I’ve never really confirmed whether the word ‘stubborn’ is interchangeable with ‘independent,’ self-sufficient,’ or ‘who the heckle needs you?,’ but I feel like it should be. I see myself as super self-sufficient. Totally independent. Well, more so seven years ago before I became a better half. Back then it was, ‘Men? Why? I can literally take care of everything myself.’ My husband says I’m stubborn. I’d agree with him, but then we’d both be wrong.
Because I did live alone for quite some time and because I lived on a very planned out budget, I learned to do a lot of around-the-house things myself. I just didn’t see the point in hiring someone for $200 if I could drive to Lowe’s 72 times for advice while spending $400. Right. Yes, I see it now. But, my point is, I learned how to do a lot of stuff and had a bit of a time letting go of that side of myself when Rich sauntered in, wearing his tool belt and holding a drill.
We battled on this from the start. Not a battle-battle, but a ‘why can’t you just ask for help?’ battle. Exhibit A: shortly after he started frequenting the Single-Girl-Townhouse (as he called it), he noticed the gate to my back porch was living its last days – valiantly – and needed to be replaced. ‘Yeah, yeah,’ I said, ‘I’ll get to it (meaning I’d need to budget both the time (mostly) and money to get to it).’ So when he casually mentioned returning the following Sunday with the wood, hinges, latch and tools to fix it, I did the blow off nod-and-smile.
Saturday came…and after days of mulling this offer over, I was starting to feel a weird sense of urgency. First of, was it an offer? Or a statement? Was he replacing my gate whether or not I wanted him to? Did he think I couldn’t? I hardly knew him. Seemed nice enough, sure, but repairs on the SGT? Wasn’t that moving things a bit more quickly than we’d planned? I spent the entirety of a Saturday morning tennis match thinking through this hamster wheel of insanity. And drove straight from the courts to Lowe’s for wood, lattice, hinges and a latch. Tools? Owned already, thank you very much. Oh, and I also went to Kroger for some Mich Ultra.
After several hours of power tools and beer in the North Carolina sun, I had a surprisingly perfect new gate. Bam. Take that. Done. Gate.
He was not impressed.
It turns out that he did want to build it. Seven years of reflection tells me that Rich wanted to know that I needed him. Or that I could let go of my stubb, err, independence and let him handle something. Or that I wouldn’t get half-wasted on a Saturday afternoon and use a power saw to cut lattice.
We’ve basically done repeats of this episode ever since – though they are less frequent. I give myself a ton of credit for letting go of my need to be in charge of most things (although I’m still relatively sure I’d do all the things the right-est). In fact, I’ve let go of so much that a few weeks ago, after hanging new lights on our back porch, I had a total ‘geez, I forgot how fricking handy I was!’ moment and then spend a good hour trying to remember the last time I expressed manly skills. Have I gone too far in the other direction? Or is just knowing that I could do all the things enough?
I was, in fact, a bit put out when it came to hanging the exact same lights on the front porch a week later. I was all set to repeat my first amazing, and very solo, performance when I noticed someone eyeing up my step ladder. And, for the record, it is my step ladder – purchased for the SGT – although the ogler likes to claim it for himself. I wasn’t sure what was happening until Rich started describing how he would be hanging the lights.
Uh, what? No. I am the light master.
We sort of went back and forth for a few minutes, until I made a mental discovery of how uninterested in a power struggle turned argument I was and quietly relegated myself to the watching position. Fine. They look fine.
Growing up, my parents used to reference jobs as pink versus blue – meaning basically every task could be categorized as something that was typically a female or male gig. Calm down, I realize that sounds very 50s – but, well, for starters, that’s when they grew up and it still works very well for the allocation of effort for them. A lot of ‘who’s doing this?’ conversations were eliminated with a quick ‘oh, yeah, that’s more of a blue job.’ That’s not to say my mom couldn’t run a jig saw or my dad couldn’t flip a pancake – it just placed many things in pretty clear buckets, with some of the things shifting (ie my dad is basically a line artist when it comes to vacuuming).
Rich and I don’t really follow that philosophy. And by ‘don’t’ I mean, Rich doesn’t know that I actually kind of do follow it. That philosophy is exactly what has helped me to let go of many of my control issues in the doing of all the things. Rather than whipping out the table saw, I now note that table sawing is more of a blue job (lol…yeah…I heard it that time) and I ask Rich to jump in. This is up his alley, he enjoys it and he likes that I need his help. Check, check and check.
Do I happily run around doing pink jobs? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes I enjoy the repetition of folding clothes still warm from the dryer. Sometimes I just dump them on the bed and ask Rich to put them away. Often I come up with a weekly meal plan based on Kroger sales and relish the quiet of a kitchen to myself while I prep dinner. Sometimes I have a meltdown that if I have to come up with one more dinner I’m going to quit mom-ming. Sometimes I think it would be a total gift if someone else jumped into the pink zone, and then I realize that I don’t actually mind doing the pink jobs – I just like to know that someone else would, if asked.
I get a lot of the good feels when doing some of those traditionally pink jobs – taxi-driving, attaching buttons, picking up prescriptions, communicating with teachers, etc.. The pink jobs congregate around the giving side of relationships, anticipating the needs of others – and 94% of the time, I like that. The other 6% is a wildcard – that’s when I like to surprise Rich by announcing that I’m tired of doing x, y, or z with little notice.
Which is generally followed by him offering his services…and then followed by me panicking that he’ll be in my pink kitchen (that wasn’t a metaphor) working his way through a recipe and touching my crockpot (again, not a metaphor).
Yes, I’ve gotten less stubborn over the last seven years. The division of labor is currently going well in my Married-Girl-Grown-Up-House.
And I seem to be flourishing after landing solidly on the pink side.