A reader writes:
I have been seeing a guy for almost two years now, but I am not sure how this relationship is working out. He has a wonderful house on the Jersey Shore that I helping him remodel, but it just seems to me that all he loves me for is my ability to help him do repairs. I went there last week expecting a nice romantic weekend for two, but what I got was two days of jackhammering his old patio along with a crew of Mexicans and instead of going to the movies we spent all of our spare time at Home Depot. He says that he loves me, but I am starting to think maybe I ought to get out of this relationship. What do you think?
Confused in Corona.
Stay in the relationship, my dear; it is obvious that the man is mad about you. Remodeling a house is a stressful business for everyone involved, and nothing makes the stress worse than a woman who thinks that she is the one doing the remodeling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women may provide ideas for the remodeling, but the actual get down doing of the thing is a male preserve and has been since the first cavewoman told the first caveman that this would be a nice cave to live in, if only we could find some way to get the bear out of the place. The painter Edgar Degas once complained to his friend, the poet Stephane Mallarme, that he didn’t understand why he was having so many problems writing a poem; after all, he had plenty of ideas. Mallarme replied that poems are not written with ideas, but with words. Having ideas is wonderful; making them happen is something else again.
Similarly, a woman may have all the ideas in the world about how to remodel a house; men, on the other hand, have to make these sometimes-vague ideas reality. Clearly, if this man wants you around to help him rip the guts out of his house, he loves you more than life itself. That he wants to spend time with you at Home Depot is yet a further declaration of just how seriously he takes his relationship with you. A man may buy you all the flowers in the world, he may take you to romantic movies, he may get you the most exquisite chocolates in the world, and it means nothing, really; guys will do anything if they think it’s foreplay, as Susan Sarandon quite rightly points out in Bull Durham; but a man who takes a woman to check out the newest Black & Decker circular saw at Home Depot and to smell the aroma of freshly cut two by fours in the morning, well, that man is in love. And let’s face reality here: five will get you ten that the reason you’re the one using the jackhammer on the patio is that he wants to see your breasts jiggle; even the most deeply enraptured guy in the world is still a guy. Why go to Hooters when he can see the same thing at home and get some work done on his new patio as well?
If you have nothing to worry about now, then what about the future, you might want to know. How, then, will you know this relationship is over? I realize I shouldn’t be telling you this; it is a guy thing and therefore should not be revealed to women, children, small dogs, members of the Communist Party, or to anyone who works for the Internal Revenue Service; but you will know the romance is gone when he asks you to snake out his toilet. Carpentry and stonemasonry are sure signs of true love, bricklaying a sign that this relationship is really going places, and putting in electric wire is tantamount to a proposal of marriage, but plumbing is always and everywhere a bad sign for women, and one you should not take lightly if ever your relationship comes to this point. No man lets a woman have anything to do with plumbing; even in this licentious age no decent, respectable woman should have anything to do with plumbing in any of its manifestations. Picking out shower curtains and bathroom tile is all right, but pipefitting is utterly beyond the pale. I do not wish to speculate in the absence of solid scientific data, which is odd, now that I think about it, as I’ve never let the absence of solid scientific data get in the way of a good speculation before and all of Wall Street would tumble if everyone adopted this as a model of making decisions, but the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. It seems, based on this evidence, that seven out of every ten relationships in which a woman does plumbing or related work end after only three or four months. In each and every case, the beginning of the end came when the man in the relationship asked the woman to snake out the toilet. No one is sure why this is so and a good many people at the American Psychological Association aren’t talking; they’re just sitting behind the couch going uh-hunh…and then, how did you feel about that?
Frankly, I think the reason is pretty easy to figure out. You don’t have to be some kind of neo-Freudian headshrinker lying on a couch free-associating about your childhood traumas to the music of KC and the Sunshine Band to figure out the sexual symbolism of a woman snaking out a man’s toilet. I mean, this one is pretty obvious, isn’t it? You’ve got the fear of the emasculating woman there, the woman who seizes the male role in the relationship, as well as some fairly potent latent homosexual imagery going on as well, and so it doesn’t surprise me that guys don’t want to deal with this sort of thing at all. Just thinking about this is enough to give most guys a royal case of the heebie-jeebies. Once the woman snakes a toilet out, no man will ever look at her in the same way again, even if the guy appreciates not having yesterday’s breakfast coming up all over the bathroom floor. At this point, you might as well as forget about this guy once and for all and start looking around for someone new, because no matter how much he tells you he loves you, no matter how many times he tells you that his feelings for you haven’t changed a bit since those halcyon days when the two of you picked out cement mixers, plywood, and extension cords at Home Depot, stick a fork in it, honey, it’s over.