Wednesday, April 26, 2006

take that, ideological certainty....

Just when I think I'm relatively good on one of my internal convictions, somthing comes to thwack me around.

Case in point: I write a nice post about gender roles ("women work at home"). Then I go home and attempt to tackle the assembly of one of those "cabinet in a box" deals. Suddenly, my ideological certainty starts taking a pounding.

First off, I have mixed thoughts about ready to assemble furniture. I don't like moving to cheap pressboard surroundings, but I'm that tends to ameliorate my objections. And it would be sad to admit that I long for the day when I can buy furniture that's actually made of real wood.

The first part of the basic assembly went fine. Then I had to attach the doors to the unit, and the hinges needed to be screwed in. While there was some level of pre-drilling, the holes looked like they were bored using a smallish thumbtack. So I proceed to screw, and not a single hinge screw goes in straight. Every one is at a different cock-eyed angle, and they 90% strip out before I can get them even somewhat tight.

Then I have to hang the doors on the carcass of the unit, which is that much more of a nightmare, because you have to hold them just so. I'm sweating, cursing, very close to throwing things. Luckily, my wife is patient. She has to be, living with me.

The unit got put together, and somehow, it actually doesn't look too bad. Through the travails, however, the major damage was to my ego. I feel terrible, not being able to smoothly assemble a stupid piece of pre-made furniture. I feel horribly inept, and I'm not sure if it's because I'm an academic (and therefore have no practical skills) or if it's because I'm not a "real man."

Yes, I doubt my "machismo" factor at times don't laugh, honest). And it bothers me that this bothers me. I want to be able to assemble stuff, to build stuff, to do something with my hands, but I cannot. And I feel inadequate due to my failures to do these things, even though I think I've never fully bought into the traditional 50s masculine stereotype. Ready to assemble furniture does this to me every always precipitates an ideological catastrophy.

Luckily, my friend Eric could meet me for a mini-pitcher of beer or three ("beer...the cause of and solution to all of life's problems"), and we could discuss jingoistic patriotism, Fox News (the best comedy on television), monuments/architecture and the politics of use/meaning, student housing, and a whole bunch of other deep/important sounding stuff. I eventually wander home and get to fall asleep next to the woman of my dreams. Life is good again.

I still, however, dread the next redecorating decision...I don't know if I can take another shelf unit.


Meredith said...

I hear you on the frustrations of assembling cheap furniture. The more you pay for it, the easier it is to put together, for some reason (I really love assembling things... it's one of the small pleasures in life for me.). I'm telling you, though, you gotta have a cordless drill. It makes you feel much more macho, and it helps the screws go in better. "No tools required," my ass.

Anonymous said...

Mike, give your masculinity a biscuit and let it know it hasnt failed. NO-ONE can put together pre-pack furniture. It would probably be harder if you had experience of carpentry or an engineering degree, because you would be expecting it to make some kind of rational sense, or follow some of the basic rules of structural science. It is mass produced (admittedly very handy) crap, that has never been put together until YOU unpack it and give it a try. The fact that it now stands up and does whatever you want it to do is a good result.
Incidentally, did you see I won a beer competition? I won FREE BEER! It was even GOOD BEER!