What It Takes to Be a Man
As I huffed and puffed (and quietly swore under my breath), I had to admit defeat. This leaking tap was impossible to fix.
I spent two hours on Wednesday night, after everyone else was cozy in their beds, trying to fix the bathroom sink. It had been dripping for a week and had progressed to a steady stream. I had picked up a replacement tap from my local Home Depot and got to work.
The supply line was turned off, I unscrewed what I thought I had to unscrew, but this thing was in worse shape than I thought.
I pulled, wrenched, disconnected and reconnected things, watched six YouTube tutorials to figure out what I was meant to be doing and it just wasn’t going my way.
As midnight loomed, I had to call it. However, it wasn’t just a loss for my career as an untrained (and unskilled) household handyman, I felt defeated as a man.
Isn’t this what men are supposed to be good at? Then I started to think, “what else can’t I do?”
This is a risky and self-defeating thought process which can have no possible outcome other than making yourself feel terrible.
The next day I texted our landlord to ask for help. She needed to call the plumber. How embarrassing. I’d set out to do a household task that my Dad would have made look easy. I grew up watching him do work on the electrics, plumbing, even sweep the chimney.
Are these skills that you learn when you’re from an older generation? He was the handyman of his house from a relatively young age, so I suppose it’s something he developed through his young adulthood.
Why didn’t I do that? I did odd jobs as a gardener, a paperboy, a Kodak film lab, then worked in an office after university, until I went to work on cruise ships before becoming a professional marketer and social media strategist. Did my career choice make me soft and unskilled?
Am I a man if I can’t fix a sink?
As usual, my wife made sense of my crisis. She asked me, “If I couldn’t ride a bike, am I less of a woman?” Well no, of course not. “If I couldn’t read, am I less of a woman?” “No” I answered.
“It’s not what you can do, it’s how you act that makes you a man.”
She went on to say that she doesn’t care if we have to call a plumber, a mechanic, or whoever to fix things. As long as I’m kind and treat people well, then that’s what makes you a man, and a good man person at that.
Of course, she makes sense and all I need to do to feel like a man is to show her, my daughter, and everyone else, warmth.
My Dad, as well as being one of the most talented handymen I’ve seen, is always kind and full of love. He made sure we felt supported in whatever idea we wanted to work on, had the freedom to fail, and guidance when we needed it.
Somedays I need to remind myself that those are the things that make me a good person.