Saturday, July 16, 2011

Women and Home Repairs

by Caren Crane

A few weeks ago, my best friend confessed that she had no water running from her kitchen faucet, although the side sprayer worked fine. Her husband has been dealing with a mother in very poor health, who lives 4-1/2 hours away from them. He has been trying to work his full-time job while also running her to dialysis, therapy, doctor's appointments and the hospital (which is 3 hours from where she lives). Bad situation and not one that is conducive to DIY plumbing repairs. They don't have money to call a plumber, so the faucet is still not working.

My friend has friends from out of town coming to stay in a little over a week, so the plumbing issue is making her anxious. After listening to her lament about it this week, I finally said the words I had been carefully holding back behind my bitten tongue ever since I first heard about the faucet. "Why don't you fix it yourself?"

As most women know, those words can put a strain on a friendship if not said with lots of love and every intention of pitching in to help. I said them with love and promptly began to offer help – from my desk at work, with links to articles and videos on the Internet. Every suggestion was met with stumbling blocks as to why it wouldn't work in her case. Finally, I realized the real issue was the same one I knew existed all along: my BFF, whom I love so dearly, is a Damsel In Distress.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being a Damsel In Distress. Most of the time, the Damsel flings her soft white hands in the air and rushes off to inform the closest male (significant other, relative, friend or co-worker) of her plight. He rushes in (or moseys over, or rolls his eyes) and fixes it (or promises to...someday or calls someone). I confess, I am not a Damsel In Distress, but I have played one on occasion, especially when it's computer-related and my techno-nerd husband is just upstairs. Or, you know, when I just don't feel like cleaning the dead bird off the porch or mucking out the gutters or whatever.

Damsels are very clever women, well-versed in the art of getting men (or other women) to do distasteful things for them. But they need lots of patience and I simply don't have enough! I tend to be more of a Rosie the Riveter. The kind of woman who rolls up her sleeves and gets things done, by gum. I come from a long line of Rosies and my mother and oldest sister were (and are) amazing DIY role models.

After my lovingly offered advice was dispensed, I took what was, perhaps, a rather unhealthy interest in my BFF's faucet with the stuck diverter (my diagnosis). I learned more about kitchen faucets this week than I ever wanted to know! I was determined we would fix it this weekend while her husband was out of town. I also figured if the Allen screw was corroded in place or something, I could always call my husband, Damsel-style, to come lend us his muscle. :P Then we found out it is impossible to get replacement parts for this particular faucet, so my poor BFF will have to get by with the sprayer alone until they can afford a new faucet. So much for me playing Rosie and getting things done! :(

So, are you a Damsel in Distress, willing and able to coax men (or other women) into riding to your rescue? Or are you a Rosie the Riveter, hitting the home improvement store for parts and the Internet (or even a man) for advice? And what is the toughest home repair you have either tackled yourself or convinced someone to tackle for you? I can't wait to hear your stories!


Dina said...

I can repair many things around the house and even the car, if it gets too tough or not sure, call someone else.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Dina, you'll have to get the rooster onto your plumbing!

Caren, giggled at your post and thought I'm Rosie the Riveter. And then I thought a bit harder and I hate to say it, but with stuff like plumbing, I hang my head in shame - I'm definitely a damsel in distress! I'm a bit like your friend - if it's broken, I wait until I can snaffle a suitable person (not sexist here - any gender will do!) to fix it for me. Personally I think it's because I'm such a klutz with physical things! They're more likely to break WORSE once I've had a go at them!

Helen said...

Well done Dina I am sure he will want warming up today after the cold here in Oz


Loved that post for the most part I get someone in to fix a problem my hubby (God love him) just does not know how to fix things if a washer needs changing in a tap that I do my grandfather and uncle were both plumbers and us females in the family were taught how to change washers at a young age LOL my kids used to laugh because I was doing the work and hubby was handing me the tools I needed. I have to say though if something needs fixing I tend to get the fixer in when I am at work and hubby is home for some reason I don't like getting workmen in when I am there LOL don't know why. I do have a couple of son in laws now that are pretty handy I am happy to ask them to do things for me so I would say I am a little of both

Have Fun

lindsey hutchison @ United By Books said...

