I was born without the DIY gene most men have.
I’m not blaming my parents, well not exactly. My father had the DIY gene, but my mother had the UIE (Universal Interest in Everything) gene. And thus was the conflict I faced when growing up. My father tried to pass along the DIY gene by attempting to teach me how to do things mechanical. But as he was teaching, I was either (1) more interested in something else, or (2) interested in that which my mother was interested in.
Don’t get me wrong, my father is a darn good dad. He did his best to show me how to do things. He tried to teach me h0w to mow the lawn, build a dog kennel, fix broken screen doors, trim the hedge, rake leaves, wash windows, and many other tasks involving, to varying degrees, manual labor. But after letting me do it, and I not doing a satisfactory job (honestly, I thought a “wavy” line at the top of the hedge looked pretty neat … he wanted straight), Dad usually opted to do it himself.
So my chores generally did not involve mechanical talents. I spent a lot of time picking up dog poop in the backyard.
My mother, on the other hand, was always interested in something, and following suit, I was equally interested. She showed me how to take photos, develop my own film, and print my own pictures (even color!). She got me interested in parapsychology (ESP, spirits, past lives, Tarot cards, etc.). Showing dogs was another interest we shared (there was a down side to that interest … my job included picking up more dog poop in the kennels). Oh, and she was really into eating healthy and health food(which I really wasn’t all that interested in, especially the tofu, but since she fixed ‘healthy’ foods for breakfast, lunch and supper, I sort of had to get interested … or starve).
My parents have always been good parents. But when I took a dip in the gene pool, I came out sans DIY.
Flash forward to 2013. I met a wonderful woman, Mary. I fell in love with her. We began discussing marriage. And that’s about the time she stated one evening, “I am really looking forward to having a man around the house. You know, someone who can fix those little things that go wrong; taking care of the yard and all those other things.”
In complete honesty, I did not even for one second contemplate getting out of the relationship. Actually, I opted to take the full disclosure route. “Ummmm, yeah. Well you see, I’m not exactly the handiest of handymen.”
“What do you mean,” she asked.
“Well, my idea of being a ‘handyman’ is I ‘handy’ the money to the ‘man’ who just fixed the thing that’s broken in the house.”
Mary thought about that for a while, and then cheerfully stated, “Well, I know you can figure that stuff out. You’re smart.”
Smart, huh. You mean smart like knowing whether to use a flathead or phillips screwdriver? Are you referring to which way to move the valve so as to shut off the water of a leaking faucet smart? You’re talking about not turning a four-step build-a-bookcase kit in to the 12-step program smart?
That kind of smart I ain’t.
But Mary accepted me, flaws and all; including the lack of the DIY gene.
So a few months into this brand-new marriage, we decided we needed a new entertainment center (which I kept calling a “TV stand.” Hey, it sounded less complex than “entertainment center”). Actually, Mary had been considering the change for 3-4 years prior to our marriage; even mentioned it a few times while we were dating and heading toward “I do.”
She said we needed to find a “kit” and build it ourselves. So we shopped. And we shopped. And we shopped some more.
I was feeling pretty confident we were never going to find the “right” kit, but gosh-darnit, I let my guard down. There, in a Walmart, in a galaxy far, far away, was, and I quote, “the perfect one, and it looks easy to put together … you can do it.” As I looked at the picture on the box, I saw nothing easy about it, unless you count the fact that I’d end up having to up my depression medication to handle the complete sense of failure the kit promised.
With a smile bright and wide, Mary had a Walmart associate load the kit onto a cart (the dang thing was too big and heavy for even the two of us to carry up to the checkout station; don’t you think that be a clue to its potential difficulty in constructing it?). We paid for it, and the same associate lugged the thing out to my Jeep and the three of us huffed and puffed until we had ity loaded.
We climbed in the Jeep and headed homeward, our confidence levels rocketing in opposite directions. As she babbled on and on about how I should be able to snap that thing together in 30 minutes or less, I did my best to put a good face forward. Finally, hoping not to burst her bubble, I muttered, “Well, you know, it might be complicated.”
“Ya, I know. But you’re smart,” Mary quickly answered. My heart sank even lower. I think it was dragging on the road, it was so low. “And,” she continued, “I called Allie’s boyfriend to come help you.”
I looked at her with a wide-eyed response, but quickly composed myself and said, “Well, ummmm, yeah, that’s okay. I know he’s taking shop class, so he could use the experience.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he does,” she smirked.
We manhandled the behemoth box through the front door. I was barely able to get it upright so as to lean it against the wall. After that huge task, I was ready to call it good for the day, grab a beer, and watch a little TV. But Mary excitedly announced, “Allie called Kole and he’s on his way! We’ll get this thing put together and be watching TV from our new entertainment center in no time.”
I never realize a can of beer could “pffft” itself closed, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard. I was trapped. I was about to be completely stripped naked; my manliness destroyed. My lack of mechanical talents — that which I had forewarned her about many times — were about to be exposed. My shoulders sank. My head lolled. And my spirit drifted away … smirking.
But then it came to me!
Time to employ the old DDIY tactic. DIY stands for “Do It Yourself.” But few in this world, and only a select number of talentless men are members of this group, belong to the fraternity of DDIY.
“Don’t Do It Yourself.”
