I confess. There's something about hanging out with a guy wearing a toolbelt that gets my blood pumping. This is one of the few perks of major home renovation — an otherwise tortuous, prolonged, ridiculously expensive enterprise that can break your spirit as well as blow your life savings.
It's not the toolbelt itself that's the turn-on. Or even, necessarily, the guys sporting one. It's everything the toolbelt symbolizes that lends it — and its owners — sex appeal. These guys know how to build or fix anything. They can take the raw chaos of the material world and whip it into shape. I am in awe of their skills — skills in which I'm utterly lacking. (Ditto the Husband, who claims to have all sorts of handy-type gifts, but who in 29 years of marriage has yet to really exhibit any of them, unless you count hanging pictures.)
But our contractor is another story. There doesn't seem to be anything this guy can't do: move walls, pop steel beams into ceilings, turn empty space into something orderly and magnificent (god willing), and zip around on our roof like a death-defying superhero.
Now, it's a little embarassing to admit to such pathetic and helpless female sentiment. It's especially embarassing for a feminist who believes that such sentiments are what got us into trouble in the first place. Still, maybe nature has the upper hand here. Maybe toolbelt-induced arousal is a throwback to the primitive, instinctual reptilian brain, which runs roughshod over the neomammalian, post-feminist brain during intense periods of home renovation.
I'm just sayin'.
It comforts me to know that I'm not the only self-respecting feminist who is unaccountably susceptible to the lure of the toolbelt. I know one woman, an extremely successful retired tech executive, who has been renovating her house for more than five years. It's obvious to her friends that her contractor — thirty years her junior — is milking her for all she's worth. But she doesn't see it and lives for their daily meetings. "We have a profound, very special connection," she insists. And, really, who am I to judge? Maybe the contractor's boyish can-do spirit is just what my friend needs to buoy her own spirit at this stage of her life.
Another friend of mine, a tenured professor, left her husband of twenty-plus years for her contractor. Alas, the guy was as unskilled in matters of the heart as he was deft with a saw, and the relationship turned into an emotional bloodbath. On the bright side, my friend's house got brought up to code during the one year they managed to live together.
The fantasy of being saved by Superman seems to run deep in the female psyche. It may be a primitive, irrational fantasy, but it's understandable. There's just so damn much in life — starting with our own bodies — that we can't control, that it's easy to see why we're easily seduced by those who have a leg up on the material plane. Of course, as it turns out, mastery of the physical universe doesn't necessarily correlate with emotional intelligence. Just because some guy can build you a house from scratch doesn't mean you'll be happy living in it with him. Like my friend the professor, I learned this the hard way.
And though I get a kick out of watching the contractor and his crew go about their business, I'm relieved that my days of searching for Superman (years, if I'm being honest) are far behind me. The Husband may have yet to demonstrate his way with a hammer beyond hanging pictures, but he posesses keen superpowers of the heart.