Those who say men don’t do housework should read this story. Or better still, meet the L&M. I am told today is International Men’s Day. How can I let this day go unmarked without paying my tributes to that great man I have married – the best handyman…er…man handy around the house? Don’t know the difference? This post is definitely for you!
Note: This is an old post – about a younger L&M. Watch out for an update of the present-day-L&M!
The media is full of the ‘new man’ who is a perfect foil to a woman. These paragons of virtue don’t think twice about pitching in with the housework. I read incredulously about men who change the baby’s diapers without batting an eyelid, carry a tray of bed tea for their working wives and get the kids ready for school. Some I hear, even gladly don the mantle of househusbands. I say ‘incredulously,’ because the L&M, believes in doing only certain things around the house — eating, sleeping, watching TV and eating some more.
But wait, I am being unfair to him. He is actually an understanding and ‘adjusting’ husband, as my sisters in similar predicament would say in envy. He is ever ready to help around the house, when he is not engaged in one of the above mentioned activities, that is. ‘Shall I shop for vegetables?’, he asks solicitously. ‘Do you want me to put the clothes in the wash?’ he enquires lovingly. ‘Should I do the vessels?’ he asks concernedly. Never mind that I have a fridgeful of vegetables or that I have just straightened my aching back from folding away all the washed and dried clothes and that the vessels are dry and ready to be put away.
So when I refuse, L&M turns around and says with a hurt and accusing look, “See, I want to help, but you wouldn’t let me!” I have never ceased to wonder at how he picks up just the jobs that have already been completed.
Among the jobs I have listed, he loves the ‘shopping for vegetables’ the best, probably because it has to do with eating. But I dread this as much as the other ‘jobs’ he offers to do. Because, he not only buys enough vegetables to feed a battalion but insists that I should cook them all.
It is worse when he offers to cut them for me. He is maddeningly precise — the cabbage has to be cut just so, the tomatoes only sliced lengthways, the pieces of the ladyfingers cut to the precise millimetre. And such precision work naturally takes time — lots of it. I still wouldn’t complain, if it weren’t for the fact that I have nothing to cook for lunch, for he has only just managed to arrange all the ladyfingers according to their size, prior to cutting by then. They are finally cut and ready by mid-evening and I directly cook dinner. The brats have devoured the pizzas and burgers that I’ve ordered out for them, by then.
What makes me madder is that he would cut three-fourths of the stuff and then say, “You finish the rest.” Grrrrrr.
And when I cook them all, the L&M, barely touches half the dishes. By the time the dishes are put in front of him, it is probably more like an anti-climax — he obviously has had enough of the vegetables, having spent nearly a whole day- and-a half in their company. So I am left with about a kilo of bhindi subzi and another kilo and half of cauliflower-and-beans stew. We end up having left-left-left-over in our house for days (weeks?) after one of L&M’s vegetable buying and cutting sprees.
I guess I am hard to please, as he is fond of telling me. Maybe I am. But then, he is the only person I know who only washes the clothes that he feels like washing. He wouldn’t touch small items like hankies or children’s underwear and socks. He also does not wash clothes that he doesn’t ‘like’. There is no particular rhyme or reason for his dislikes. It could be a particular dress in a colour he hates, or a pair of jeans that are too dirty.
Now the washing itself: the area around the washing machine looks as if a storm has passed through. This is disastrous since my washing machine is in my kitchen and the latter is smaller than a cupboard. As I slither and wade in and out of the pool of soapy water, the L&M complains that I am deliberately creating a scene to make him look inept!
Wash day by the L&M is followed by disaster day, when the brats invariably scream blue murder, because their socks are without their pairs (their father probably didn’t like one of the pair) or their school shirt has not been washed (because he didn’t like the looks of them). Needless to say, the L&M has a martyred look for his ungrateful family.
I told you earlier how ‘adjusting’ he is. He never complains when the house looks as if a dust storm has hit it or as if a typhoon has ravaged it. He happily plonks himself amidst all the mess and watches TV. If I complain, he turns romantic. “You look lovely when you are angry,” he says, eyes glued to the set, making me wonder if he is talking to me or repeating a dialogue from the tube.
With him, it is, ‘You don’t clean it, I won’t clean it. If someone else wants to, let them clean it.’ Obviously no one does, and my house ends up looking like a pigsty.
Not for L&M jobs like changing the fuse or taking the car for servicing or even hanging a picture on the wall. You see, he believes in women’s liberation and allows me to do all the above-mentioned chores and then some! He may offer to make me a cup of tea when I finish shifting the furniture, for instance. Of course, being the ‘man handy’, he does get our teenage son or the guests (sundry nephews/neices) to do some of the jobs, if I crib too much.
Oh, you don’t know what a ‘man handy’ means, do you? Well, you must have all heard of handymen, I suppose? These are the men who can be depended upon to set things right. For instance if your mixer has conked out, all you have to do is holler for the handyman and he would get it running in a jiffy. Cool, eh?
But the man handy — well, he is another kettle of fish altogether, and ‘cooler’ to boot. He’d also have the mixer fixed — by someone else, usually an expert. He pleads, flatters, pretends to be ignorant, bullies and whines to get things done. Well, the man I am married to is this breed and an expert at that.
He uses the helpless angle, “I am so useless at these things. Can you try your hand?” or “I am in the middle of this important email, could you please do it? I owe you one;” or uses plain flattery. “I hear you are a whiz at fixing gadgets! Wow! I salute you, son/man/friend,” as the case may be. And lo and behold! Your mixer is fixed!
Come to think of it, my ‘man handy’ is a sight better than my friend’s ‘handyman’ husband, or so she tells me. She has nightmares about him coming to her rescue when something needs to be fixed. She has told me of the time there was a short circuit when he changed a bulb and another time when the main water pipe burst while he ‘fixed’ a leaky tap. She envies me my couch potato of a husband. Well, to each her own, I guess!
(A version of this post ‘How Handy are Handymen’ was originally published in TOI, March 22, 1997)
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