For years, I’ve assumed I’m smarter than Paul. There’s no proof. It’s just nice to believe that. In fact, he has a master’s degree, and I have two associate degrees (which adds up to a bachelor’s degree, right?). So he’s a bit farther along in education.
At the very least, though, I’ve assumed I’m cleverer than he is, but I’m beginning to wonder.
Trying to get my handyman to do something (that doesn’t involve food) can be difficult. For twenty-two years, I’ve tried asking, sweet-talking, nagging, begging, and bribing, but if he’s not interested, the project will remain a theory. Possibly forever.
So recently when I decided to order parts, with permanent adhesive, to take care of something, I told him, “I got this stuff, and I’ll go ahead and take care of it.”
After two decades of watching me park the car at an angle between straight lines and put clothes on inside-out, Paul seemed a little worried, but I could see his look of amusement, and I could read his mind:
“She’ll never do it. She’s too scared she’ll get it wrong. And she will. She’s going to bug me to do it, but I’ll get around to it sometime. Maybe.” I paraphrase.
So he didn’t seem too worried as he said, “Great!”
Every couple of weeks, I announced, “I’m gonna take care of that today.”
Paul smiled, all patient and wise, and said—with a homicide-inspiring amount of patronizing in his tone—“Okay. Sounds good.”
The other night I’d had it with both of us. I grabbed the stuff I needed—including the permanent adhesive—and I asked, “Do you have something called ‘mineral spirits,’ Sweetie?” (Mineral spirits, it seems, are something that help clean up what those in the construction trade call “boo-boos.”)
I said this as I clipped the tip of the adhesive tube and grabbed the item to be glued—to the wall and the bathtub simultaneously.
I noticed an entire lack of smirk on his face. He said, “Sure. Let me get it for you” as he trotted to a closet while frequently looking over his shoulder to see how the glue application was going.
He set the mineral spirits on the counter and stood frozen, watching me actually do this thing.
Suddenly it dawned on him all the times I’d said during the last few months, “I’m so nervous to do this. You know I’m not handy. I’m so afraid I’m going to mess it up.”
Then the would-be hero of the story asked—with lots of helpfulness in his tone—“Would you like me to do that?”
I handed over the items so quickly I think I knocked the wind out of him.
My only question is: Why did it take so many years for me to figure this out?
Paul’s had it sorted for years: “If I prove that I can’t do something the way she wants me to, I don’t ever have to do it.”
His equation for working around me:
1 + 1 = 2
(Can’t argue with elegance.)
My equation for working around him:
I get who’s really the smart one.