Monday, October 2, 2023 Oct 2, 2023
80° F Dallas, TX


Especially when it comes to changing light bulbs, installing towel bars, fixing things that are broken, and all those things men know how to do.
By Jean Gonick |

The first thing that happened the day my boyfriend Hank moved out was the group suicide of my bathroom towel racks.
The moment they figured out I was living alone, they unscrewed themselves from the wall and jumped, like eager
lemmings, to the tile floor. “This is a test of self-reliance!” they taunted me. “Go get a screwdriver!” “I’m
flunking the test and I don’t care!” I taunted back, hanging my towels neatly over the shower rod.

The next night all lightbulbs situated four feet over my head burned out. “Stand on a chair, remove these
dead-bug-infested fixtures, and replace us!” they screamed.

“Overhead lighting is unaesthetic!” I screamed back, flicking on a floor lamp. Should I fall off a chair and split
my skull open? Should 1 electrocute myself?

I’d read in women’s magazines that I should learn to perform these household tasks myself, but I refuse. 1 am not
one to un-jam Xerox machines. I am the kind of woman who drives right past self-serve on to the princess pumps.
Newly single, I was having enough gender identification trouble without doing the chores that males were surely
designed to do. My diminished self-image craved a parasol and a mint julep on the veranda, not a monkey wrench and a
beer. The fates disapproved; the conspiracy continued. Doorknobs leapt off doors; faucets sprang leaks; pictures
begged to be hung on the wall. “Fiddle-dee-dee,” I tittered, giving my invisible parasol a nonchalant twirl. When my
bed frame collapsed, I stopped twirling. I needed help.

I decided to call Phil, with whom I’d shared an uncomplicated friendship since college. Since Alice had left him,
Phil was emphatically single. I knew he owned a tool kit, and I also happened to know he ate canned chili five
nights a week.

“Phil, I’ll cook a wonderful dinner if you come over and pretend to be my husband,” I said.

“Isn’t that a little callous? Who am I- Stan Stud? And anyway, didn’t we decide seven years ago that sex wasn’t in
our mutual scenario?”

“No, Phil. I need you to be Mr. Fix-It. Sort of my handyman, but not that kind.”

“Oh.” A pause. “Can we have rack of lamb?”

I’d been dining on Lean Cuisine and wine since my breakup, so Phil’s lamb feast prompted my first real trip to the
supermarket. I was overwhelmed by its size, scope, and cruelly infinite selection. Living alone, what should one buy
and why? I knew my crisper would fill with rotting produce, that huge loaves of bread would be barely penetrated
before going stale. Perversity struck; my impulse was to shoplift a frozen pizza and flee. But Phil needed to be

Resigned, I selected a cart and pushed it down two aisles before realizing it had been designed by Stephen King. Had
Mr. King designed all the carts? I looked around. No-only mine. It propelled itself straight to the diet root beer,
one of Hank’s more disgusting staples.

“No!” I hissed, overpowering the cart and steering it to the dairy case, halting before the cheese. Reaching for
Danish Havarti, I stood aghast as eight ounces of smoked Gouda jumped into the cart.

“He like smoked Gouda, not I!” I yelped, tossing it back like a tiny fish. People stared. I hastily abandoned
the demonic cart and gathered my groceries in my arms, Phil’s rack of lamb bleeding only slightly on my coat sleeve.
Single life, I decided, was horrifying.

I unpacked my groceries in the kitchen, on friendly turf at last. Food was glorious; it did not require
screwdrivers. I coated the lamb with bread crumbs, mustard, and garlic and slid it into the oven. The asparagus
stood in its steamer, ready for action. I was Woman.

And Phil was Man-a slightly chubby one, I noticed when I opened the door. Too much canned chili. He was dressed in
jeans, a T-shirt, and a tool kit. Calm befell me. My house would be tamed.

“I can smell the lamb,” he said appreciatively. “This will be my first real meal in weeks. Do you have any

I looked to see if Hank had forgotten the Glenlivet I’d given him last Christmas; luckily he had. I made two large
drinks. Phil headed for the bathroom and set his glass on the edge of the tub. I followed him and watched as he
magically remounted the towel racks.

“It’s mystical,” I said.

“It’s easy,” he said.

I offered him a footstool to change the lights, but he was tall enough to do it alone. 1 handed him the new bulbs,
announcing, “It’s mystical!” with each new illumination.

“Can I have another drink?” he asked. He followed me into the kitchen. “Are you okay?” he added. “Why do you
suddenly think everything’s mystical?”

I tried to explain about being alone and having my house hate me. and hating it back, and not being able to do
masculine chores, and about the Stephen King shopping cart. “Everything’s falling apart,” I finished, breathlessly.
I made myself another drink and freshened his.

“No, everything just seems like it’s falling apart,” he said.

“That’s close enough for me.” I turned the heat on under the steamer. “Do you still like hollandaise on your

Phil’s eyes glowed. “Alice used to make that. I loved it. Can I watch?” He stood behind me and studied carefully
while I separated two eggs, letting the whites slip and slide down the drain.

“It’s mystical,” he said. “Women can do such mystical things.” He looked at me as if I held the key to the universe.
“I took a cooking class after Alice and I split up,” he confessed as I whisked the yolks into melted butter. “But I
think I was too depressed to learn. I kept burning everything-the food, the pot holders. And I always sliced my
finger with the paring knife. I hate meals.”

“That’s because you eat canned chili.”

“That’s exactly right.”

“Do you like your lamb pink?”

“It’s more mystical pink,” he said.

As if we weren’t drunk enough on Hank’s Glenlivet, I brought out a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and handed Phil the

“You can’t open wine?” he asked.

“That’s a man corkscrew,” I explained. “I had a woman corkscrew but I guess Hank took it.” The woman corkscrew was
easy to use; the man wasn’t. That was the formula.

Phil opened and poured the wine. He held my glass to my lips so I could taste it while pouring hollandaise on the
asparagus. “Mystical wine,” he said.

“Mystical,” I agreed. He ate everything I served him. telling me how amazing the dinner was and how happy it made
him. I was glad he’d failed his cooking class. The more wine I drank, the more competent his biceps looked. He could
probably put a new roof on my house if he wanted to.

“My bed collapsed!” I suddenly remembered.

“Let’s go fix it,” he said, carrying the glasses and the rest of the wine to my bedroom.

“Things are falling apart,” he said, surveying the mess of boards and rumpled sheets.

“No, they only seem like they are,” I corrected him. And, like Hercules or Atlas, he

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