i do alot around here as its my mom and me. her back is bad so i build the stuff we buy. mow the lawns. do certain repairs. one of the latest was installing a new bathroom door knob. are house had the original so when i got the new door knob i realized in had a rectangle oposed to being round all the way so i was speaking to a guy at orhard supply who told me i need to make the whole bigger and work the knob in *that sounds way dirty* and he showed me what i needed to make the whole bigger. i wound up going around and around with this tool to sand the inside down increasing the hole size after 35 mins and nearly there i finally jammed it in and screwed the rest in. mind you i did this at midnight one night so mom woke up to it as a surprise. sure enough after i finished it 20 mins later she walked in and didnt even realize she just twisted a knob in her half awaken state i was like sheesh all that hard work and i got nothing

Maureen said...

Is there a third option? The Hope (it will all go away)option? You know, ignore it to the point of total insanity.

Also known as the Zen will all work out, in time.

In the end...the Damsel probably takes over.


Sheree said...

I'd make my boyfriend do the actual work so that he will feel useful. :) Actually, I also make him show me how to do it just in case. Besides, he's using all my tools (as a child, I thought all grownups had a toolbox and tools so back when I was working at Sears, and getting employee discounts, I bought a tool chest and outfitted said tool chest with all the tools I thought I'd need, in both English and metric). Aside from fixing leaky faucets, we both had to deal with car issues, in which we were successful and saved lots of money to boot. Thank you, internet and online mechanics!

Mary Preston said...

I am NOT a Damsel In Distress, but I also know my limitations. I will call a tradesman, I have had the same plumber & electrician for 20 years, rather than stuff up or hurt myself.

Deb said...

When I was single, and I was single for a l-o-n-g time (didn't get married until I was 35), I did and fixed things myself. Well, sometimes I'd ask Dad for help. I even had my own toolbox, albeit pink, but gotta have the tools to do things, right?

I still do things around here. 1) My husband's job takes him from home during the week, 2) he has a bad back, 3) I'm not incapable of trying. I do have to admit, when I got married, it was nice to have someone else take care of little things once in awhile. I'm not a Damsel in Distress, but sometimes it's nice to act like I am. ;)

Next summer, my friend Kate and I are going to replace my bathroom floor (I hope). She's a perfect Rosie the Riveter; she even has reroofed her own house.

Christie Kelley said...

I'm no damsel in distress. I have fixed, painted and replaced so many things I can't even remember them all.

I had a water leak after I came home from vacation two weeks ago. Yesterday, the contractor was here to fix the ceiling in the family room. I came home and looked up at it and thought, I could have (and would have) done a much better job. He is supposed to come back today to work on it. I hate waiting for contractors when I have so many things to do today!

Caren Crane said...

Dina, congrats on snagging that rooster AND on being quite the Rosie. When I graduated from college, one of my girlfriends gave me a toolbox and some starter tools, which I've added to over the years. I get mad when my husband borrows my tools (because he can't find his) and then doesn't replace them. :)

Caren Crane said...

Anna, that's funny you mentioned being timid about taking things apart. That's what my BFF said about the faucet. She was afraid she would make it worse, so she was leaving it alone.

I'll admit there are a few things I attempted to do and it did make it worse. Usually what happens, though, is that my husband sees me working on it, is guilt-ridden because he didn't ever get around to it, then he steps in to take over (if I let him).

I recall trying to drill a hole in the kitchen door to install a deadbolt lock. I got the bit a little crooked and about made a huge mess before he stepped in. I gladly handed over the drill. I know my limitations!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, I think it's wonderful that the plumbers in the family passed down some knowledge to you and your sisters. My mother's father was a carpenter and machinist (both!) and my daddy's father owned a hardware store and lumberyard. So, all of us were exposed to lots of tools and handiwork from an early age.

I was also taught how to maintain tools (like, oil them and never put anything away unless it was spotlessly clean). My husband, sadly, had no such training. I have had to have many serious conversations with him about tool maintenance. He hates hearing it from me, but tools are expensive!

Caren Crane said...

