If they don’t find you hand­some…

Northern Pen - - FRONT PAGE - Ted Markle

Is one’s hand­i­ness around the house linked to one’s machismo?

Our re­cent move – a mo­ment of truth in the realm of house­hold hand­i­ness was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence for me. The list of tasks was long and di­verse — re­assem­bling beds, hang­ing pic­ture frames, in­stalling dish­wash­ers…

In this era of total in­di­vid­u­al­ism, sen­si­tiv­ity, and gen­der­bend­ing, the archetypes that help shape a man’s iden­tity are all over the map and — for me at least — hand­i­ness seems to be a car­di­nal el­e­ment.

As the move’s whirl­wind of boxes and dust were in full force, I could sense that my wife yearned for a throw­back man of years gone by. This man sel­dom speaks, but when he does, it’s short pithy state­ments of cow­boy wis­dom. He can fix just about any­thing around the house — and he is filled with heart­felt sym­pa­thy for the poor bride who has had to en­dure years of late night IKEA-tantrums and righty-tighty, left­y­loosey mis­cues on the part of her hap­less hus­band.

Pic­ture the Marl­boro Man (but bald­ing and with­out the smokes) with a tool hol­ster around his waist. Pic­ture my brother — pulling into the drive­way in his black pickup (parked be­side my white Prius, by the way).

Should I have felt as if my machismo was be­ing chal- lenged with my honey’s ex­pres­sion of both joy and re­lief as my brother and his wife walked up the porch stairs? My wife promptly pulled from her pocket a list of un­fin­ished chores and gave it to him. “Al­ways drink up­stream from the herd ma’am…” was his only re­sponse. (Does that even mean any­thing???!!!)

My wife sees my brother with a power tool and her nest­ing in­stincts are ap­peased. Put the same tool in my hand and she ac­cus­ingly hollers, “Where are you go­ing with that?” How two peo­ple can come from the same ge­netic soup and be more different in terms of me­chan­i­cal in­tu­ition and dex­ter­ity is some­thing sci­ence can­not ex­plain.

With ef­fi­ciency he glides through her list. A job that would have taken me hours, and ne­ces­si­tated the view­ing of sev­eral “How-To” videos on YouTube, takes him mere sec­onds. Upon com­ple­tion, my brother hol­sters his ham­mer, wipes sweated brow with red hand­ker­chief, and thanks my wife for the cold beer. The four of us sit in our now welldec­o­rated liv­ing room and she com­mends him for his pre­ci­sion, his per­se­ver­ance — how he didn’t take a sin­gle break un­til the en­tire list was com­plete.

“Aw-shucks ma’am, as he tips his hat, “I’m not one for squat­tin’ with my spurs on, I’m happy to be of as­sis­tance, can’t be easy for you with only slick-heeled help ‘round these parts.’ ”

With those words, I was feel­ing like a yel­low-bel­lied, lilyliv­ered lowlife. Some of my own western rage bub­bled up and I turned to my sis­ter-in-law. “Do you have, I don’t know ma’am, maybe an un­fin­ished poem? A recipe for your favourite grub that seems to be miss­ing some­thing? …Maybe you have some book­shelves that need re­ar­ran­gin’? Al­pha­bet­i­cally by au­thor? The­mat­i­cally? Why I’d even do ya… a Dewey… dec­i­mal sys­tem that is, ma’am…”

She smiled, grace­fully ex­plained that these were not front burner is­sues for her at the mo­ment, and re­minded me, “Hand­some is as hand­some does.”

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