“It’s not going to fit. It won’t go up those stairs.”
The delivery man places the brand new pink velvet chair that was perfect for the loft room, but turns out to be somewhat larger than it appeared in store, down underneath the loft stairs and examines the underside, where four slim gold legs poke out of the bottom, scarcely looking robust enough to hold the bulky frame in place.
“You can take these legs off,” he suggests, counting the screws that would need to be removed. “Then you could get it up the stairs in and reattach them.”
He makes it all sound so easy, but the look on my face has clearly registered my alarm. Visions of my unsuccessful attempts to assemble various bits of Ikea tat over the years are flashing through my mind, and he knows it.
“Don’t worry,” Delivery Man says reassuringly. “I’m sure your husband will do it.”
I’m supposed to have an answer ready for these sorts of occasions. A keenly aimed patriarchy-smashing retort, ready to silence flippant slices of everyday sexism that pop out of the mouths of those who evidently think they are doing me a favour. Poor, weak lady that she is, unable to wield a screwdriver in her delicate lady-hands.
And the reason that comments such as this annoy me so much? Because sadly, I fit the stereotype perfectly. I am hopeless at DIY. My delicate lady-hands are intimidated by the prospect of having to use tools that aren’t cooking utensils. I am, to all extents and purposes, a damsel in distress, hoping for a nice useful man with a box full of tools to rescue me from my own ineptitude.
Is it because I am a woman that I cannot do these things? No. That would be ridiculous. A quick moan to some online friends later and it is clear that many of them are far better at DIY than either me or their husbands. My own father hated DIY and, I suspect, hated society’s expectation that it was a role that fell to him even more. Unfortunately, my mother wasn’t keen on it either so there was literally no one to teach me, and that, and not my gender, is the reason why I am clueless, but I am improving. I have come a long way from that time in 2012 that I was on the phone to the broadband provider and they said, for reasons I have long since forgotten, that I had to use a screwdriver the take the socket off the wall and inspect it and I nearly had a panic attack down the phone. It’s amazing how quickly one learns to use a screwdriver when under pressure from an exasperated youngster in a call centre.
And so to the comments-from men, mothers (my own mother recently bewailed the fact that I didn’t have a man to help with the DIY) and any others, all skills are learned. Our brains are plastic. Just as I have learned to cook as an adult, I can also learn to take some legs off a chair. It might take a bit of practice, but my delicate lady-hands are up to the task.