Lindsey, I think it's great you jump in there and tackle the projects that need doing. I tell you, doorknobs are much more complicated than it seems they should be. Really rather advanced mechanisms for being so old! And why, oh why, can't they just standardize the size and shape of the openings they fit through! It's one of those things that just seems like it could be much, much easier if only companies would cooperate and not be so greedy! :)

Caren Crane said...

Maureen, that is too funny! If there is a Hope category, my poor BFF definitely falls into that one. She loves Gone With the Wind, so she does her Scarlett when these things come up: "I can't think about that right now. I'll think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day!"

Sadly, tomorrow does eventually arrive. :( I say, whatever works for you. I am just far too impatient to wait for things to work themselves out. I'm sure it's a character flaw!

Caren Crane said...

Sheree, how smart you were! If I'd been thinking clearly, I would have gotten a job at Sears during college rather than at a clothing store. The clothes are long gone, but I could use a metric socket set! :)

And isn't the Internet AMAZING? All those poor men, who in real life are often huge bores, get to be 'gurus' on obscure car and electrical and plumbing websites and share their knowledge with all us DIYers. I can't tell you how many times I've diagnosed problems with the cars, the plumbing, the swimming pool, the yard, etc. I usually just fix the electrical and mechanical stuff, but I call professionals for plumbing! It's the best thing ever!

Caren Crane said...

Marybelle, I really think it's a sensible way to be, this hybrid Rosie/Damsel. As I told Marybelle, I really draw the line at certain things. I won't climb on the roof or into the crawlspace (either attic or underneath the house). My husband does all that, though it worries me to have him on the roof, because he gets involved in what he's doing and doesn't always mind the ladder or the roof's edge. =:0

I also typically call a repairman for major appliances and plumbing. I had a wonderful handyman, but I think he works for a company now and not for himself. I can't find him! :(

Caren Crane said...

Deb, it sounds like you have the perfect situation, between your self-reliance, husband and friend. My oldest sister is an AMAZING artist and handyman (woman? whatever). She has knocked out walls, replaced floors, installed wood flooring (and laminate), patched drywall, replaced water heaters. Name it, she's done it.

She has offered to come help me with my house (which needs major work on the flooring). I would love to do it, but I would have to take at least a week (or two or three) off work to stay home and...redo my floors? Somehow, I can't make myself believe I would enjoy that more than an actual vacation. So I live with my cruddy old flooring!

Caren Crane said...

Christie, isn't that the most frustrating thing? It's why I will never, ever, in a million years hire anyone to paint or wallpaper a house I have to live in. I do an amazing job with both paint and wallpaper and my husband is very skilled at patching drywall and ceilings. Even though it takes a long time and we end up, at some point, snarling at each other, we'd rather do it ourselves.

Alas, when you work full-time, who has time to do all that? We used to take weeks of vacation off to work on the house, when the kids were young. Seriously. Now that the baby will be a senior in high school next year, the glamor of that is LONG gone!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Caren!

In many areas I'm a damsel in distress - but with a purpose. I have a husband and an adult son. I believe they need the adulation of fixing something manly style, and I coo and praise them - even though I suspect I could have figured it out myself. And often I have to! I would have thought given their employment positions and specialty education that my computer issues would be a snap for them to decipher. Somehow my computer issues keep falling lower on the priority chart and so I'm forced to figure it out. Huh - I'm a damsel in distress with a hero in repose!

Caren Crane said...

Donna, I have to admit that my husband gets testy sometimes about my computer issues. He says, "You're an engineer, why can't you figure it out?"

The answer? Impatience! He already KNOWS how to do it, so why should I muck around for days trying to figure it out? Of course, if he takes too long, I call my son and ask him to come do it. ;)

And yes, the chances to help them feel manly should be seized upon! When I was younger, I thought all that stroking a man's ego was a bunch of crap. Now that I'm older, I realize that they need it because their egos (most of the time) are far frailer than women's. I don't need adulation or people telling me how awesome I am. I just know it! My husband needs to hear how amazing he is, though. Makes for a happier marriage, for sure!

Jeanne M said...


I am a practical Damsel in Distress! My husband was in the Navy during Vietnam and then in the Navy Reserves. He also had times when he worked in Arizona and Wyoming while we were raising our 2 sons in Rhode Island.

