The Two ‘H’ Words: Husbands And Home Improvement

My mother kept telling me to watch the HGTV show “Fixer-Upper,” saying what a cute couple it is that runs around Waco, Texas, making masterpieces out of houses most of us would drive by.

Not much of a TV person, I can’t get enough of this show now, fascinated by the possibilities of interior space. But I think what fascinates me most is the fact that a husband and wife can get along so well while working on home improvement projects together.

On any other planet (besides the one this couple inhabits in Waco, Texas), most couples would be divorced before the first kitchen wall was demolished.

I don’t know about you, but I try to stay away from my husband the minute he clips on his tool belt. Years of hearing “dag nabbit!” (and certainly worse) while he’s holding a hammer has taught me that giving him wide swaths of space is an excellent idea on project days.

It’s no secret that men can get a little ornery when they’re working around the home, and the truth is that scores of women hide out at TJ Maxx and Bon-Ton on Saturdays rather than be asked to work as assistant carpenters. And I get that, because I don’t even like to hold the Christmas tree straight when my husband is tightening the screws on the trunk.

“Dag nabbit. That’s not straight,” he’ll yell. “You’ve got to shift it more to the right.”

I spent whole Saturdays as a child holding some tool or another for my father as he stood on a ladder somewhere around the house, swearing like a sailor and acting as though he was charged with painting the Sistine Chapel.

And the thing is, being handy didn’t come naturally to him although no one had the heart to tell him. He put in a new light fixture in the downstairs bathroom once and the light in the garage never went off again.

“Why do men get so angry when they’re working around the house?” I asked my husband today.

He told me it was a way to express pent up frustration and to discharge the rigors of extreme focus and concentration.

“It’s the exercising of a mental muscle,” he said. “It’s a release.”

“So, by your definition Albert Einstein was probably sitting at his desk swearing up a storm,” I said.

“Probably,” he answered.

I highly doubt that. I think holding a power tool gives men permission to express their Neanderthal side. After all, it was only a few million years ago that our ancient ancestors were perfecting a new tool-making technique, pounding out sharp-edge flakes of stone for use in hunting. There had to have been a lot of trial and error at first, a lot of cut fingers, a lot of grunting going on. This is obviously an evolutionary trait men are expressing.

But back to the “Fixer-Upper.”

The only reason this show works is because the husband and wife team seem to get along so well – at least on camera. When he’s busy ripping out a brick fireplace with his bare hands and she calls him down to the basement, he doesn’t even wince. He just says, “I’m coming honey,” and he actually has a smile on his face as he prances down the stairs.

Even when things go terribly wrong – like 1.2 million bees have moved into the rafters of an old colonial he’s working on – he never loses his cool.

“It’s okay, beautiful,” he says. “I’ll take care of it.”

Either this guy is downing handfuls of antidepressants or he’s a new breed of man.

It must be pretty sweet to have someone who loves working around the house the way he does. You can just point to a bathroom on any given day in your home and tell him you’d like to see a spa in there within two weeks, complete with sauna, walk-in shower and claw foot tub.

“And don’t forget the heated tile floor,” you’d say.

That’s not the way things roll around here. Even washing windows together is a lesson in restraint: I’m a perfectionist and he just likes to get things done – always with a few choice works of profanity thrown in for good measure.

So, now that spring projects are on the agenda, you’re likely to be seeing a lot of me at TJ Maxx.