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More Than Just a Pretty Face
I’ve moved recently, you know. Before the move, when I started to pack, a sort of vague uneasiness came over me, like you’re at work and you’re having company for dinner and it feels as if you’ve forgotten something but you can’t think what it could possibly be and then you get home and discover that you forgot to turn the crock pot on so that the chicken stroganoff could cook all day, and the sour cream is sticking in curdled little globs to the rancid chicken. That kind of vague uneasiness.
Moving is always stressful, of course. I thought that, once I could see a nearly empty room and some piles of boxes—was making visible progress, you know—then I’d relax a little; but it seemed the more I packed the more anxious I got. And when I reached a certain point in the packing— that point where it was getting really hard— I looked around and didn’t see anyone and I said, “Where’s the guy?” I said it out loud: “Where’s the guy?”
That’s a big, ugly lie. I didn’t say it out loud. I didn’t even think it. If I had understood the problem — There’s no guy — early on, I would have rented one for three months. But I didn’t… because there were two factors I forgot to take into consideration:
- I’m not a guy. I’m independent and healthy and moderately fit, but if that were the same as being a guy, we wouldn’t need detachable toilet seats.
- I’m older than I was last time I moved. Most of my contemporaries, male and female, no longer have all their own components. They’re part human, part Erector Set. Chances are, they injured the component that had to be replaced the last time they moved.
Item 2, above, became obvious when I started scouting around for help. No one was ever home. They were all at their postsurgery doctors’ appointments.
With respect to item 1, I’ve known for quite some time that I wasn’t a guy, I just didn’t realize I needed one. “Well, it’s just moving,” I told myself. “I’ve moved dozens of times. I can do this by myself.”
No guy-bashing in THIS house
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m afraid I’ve taken the male contribution to the moving process a bit for granted. In fact, I’ve always considered guys kind of a necessary evil when (and only when) it came to moving, and obviously I wasn’t convinced about the “necessary” part.
I don’t like to stick people into categories and then make generalizations about them. Men are as different from each other as they are from, oh, say, horses. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors; they have wildly varying intelligence and sensitivity quotients, levels of athleticism, hair affectations, and styles of dress.
But if you disguised a man as a woman (and you’d have to do a lot better than Dustin Hoffman as Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie, I don’t know what Jessica Lange’s problem was) and sent him into a household-moving situation, he’d give himself away in about twelve seconds. That’s because, in my experience, ALL MEN, no matter how kind, soft-spoken, and mild-mannered they are in everyday life, behave in the following ways when they are moving, helping you move, or just dropping by for a beer and watching other people move:
- curse loudly, vilely, and often
- curse loudly, vilely, and often, at YOU
- tell you, no matter what you’re doing, that you should be doing something else
- tell you, no matter how you’re doing something, that you’re doing it wrong
- yell at you (not identical with second bullet point above in the sense that, wherever you happen to be— if you’re at Home Depot buying the three-quarter-inch grommets that YOU should have KNOWN he’d need and should have bought three weeks ago and YES, of COURSE he absolutely has to have them RIGHT NOW— he will yell at the precise volume necessary to make you think someone is performing acupuncture on your eardrums)
- put the largest, heaviest piece of furniture directly in front of the only electrical outlet in the room
There would be a lot less divorce if every heterosexual woman, before she got engaged to a man (I’d say “before the first date,” but our species would be extinct in a few generations), would observe his decorum during a move. It might mean that she actually has to find another place to live and then have him help her move there, just as a test. I mean, good luck getting him to haul the stuff home again. But it might be worth the risk. Moving magnifies any little flaws that otherwise might go undiscovered for decades, like a killer virus under a microscope. You need to see what’s lurking there.
Knowing what I know now, however, I’m starting to think that it would be better to treasure your spouse for all his good qualities and then, when it’s time to move, arrange for someone to stand in for you.
The stand-in doesn’t need to look like you. Just make sure the men involved in your move see you wearing a red jacket in the morning, then give your stand-in the red jacket and go over to your mom’s and watch the baseball game your honey is missing. Half-blinded by sweat and testosterone, he’ll just be looking for a red jacket to yell at.
It doesn’t matter if you’re five-foot-two and you’re three-fourths Comanche, your stand-in could be John Madden in shorts and you’d still get away with it. Just be sure to make it home, relieve your stand-in, and retrieve your jacket before your guy’s friends leave and he decides to “apologize,” though this (apologizing, per se) is unlikely, since (a) he’ll still be fuming about the grommets and (b) he won’t remember the abuse he dished out. John might, though.