I discoveed that I was not mechanically imclined but I was very good at picking up the phone and searching for a competant but reasonably priced professional to do the job!

My grandmother once told me the most important thing I could ever learn was to know my limitations. Home repair is on the top of that list!

Caren Crane said...

Jeanne M, your grandmother was very wise! I'll tell you, there is a talent to finding the right person for a job, for sure. I think pragmatism is a real gift and you obviously have loads of it! Kudos to you for doing such a great job raising the kids practically single-handed, too!

Nancy said...

Dina, congrats on the rooster! Unfortunately, I don't think he's very handy.

Nancy said...

Caren, I fall somewhere between a Handy Angela and a Damsel in Distress. I can drive a nail and handle a screwdriver, but anything like plumbing or electrical work is beyond my scope. My dad did minor plumbing repairs like changing washers, but anything beyond that, he left to plumbers.

I think if I had a non-working, defunct faucet, I probably would try to work on that, with guidance from a DIY book I could have open on the floor beside me, since I probably couldn't make it worse.

The last home maintenance item that arose was disposal of a dead squirrel the dog had made very sorry for invading our yard. In this, I am all about Damsel in Distress. I don't do dead animals. I did once dispose of a rat a previous dog had dispatched in the yard, but that was my quota.

I proved to myself that I could do it despite squeamishness. I had no choice since the dh was out of town, but I decided once was more than enough.

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I'll give you an AMEN on the dead animals. I don't do those! Matter of fact, I leave the hornets to my husband, too. We have had a few in the house in years past. Our cat like to bring us voles and bunnies and mostly birds. My husband gets to handle all dead animals. Also snakes. There is just no need to do that when he doesn't really mind! Now, if he were horrible with those sorts of tasks, I'm sure I would do them - but I'm glad I don't have to!

Andrea said...

Caren, your post is so timely!! I've been a Rosie the Riveter the past week. I've had a problem with my washing machine pausing in the middle of a cycle and I have to un-pause it manually for the load to finish. So, I've been scouring the internet and fixing and cleaning different things on the machine, all to no avail. It's still doing it. BUT, I have learned a lot about the machine and believe the problem is with the timer (which is something I can't fix on my own). So, I can either pay someone to come out to fix that part or I can just deal with it. I'm still on the fence as to which one to pick. LOL

Caren Crane said...

Andrea, I'm so proud of you! I think it pays to have a good idea what the problem is before you, say, call an appliance repairman or take your car to the shop. Now that you are armed with knowledge, you can make an informed decision about making that call. Bravo, Rosie girl!

I have to say, the last time my washer decided to stop dead in the middle of a cycle and I couldn't get it to work for anything, I broke down and called...a friend who told us she had a great repairman. *g*

She gave me the guy's number and I called him. He is a retired engineer and does appliance repair for fun. He works with a repair company, but also does side work. He walked in, looked at the washer, clicked a couple of things, lifted the top up and gave me an option. He could fix it for $150 or he could disconnect the safety switch that had failed. All it meant was that if we lift the lid mid-cycle, it won't stop agitating. Disconnect, by all means! He did, I handed him $20 and we called it done. I was thrilled!

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Caren,

I fall in-between the two but most
often find myself on the Damsel side!
Honey, who is a great DIYer, tends to
"fuss" if I do things for myself, such
as climb ladders to put up the lights
outdoors at Christmas. It's easier if
I just let him do all the household

Tami Brothers said...

You know, I honestly thought I was a Rosie the Riveter. Some one able to fix anything or find a way to do it. Then I actually thought about this. Hubby is a DIY person. We actually build or remodel houses in our spare time because we (heaven forbid) think it's fun. But the more I thought about it, I'm always the helper. Unless it involves painting or cleaning, I do what I'm told. I honestly don't know if I could fix a leaky sink. Maybe with those videos, yes. But I've never tried. Hubby has always been there to do it for me. Hmmm. Might have to try this myself next time something comes up.


Andrea said...

Caren said: Now that you are armed with knowledge, you can make an informed decision about making that call.

Exactly! And if I do decide to call, I'll tell them that I know it's not this, this, or that, so please don't waste your time and my money checking those things. LOL!

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