. In the end, in the process of demonstrating how to build a gate, he ends up building the gate for us, and then compliments us on our skill in learning how to build a gate.

B, on the other hand, like Mr. Friendly Neighbor, is a handyman of considerable skill but modest demeanor, so if they lived near each other, they would have a wonderful time chatting to each other about their projects, enthusiastically exchanging incomprehensible jargon about woodworking joints and bragging to each other in the most polite and humble manner imaginable.

But it is not to be. Although our five acres is barely enough space for my wife, to “protect me from my neighbors” as she puts it or to protect her neighbors from her as I think it; S and B have different priorities, so they have decided to have a house built in a development in a town near the coast but on the mainland.


5 Responses to “2Y Two One Handeds in the Land of the Handicapped”

  1. janie Says:

    I can identify wholeheartedly with you in the matter of total incompetence in the realm of handiwork. I am hopeless, and unlike your wife, fully aware. However, my husband is quite competent, and had a hard time grasping that there is such a thing as hopeless incompetence until he had spent a number of years trying to instruct me. Thankfully, we never reached the point of battling it out with the tools (came close, though). To the considerable relief of both of us, he has given up on me in this area.

  2. teaspoon Says:

    I think that “gentle and amiable sexism” is my new favorite expression.

  3. cheles Says:

    I helped my brother build a large automotive shop last summer with three other guys. I also know how to do some minor automotive stuff. Last Christmas I asked for power tools in which I never received *sniff.* Yeah, I’m a freak but I love them power tools!

  4. renaissanceguy Says:

    Well, that’s another thing that you and I have in common. I barely know which end of the screwdriver to hold.

    My brother used to take things apart and put things back together as a child. I could barely pound the pegs into the pegboard with my toy hammer.

    Sometimes I make the mistake of attempting a project myself only to spend hours in frustration and evern depression before calling in a competent friend or a professional. When I’m thinking straight, I go right to the friend or professional and save lots of time, frustration, and embarrassment. Yes, I’m embarrassed to have to call them, but more embarrassed by the results of my own labor.

  5. modestypress Says:

    janie, what is your husband incompetent in? Every couple has their own mix.

    Rhiannon, it’s a good vintage in irritating characteristics.

    chele, I hope Santa remembers to bring his toolbelt with him down the chimney and forgets to take it back up with him.

    renguy, I have often excavaated that same hole.

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