Sunday, December 31, 2006
"Could You Give Me a Hand with This?"
Whatls good for the gander can be ghastly for the goose. Several years ago I learned this the hard way. A friend of mine, George, was at my house helping me with renovations. On that Saturday afternoon he was in the kitchen putting down some new molding. Meanwhile I was in the living room struggling to rewire an old lamp. I peered in the kitchen at him sitting dejected and cross-legged on the floor. Poor George was obviously confused as he tried to fit two angle pieces of corner molding together. He looked like a frustrated kid who had just discovered that his Lego toys don't fit. I cheerfully breezed into the kitchen and said, "Hey, George, I've got a miter box down in the basement. It will be a lot easier if you use that. Let me go get it." It surprised me that George wasn't too receptive to my suggestion. He declined, saying, no, he could do it fine his way. Thanks very much anyway. I went back to my lamp. At that point I started having trouble shaving the wires. I felt some irritation that George wasn't offering to help me. Then I noticed that he was putting down the molding before staining it. Once again, I put on my smile, bounced into the kitchen, and said, "You know, I have some stain in the base- ment. It might be a good idea to stain the molding first. Then you won't need to worry about getting it on the kitchen floor." Now, George is a fairly even-tempered chap, but he snapped. "Leil," he said sharply, "don't you trust me to do the job on my own?" "Well, of course I do," I stammered. "I was just trying to be helpful." "Well," he said, his voice rising a few decibels, "you'll be a bigger help if you just stay out of the kitchen and keep doing . . . whatever you're doing." "Whatever I'm doing!" I cried back. "I'm in there struggling with that darn lamp. You know all about electrical wiring. I don't. And you're sitting in here—not even noticing I'm having trouble—letting me fight with those wires. Thanks a lot!" I stormed out of the kitchen. Bad scene. Well, by that evening the situation had cooled down sufficiently, and we discussed our little tiff. I brought up the subject by telling George the lamp was fixed. (No thanks to him, I resisted saying.) But I'd had a terrible time with it. Then I ventured to ask him why he hadn't helped me with it when it was so obvious I was having a problem. George said, "Of course I didn't offer to help. Leil, I trust you. I wanted to show that I trusted you to do it yourself." Like a holy fax from on high, I got it! Of course, George wanted to know that I trusted him to do the molding job. It's hard to believe that highly evolved and intelligent male Quarry could be so primitive as to invest ego in accomplishing such minor motor-skill tasks, but they do. Conversely, my wanting George to help me was my female desire to have George show that he cared about what I was doing. It is now chiseled in my brain. Men want to be trusted. Women want to feel cared for. Huntresses, until notified, return receipt requested, assume your Quarry is a typical male who wants to be trusted to do everything right. The following advice may sound like antifemmist lunacy but, I'm sad to say, it does work: Never give a man advice when he's helping you—never. Even if he's trying to fix your leaky faucet with Scotch tape and you know seven better ways to do it, hold your tongue. TECHNIQUE #69 (FOR HUNTRESSES): ZIP YOUR LIP AND LET HIM BOTCH IT ALL BY HIMSELF Huntresses, when your Quarry is doing something for you, even if he's bungling it beyond belief, zip your lip. Unless it's a matter of life and death, force an appreciative smile. Run outside where he can't hear you if you have to scream, "Stuuuuuupid, do it this way!" Huntresses, you have my solemn promise that this way you'll be happier and keep your relationship intact. (You can always secretly call a plumber the next day.) Your Quarry will never tell you his affection dripped away because you mistrusted his plumbing expertise. Many relationships have gone down the drain for lesser reasons. Hunters, you too can glean a moral from the sadly true story above. The message of the story for you, however, is just the reverse of what it is for Huntresses. TECHNIQUE #70 (FOR HUNTERS): UNZIP YOUR LIP AND LEND A HELPING HAND Hunters, when you see a woman struggling, go to her and ask if she would like your help. Unlike your male buddies, she will not assume you don't trust her to do it herself. She will interpret your help as caring about her and her problems. Incidentally, Huntresses, you're in for a long wait if you expect your Quarry to offer to help you. If he's the typical male, as George is, he may hesitate to give you any help because he thinks that you would be insulted by such an offer. It's up to you to elicit his aid.