To gain entry into this group, one must hone specific characteristics. First, one must be able to create the illusion of ability; the appearance that you can do a project you have no clue how to complete. Second, one must be able to hide that sniveling, fear-filled wimp of a man who knows for certain he cannot do anything to complete the project. Third, one must have the ability to hover around the project, as others are doing the work, making statements that sound knowledgeable; all the while doing only small, meaningless tasks that do very little to forward the project to fruition, BUT, give the appearance that one is quite involved and very busy.
Now to my credit, prior to Kole’s arrival, I did get a few minor tasks completed. I removed all the wiring that snaked through the various openings of the old, cumbersome entertainment center. I also disassembled said entertainment center. To make that task seem like a monumental accomplishment, I unnecessarily tore it apart down to the most minute of pieces, and then left those pieces scattered around the family room. When my wife came out and saw the huge collection of pieces, she gushed, “Oh my Kevin, you have been really busy. Look at you, getting everything taken apart. See, I knew you could do it.”
Since I had worked up a small sweat, I reached up and drew my arm across my face, making sure the sweat-stained shirt sleeve was very visible to her. “Ohhhhhh, my hubby is working really hard,” she cooed. Oh yeah … my DDIY plan was falling perfectly into place.
And then Kole arrived. We surveyed the box. We then pulled it open on one end. And we proceeded to pull the many pieces and parts out of the box. All the while, I said things like, “Boy, this sure looks complicated, but let’s keep at it” and “Look at all those different screws; man oh man, lots of parts.”
We finally dug out the directions, and I smartly snagged them, made a quick glance through them, and brilliantly flipped them to Kole, noting, “Here’s the English version. I could probably do it with the Spanish directions, but since we’re working together ….”
I can’t say for sure, but I think that’s when Kole caught on to what I was doing. His eyes rolled upward and he locked in on mine, and then a wry, slight smile creased his face. A knowing smile. A smile that said, “Yeah, I hear ya dude. I got yer back.”
Starting with Step 1, Kole laid the parts out. With each part, I would move it into what appeared to be a semblance of organized order. The packets of screws and small parts were lined up side-by-side. Small boards and metal parts were placed in an area nearby. I not only looked very busy, but it appeared I even had an organizational scheme.
Then the actual construction began. I would hand boards and screws to Kole, hovering near him as he put them together. If I didn’t know which part he needed next, I would pick up a random piece and say something like, “This will be a fun piece to get into place.” As I did that, Kole would grab the piece he needed. I suppose that move may have fallen under the “Old Bait & Switch” category of illusion. It was unnecessary since our small audience (wife and stepdaughter), had lost interest in watching our mundane activities, like screwing two boards together, and was organizing DVDs and placing them in storage boxes in anticipation of the vast storage space the completed entertainment center offered. But I still opted to continue the ruse, even if it were only statements made to give the impression I was actively engaged in the project.
Eventually the new entertainment center began to take shape. My “assistant” was making great progress, and if I’d had any expertise by which I could use to measure his abilities, I would have been able to state rather glowingly, “Wow Kole, you’re really flying through this project.” But I simply couldn’t, in order to prevent myself from giving away the DDIY tactic. It was unfortunate, though; he was doing a wonderful job!
Suddenly, my presence was needed by Mary. As Allie had decided DVD sorting was not her thing, she’d moved into our space and was watching. Actually, she’d started helping Kole, thus erasing the small activities I’d been relying on to perpetrate the ruse. While she never said anything, nor gave any looks of outright recognition, I’m pretty sure she’d seen through my DDIY efforts. I will be forever indebted to her betrayal resistance.
My wife, who was painting the section of the wall that had been hidden by the old entertainment center, needed me to move drop cloths, a job of which I was more than reasonably adept. “Do you need to go back and finish,” she queried at one point. Calmly but with a high level of confidence I whispered, “Nawww. Let Kole finish things; you know, let him feel the pride of getting the job done.”
Okay, now I’m sure many of you are thinking badly of me. DDIY is, at its base, a deception. I agree. But before you pass negative judgment on me, let me finish.
Within a few short minutes, Kole and Allie came in and announced “We’re done.” Mary and I walked to the other room, and there it stood, in all it’s glory, looking sturdy enough to hold a VW Beetle. Nothing had been placed wrong side up (bookcase project of mine gone bad). Parts that needed to stay in place stayed. Pieces that were supposed to move did just that. It was brilliant.
“Good job Kole,” I said. I turned to Mary ready to make a full confessional. It was totally unnecessary. The look on her face, and ensuing remark, “Yep, Koley did a great job” revealed what she’d known all along — my DIY project had been DDIY. She’d known I was never going to Do It Myself, but rather was destined for Not Doing It Myself.
But even if I didn’t actually do it, after having watched Kole easily move through the steps, never once stumbling over confusing directions or getting grounded by putting a piece on wrong, I can confidently say, I could have done it. I admit, I was frightened into DDIY by the large number of small parts, a fear heightened by the thought that had I tackled it, and completed it, the dang thing would have been less-than-sturdy and our 52″ flatscreen TV would have come crashing down on the glass shelving.
My conclusion: DIY doesn’t mean “Do It Yourself.” It means having the patience to follow the directions step-by-step, then double checking each move; and most importantly, having the courage and confidence to try. In truth, DIY is simply IGT … I Got This!