Help, Not Just Anybody...

Friday, 6 July 2012

This post is related to my pride. I fully admit it. There's just something that I can't quite understand about the sexes. Perhaps men have an ingrained instinct to help women. Now don't get me wrong, I do appreciate help - maybe I don't know how to accept help but people really love help - when it is needed.

Here's what I'm talking about:

I have a large back lot behind my back yard. Last summer I spent hours and hours clearing it. Cutting down brush, dragging it to the yard... it looked beautiful. I haven't had the time this year to keep it trimmed back. So, before my birthday party, I used my Black and Decker battery operated weed eater to take care of any overgrowth.

It took two days of work to get it into shape. I'm on the last corner of the lot, working in 95+ heat when I hear someone shouting my name. Weed-eaters are loud. The work is not easy (I do it myself because it is great exercise). I want to be finished with the job as soon as possible so I can lounge at the pool... go to the lake... work on research... you get the idea. Again with the shouting. I kill the weed eater and look around. A younger man is yelling at me from the neighbor's property (he's in charge of major work). He says, "Denae! What are you trying to do, cut those down?" I look around, a little surprised, thinking, "Is it too early to be weed eating or something?" I don't know what to say so he says, "What you need is a sawzall. That's what will work to cut those down. I have one. You can borrow it."

I know what you're thinking, "Wow. Denae. Yeah, that's terrible. Someone is offering their tools. How can you even stand it?" (Refer to the top of this post - I know I have pride issues.)

"Thank you so much for your suggestion but I'm almost through here." He starts to talk again (with a look of - are you sure?) and I do something that is just not nice. I put my safety glasses back on (Audrey Hepburn type non-designer shades) and fire the machine back up.

Let me explain. I have one million pounds of determination and tenacity pulsing through my veins. I do not however, have a lot of upper-body strength. I know my limitations when it comes to power tools. I usually cannot effectively operate anything that is gas-powered or relatively heavy. That's why I use the B and D Alligator and the B and D weed eater. I realize sawzalls aren't large tools but they usually need power and my heavy-duty extension cord wasn't going to reach the back lot.

The same thing happened to me after some idiot drove down the hill, into my yard, knocked my mailbox off the stand and destroyed my neighbors' mailboxes as well. I brought my drill, toolbox, extension cord, pieces of wood, screws, bits, etc. to the curb one afternoon to repair it. I had spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I wanted to reattach it. The way it was broken, the repair was not going to be simple but I had an idea. The second I start working on it, my neighbor from across the street gets off his front porch and ambles over. "Whatcha doin'?" "Oh....trying to fix my mailbox." And he launches into a dissertation about the manner in which I need to fix it. Again, this is a 100F+ day and I really did not need the advice. Maybe I did actually... but I wanted to fix it and move on. I finally did. It is still standing and does not wobble when the mailperson delivers the mail.

My question is, if I were a man out weed eating my back lot or fixing my mailbox, would these men stop me in the midst of the job to tell me how I need to do it? I don't think so and it bothers me. Perhaps I just wear a vibe of, "Please help me. I'm incapable,"  but I doubt it. I also don't know how to respond to these situations without being rude. I am polite to a fault so with the mailbox thing, I just stood there, sweating, smiling and nodding stupidly while he went on and on about how he would fix it. Why did I do that? Because, as women, we're taught to smile and nod when men give advice - they know better than we do, don't they?


Brent Lowe said...

First, guys generally want to "fix" things or "help." Yes, that is a general male characteristic. As to the two instances above, they are not attempting to help as much as show their superior knowledge, or some other motivation I can't fathom from limited information about them. I don't want the above to sound harsh, but their actions don't fit with a desire to help. Example. If they were in the typical male helping mode, they would be offering to actually do the work, and not indirectly criticizing the manner I'm which you are doimg it. And I'm sorry, but anything you can take down with the tools you were using, does not call for reciprocating saw (Sawzall)!!

Sounds like how you handled it was appropriate, except I would have cut off the amateur mailbox engineer a lot sooner and not felt bad about it in the least.

Couldn't sleep and saw reference to your blog on twitter and the result is this somewhat longwinded and unfocused response. Oh well, good luck with the futute home ptojects. Next time they try to help, smile, nod and go right back to work with an ocasional "ahh, ok" or grunt thrown in. As a guy, that's about the nicest way I could handle.

Will said...

You raise a good question. In my experience as a youngish guy, I've had men in their 40's or older be quick to offer me unsolicited advice around "how to" projects. My theory has been that this is a strange mix of insecurity, a need to assert alpha-male status/control and expertise, and a genuine desire to be helpful. It is annoying as shit.

As I am not a female, I can't fully appreciate the gender dynamic here, but my own experience is more or less being "talked at" by these guys like I'm an idiot. I've often wondered if it was an age thing.

Saw an interesting commercial the other day. A man... fifty-ish, is on a sail boat. The intro is something like, "You've reached the age where you know how to get things done." Or something like that where the man's AGE is equated with COMPETENCY. Of course, he's sailing this old, classic sailboat.

OH, I think this commericial is about one of the erectile drugs. Cialis or whatever. Anyway, so as these men grow older, and their virility is flagging, then they need to start buying classic cars and rebuilding them... etc. But if they take a pill they can feel like proud lions again... and oh, yes, they'll help you fix your mailbox.

In your case, the guy was younger. So who knows. I think what you're speaking to is the condescension attached to such offers of help. It's like, "No, really asshole... I got this."

Lee Elder said...

Perhaps the guys lingered waiting for you to ask for their help. You are a successful, strong-willed gal. They may have been afraid to just step in and do it for you out of fear you would give them an angry rebuke. It's OK to ask for help when you need it. Believe me, I've had to swallow my pride a few times in recent years and do that myself.