Would you consider yourself handy?
And by “handy”, I don’t mean “convenient to have around”. You probably consider yourself that. I mean in the sense of a handyman, who, come to think of it, is pretty handy to have around. But not for too long, because they charge by the hour.
So the question is, when it comes down to it, can you fix things yourself?
According to a recent survey, you probably cannot. The survey claims that today’s fathers are less capable than their own fathers when it comes to do-it-yourself fixes, preferring instead to call a “guy”. Or their father.
Now as a father, I’m not going to sit and talk about what my father does and doesn’t do in this department. But I will say that I do plenty of fixes around the house. In fact, here’s a list of just some of the things I’ve done, though I do have to say that many of them were done with the help of my wife, because she reads this. But I think you’ll be very impressed.
- For example, I’ve put together the desk I’m working on right now, which is probably not going to live as long as the desk in my boys’ room that my grandmother got me when I was six, but that speaks more to my skills as a breadwinner.
- I have an area rug in the living room that keeps sliding out of place every time the kids sit down on the couch, so I Velcroed one corner to the floor, except that the Velcro has since come off the bottom of the carpet. So now there’s just a triangle of Velcro stuck to the floor where the carpet should end, and when we can see the Velcro, it’s time to reposition the carpet.
- We have this end table that was falling apart, and I’m the one who fixed it, elegantly using an electrical tape that matched the color of the table. (The table is actually irreplaceable, because it’s a very uncommon size, and we got it free with our first apartment.)
- I’ve replaced a specific cabinet door in my kitchen about 500 times, once someone showed me that all I have to do is buy a thin wooden dowel, widen the stripped screw hole using a drill bit, stick the end of the dowel in the hole, saw off whatever sticks out, glue the rest in there, and then reinstall the door by driving the screw into the dowel! This is pretty much exactly what your dentist does when you have a cavity. I’m thinking that I should buy a better-quality dowel.
- I also know what a dowel is. My wife taught me. It’s handyman for “stick”.
- I’ve installed a great many pictures on walls, most of which fall if you get too close to them.
- I sawed off a piece of molding in my living room to make my desk fit in that spot. So now if you take away the desk, there will be a piece of molding missing in my living room, right near the front door. I think whoever buys our house after us is getting a free desk.
- I’ve also put together over one barbecue grills.
- I also installed a ladder in my backyard. Sideways, in the ground. The ladder came free with the house, and now it’s a mini fence for my wife’s garden. It doesn’t keep kids out, it doesn’t keep animals out, but we no longer have a loose ladder laying around outside our house.
- I installed a towel bar in my bathroom that only I can use, because no one else knows how to do so without knocking it down and waking up the neighborhood.
- I replaced the sheetrock in the ceiling of an upstairs closet where no one would see it anyway. I did this years ago, and I’m not even sure my wife knows.
- In an attempt to build a shelf for my son to reach from his bunkbed, I drilled about a dozen holes in the wall to find studs, because it turns out my stud finder is a liar.
- I can’t even tell you how many light bulbs I’ve replaced. I also replaced a whole light fixture in my bathroom because it had three sockets for bulbs, and only two of them worked properly. So, I replaced it with one that only has two sockets, only one of which works properly. I think it’s the wall. This project was a stretch for me in the first place, because I normally don’t do anything that may involve getting electrocuted. My wife does those.
- I replaced the faucet of my laundry sink, which involved laying down under the sink and having a lot of unexpected water pour on me.
- I’ve installed a paper towel dispenser in the laundry room that is so inconspicuous that my wife didn’t know it was there when all that water was pouring on me.
- Oh, and this one time my wife took the dryer apart to fix a piece and she couldn’t unscrew something, so who do you think she called? That’s right. And after about an hour of struggling, I told her that I couldn’t either, so she bought a new attachment for her saw.
Point is, I am pretty handy to have around the house, if what you’re looking for is a temporary solution to a minor inconvenience. So I don’t even know what the survey is talking about.
Yet according to the article I read, “Millennial dads are less likely than their boomer counterparts to be able to change a car tire, unblock a sink, or even open a stuck pickle jar with their hands.”
But apparently, there are reasons for this decline. For example, one excuse that millennial dads are giving is that they spend more time with their kids instead. Which sounds like an excuse, because you could always fix things with your kids.
But it could definitely be related. Let’s put it this way: Time was, men didn’t sit around talking about their feelings. They wanted to avoid that, so they went off into the garage tinkered with stuff. Most Jewish men went off to learn, but it’s the same idea. And it’s also the reason many Jewish men aren’t handy. And it turns out that just like if you spend enough time learning, you can get good at it, if you spend enough time fixing stuff, you can get good at that too, or at least luck into a fix.
And likewise, this is probably why we don’t know how to learn as well as our fathers do either.
And yes, Boomer dads could have spent time with their kids, teaching them how to fix things, but they didn’t want to, because their kids kept getting in the way and holding the flashlight wrong and learning colorful new handyman words (such as “dowel”), and also, the kids were the ones who broke the stuff in the first place.
Another reason for the decline in handiness, the survey suggests, is that devices are now more high-tech and harder to fix. Though I’m not sure what they’re talking about, because the examples they gave were car tires, sinks, and pickle jars. How high tech is your pickle jar?
“Yeah, whenever I need to open a pickle jar, I call a guy. He charges 45 bucks for the call, and I have pickles. Then I can spend more time with my kids.”
It probably does have something to do with technology, but it’s more about the change in philosophy, in that nowadays, from a tech standpoint, everything newer is better, so why would I want to fix the old thing? In the old days, before technology was invented, everyone said, “They don’t make things like they used to.” And that’s a great philosophy for fixing the old one, but now it’s one generation later, and from what we’ve heard, they haven’t made things they like used to since two generations ago.
Nevertheless, one result of this shift, the survey found, is that modern dads don’t own a lot of tools. For example, according to reports, 49% nowadays don’t own a ladder, and 46%, quote, “don’t even own a cordless drill”.
No cordless drill? How do you drill a dozen holes in your son’s wall looking for studs?
Meanwhile, 38% don’t own a screwdriver, and 32% don’t own a hammer. In case you’re looking for a good wedding present. That I’ve never seen on a single registry.
Okay, so I may not be great at fixing things, but I definitely have tools. I own a circular saw! Though to be technical, my wife owns the circular saw.
But I do own a lot of other tools, which we keep in 3 strategic places – four, if you count the half-buried ladder. We have them in a drawer in our kitchen that we can’t open or close, we have a small set upstairs that includes a kosher l’Pesach hammer that we use to open coconuts (my wife uses the chometz kitchen hammer to turn granola bars into granola), and then there’s our garage, where we keep all the larger, more dangerous tools. And also the kids’ bikes.
No hammer? How do you open coconuts?
“I call a guy.”
And he comes?
“Not always. Today he’s off opening someone’s pickle jar.”
The Jewish brands come in plastic tubs.
Point is, this whole trend is something that we really need to fix.
I say we call a guy.