What is it with men and power equipment? Have Ryobi power drills replaced swords and spears as symbols of a man’s prowess? Do men think women are impressed when they wield a “saws-all” and cut a hole through a wall? And you gotta love the way they swoop in when they see a woman trying to use power tools. “Oh, let me get that, honey.” “Honey, you’re not holding it right – let me take it.” “You’ll never get it done that way – let me do it.”
In fact, most wives learn pretty early on that the easiest way to get our husbands to do something that’s been on our “honey-do list” for days (weeks, months, years) is to grab a power tool ourselves and fire it up while they’re nearby. Oh, there may be a curse word or two, but trust me, in the end, the job will be completed…by the husband.
Disclaimer: My own Hubby is sometimes conflicted in how to balance our roles, but to his credit, he usually falls on the more enlightened side of things. Some of my sweeping generalities here are based on other guys I’ve known in the past or have worked with, and other womens’ husbands. My own beloved at least tries to let me do things on my own, but he still gets twitchy when I grab the Ryobi.
I don’t think for a minute that guys grab tools away from us because they’re all that concerned for our safety (although, I must admit, I can’t be trusted with any sharp objects, and Hubby knows it). I just don’t think they want us to learn how much fun they are.
I lived alone for more than fifteen years, including ten years on my own horse farm (with a house that was a hundred years old). So I had to learn how to make a few basic repairs. Simple little things like…patching the roof, snaking the pipes, fixing the toilet, thawing out the sump pump, driving a farm tractor older than I was, bailing water out of the basement by hand…just a few little things every girl dreams of doing someday. So Hubby took on a wife who didn’t expect him to fix everything, and a wife who had her own opinions on how to fix things. That has occasionally led to some….uh….stress, but overall it’s been a successful match in handling day-to-day tasks. He refers to my occasional proclamations of “I can do it myself” as my “I am woman, hear me roar” moments, but I think he quietly appreciates that we share the workload.
I’m not in love with running the snow blower, but I can certainly do it when he’s not around. I’ll bundle up in twenty layers, and I’ll waddle into the garage and open the door. I spend a few seconds staring at the snow-covered driveway in annoyance. I’ll push the choke three times and start hauling away on the pull-start rope. If it doesn’t start on the first pull, I’ll warm the air with a few four-letter words. If it doesn’t start on the second, I’ll graduate to 5- and 7-letter words, because I know I’ve only got one pull left in me. But once that sucker starts, I’m off! Our driveway is three cars wide and 90 feet long. It’s a bear to clear, but I can do it. When I’m done, I’m tired, and aching, and usually still annoyed, but I also have a sense of accomplishment and independence that feels pretty good.
And maybe that’s what guys love about their power tools. They really do make you feel powerful. That’s their little secret. That’s why they snatch them out of our hands so quickly. It’s not about the operator, it’s about the machine.
I discovered this recently when I finally learned how to drive the “man-machine”, which is what I’ve dubbed Hubby’s new zero-turn lawn mower. I could drive any lawn tractor around, and I’ve had some doozies, including a big old clunker on my farm that I bought at a garage sale – it would smoke and backfire regularly, but it got me through my last couple years of farm life (before I came to my senses and sold the farm and tractor). I was even okay driving a 1950 farm tractor and operating the bucket loader on the front. But just because I could do it didn’t mean I loved doing it, and I was more than happy to let Hubby take over the lawn duties once we settled in suburbia. And as long as we had a lawn tractor, even the one with the big 4-foot mower, I knew I could help out in a pinch.
And then he got the man-machine this year. Hubby coveted this mower for three years, because he drove one at the golf course where he worked part-time. You sit in front of the engine, not behind it. And you sit directly over and slightly behind the mower. No steering wheels here – these things drive with two handles/levers/arms that operate independently of each other. That means if you pull the left lever back, you turn left. If you pull the left lever back, and push the right lever forward, you turn left really fast!!! I’m talkin’ throw-you-off-the-machine fast. The least little movement on those levers, and you are careening into the garage wall, or the car, or over the top of that little maple tree behind the shed. Hubby is a zero-turn master. Me…not so much. I was more than happy to let that be a man-job. Until we realized that I would have to mow the lawn at least a couple times while he was out of town this fall. Uh-oh.
Hubby gave me an impatient lesson last week (I didn’t come that close to hitting the car on my way out of the garage). I tried to ignore his protests and shouted suggestions and anguished expressions as I ran zigzags around the yard. You see, I was thinking the man-machine needed a man’s firm hand to steer it. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the key was subtlety. A light hand on the steering levers allowed you to move around the yard with ease. Push them forward together, and you go faster – cool. After a few herky-jerky attempts to mow around some shrubbery without mowing it down (Hubby’s face was priceless!), I figured out the man-machine. And I liked it. The neighbors were watching me, and that must have been admiration I saw in their eyes as I wheeled around and spun that mower in a (relatively) tight circle to head back the other direction. I felt awesome!
I now know the secret of men and their toys. The toys are fun!! And the toys are cool!! And they don’t really require any special “manly” skills. Okay, men have got more practice running drills and operating zero-turn mowers than we do. And they often have more upper arm strength to hold that power tool and its heavy detachable battery pack steadier than we can. But the reason men love those toys is because they get a heady sense of power and accomplishment from using them. Women should give it a try more often. And if by chance you don’t like it, just act like you’re going to drop the tool, or bump it up against the wall, or tell him you think you stripped a screw. He’s sure to grab the power tools away from you with a tsk-tsk and take over the task. And he’ll be thrilled to have his toys all back to himself again.