Husband or Handyman? After 12 years of being married to someone who did both with flair, I know a little something about men who can make, build and fix things and the power of seduction it holds over a woman like myself who, while smart and self-reliant, isn’t exactly skilled with a skill saw.
My ex-hubs was clever enough to seduce me with his prowess in bed and in the workshop. I was living in Manhattan when we met and after a few dates (he lived in Boston) he stood in my tiny kitchen and asked nonchalantly, “Do you like your cabinets like this?”
“Like what?” I asked, not sure what he was talking about.
"Some of the hinges are loose, a few doors need to be rehung and the shelves need supports, unless you like them like this.”
It took me a moment to realize he was suggesting (or was he?) that he could fix them.
“I guess I haven’t gotten ‘round to fixing them,” I hedged.
He smiled slowly. “Would you mind if I fixed them?”
I stopped myself from clawing his chest and shouting: "God yes! Please!" but instead said: "Nope."
A few weeks later after the cabinets were straight, the shelves steady, and we’d had marathon sex, he showed me a design he’d made to build me a new writer’s desk so I could get rid of the secondhand 1950s monstrosity I’d been using. The desk he designed was a gracefully curved, u-shaped desk with legs of Scandinavian design, painted with pale grey lacquer. It looked like something Jackie O would have dreamt up for her bay window in her Martha’s Vineyard home overlooking the harbor.
“I’d like to build it for you, if you like the design. We could throw out the old desk ... it’s seen better days,“ he said.
“OK,” I said suppressing the crazy glee I felt.
“I’ll need a few things.”
“I’ll bring the lumber pre-cut from Boston but I’ll make it here and will need a place to store a few tools. Would you mind clearing out a drawer in your closet so I don’t have to bring my tools back and forth every weekend?”
I looked at him and knew the relationship was taking a turn. When a man asks to leave his power tools behind but not his toothbrush, you know it’s getting serious. I stopped myself from shouting: “Fuck! I’ll empty my entire closet!”
Instead I nodded, “I’ll move my shoes if you want to use that drawer.”
And that was the beginning of a 12-year relationship, 11 of which were married years, in which he built everything from a giant sculpting studio (we moved to the country), an incredible writing studio for me with four skylights, garden beds, gates, a sauna, most of the furniture for our new home including an ultra-modern ship-strong platform bed that seemed to float in space.
Our home was filled with his art and beautifully crafted furniture, while I designed everything from the gardens to the rooms, to the landscaping. He could fix anything (and I could cook anything) from a washing machine to a gas stove and if he couldn’t figure it out, he read books until he knew what and how to build or fix anything.
It was a wonderful amazing marriage and partnership … until it wasn’t. We were proverbial soulmates, something he said often which, in hindsight I realized after reading many psychological books, is a flashing red light indicating you may be involved with a charming, clever, and oh-so-covert narcissist. During the good 10 1/2 years we both gave and gave and gave, building a life, until he decided it was over … without telling me.
When it ended, which I won’t discuss because it was so devastating, I was saved by three things: continuous commissioned work as a produced playwright and stage director, a great therapist, and a few close friends … plus swimming, meditation, and my two giant poodles who kept me sane with their humor, humanity and daily needs.
And now, like many other women who (unwillingly) escaped marriage from a covert narcissist but didn’t realize it at the time because a covert narcissist husband can be so skilled, charming, brilliant, crafty and seemingly loving, you’re clueless. I realize now it was for the best it ended.
Today as a single woman who owns a small 100-year-old craftsman cottage I daily face a huge amount of work, mainly the repairs and maintenance required to keep an old home loved and in good standing. Plus the gardens I've made need to be maintained so I’ve needed occasional gardeners to prune huge trees and install irrigation. There are 27 incredible trees on the property, 9 are bare-root fruit trees I planted, and all need tending and love.
The house maintenance and repairs (cleaning storm drains, snaking pipes, roof repairs, rewiring electrical circuits, sanding layers of old wallpaper etc.) requires a handyman or two or three. Since handymen don’t always show up when they say they will (part of the job description apparently), it’s good to have two or three to call on and hope one shows up before Christmas.
The first time I paid a handyman as a divorced woman I felt oddly elated! I felt unburdened having repairs made without feeling like I had to cook a fabulous dinner, bake bread and make jam or whatever to payback his effort with several more of my own in thanks. I could just pay someone and they’d do the job, and go home.
It was a revelation.
Still there are challenges. Finding a reliable, capable and trustworthy handyman is a process; the road is bumpy with no-shows, half-done or poorly-done jobs or the flaky handymen who appear to do a job only to disappear before completion. The fact none of them come anywhere near my ex-hub's level of execution/excellence is something I accept knowing his level of artistry was rare.
For the most part I’ve been blessed with wonderful handymen who’ve helped maintain and improve this old house. I appreciate their kindness and skill, especially Eddy, and Greg.
I’ve come to appreciate the lack of emotional exchange paying a handyman, and wonder if this is how men feel paying for sex.
A divorced friend recently asked if I’ll ever date or marry again. Or seek a life-partner. My heart stopped … I can’t see jumping back into the fire. It would take someone pretty exceptional and the exceptional ones like my ex are often narcissists and that's a no-go zone for me.
The next time a rafter needs replacing and one of my guys is busy, I’ll get on the web. Did you know there are pages of Rent A Husband Handymen Services online?
My favs? A company called “The Sometime Spouse.”
Another: “Rent My Husband” with the tag line:
“Why marry when you can rent?”
Exactly! _ Didi Balle
Upcoming Blog Posts: Excerpts from the Lazy Ass Host Handbook by Didi Balle.