There’s always been a guy around when I moved: my dad, husband, domestic partner, “special friend,” or, most recently, strapping full-grown son. The young man who lived next door to my former apartment met two out of the three last criteria: He was full-grown and he was my son. I’m not exactly sure what strapping means, but if it’s anywhere close to “not currently wearing an enormous cast on a leg that recently snapped into several small pieces,” then the guy next door was definitely not “strapping.” If I didn’t know better, I’d think that he arranged the fracture and the surgery specifically to take place during my move.
Why are men essential to a move? Well, men are taller, stronger, and more coordinated than I am. The same could be said of most women, too. But, for moving purposes, a tall, strong, coordinated woman can’t take the place of a guy.
- Women are too busy. A guy won’t show up late and out of breath, glance at his Blackberry, and say, “I can only stay till 1:17. I have a meeting downtown at 1:25, and I can’t be even a minute late because I’m giving birth at 2:30 and Aaron has a swim meet at 7 in Guadalajara.”
- A guy won’t evaluate your wardrobe before packing it, especially if he wants to remain a guy. A guy who is not your daughter won’t say, “You’re taking this? It’s so dated. It makes you look old.” And there’s this pleading look in her eyes that says, “Mom, please don’t ever wear this, not even in the Himalayas; you might run into someone I know.”
- Guys understand the logistics of moving. They can come in, look around for a few minutes, and tell you how many cubic feet of truck space you’ll need, and then, when your eyes glaze over, they’ll sigh heavily and translate the cubic footage into the truck sizes advertised in the Yellow Pages (15-foot, 21-foot, 90-liter, etc.).
Presented with the truck’s dimensions in linear feet, I’m perfectly capable of figuring out, without a calculator, how many cubic feet it will hold, but if I made a small mathematical error, like putting the decimal point in the wrong place, and I came up with a figure such as
342.286 million cubic feet
…I’d do a little victory dance and go reserve the truck; whereas guys know intuitively, with the same inner math they use to keep track of batting averages and and lifetime All Star Game appearances for baseball players who died in the 1940s, that 342 million cubic feet would hold Wembley Arena and the Staples Center.
If you’re driving a moving truck halfway across the country, guys not only understand that the truck has to be balanced, they can tell when it’s not balanced, and they know what you should put in that space above the cab and over the wheel wells, and they know how to tie everything down so that, once you’re under way, your ski poles won’t slip loose and go shooting out the back of the truck and impale the driver of the car behind you. I don’t own any ski poles and I only moved six blocks. Just saying.
Guys are typically not helpful during the packing and unpacking phases of a move, unless, like my ex-boyfriend, they collect antiques in the form of priceless china, Depression glass, crockery, and other fragile valuables. My ex-boyfriend, whom I’ll call “Riley,” because that’s his name, insisted on packing his breakables, and he did so with the same deft care you see in mothers when they’re swaddling their newborns.
But for this move, I realized belatedly, I had no Riley, no Dad, no son, no “special friend.” I had no on-call GUY, just several kindhearted friends and in-laws who have either important jobs or bad backs. So I ended up spending about $500 over a period of three weeks, because it took me that long to beg or borrow $500. I paid the nice people to move my stuff in stages, since I hadn’t finished packing when it was time to move, and I can’t even say that today, more than four months after I was supposed to have all my stuff cleaned out of the apartment and the adjacent boiler room, I actually have all my stuff cleaned out of the apartment and the adjacent boiler room. There’s an ancient foot locker of my grandfather’s filled with memorabilia (mine); there’s a laundry hamper full of winter clothes; there’s a very nice bicycle hanging from the boiler-room ceiling on a big hook. At least I hope they’re still there; I’m afraid to actually look.
Nor do I have the possessions that are here, in my new apartment, neatly arranged in their proper places. There are not enough proper places for all my possessions.
But it’s summer now, and I’m on the second floor (instead of in the basement), and I have large mullioned windows in abundance (instead of four small windows mostly obscured by a sloppy trim-painting job), and I even have transoms and lots of old oak. I will never move again, not even if Dan doubles my rent and forces me to house a pair of pit bulls and a boa constrictor.
Unless, of course, someone fitting my Guy profile happens along, and he wants to marry me and move me into his beautifully restored Victorian farmhouse. Okay, I’d say. But I’d still take the precaution of breaking my leg, employing strategic timing vis-à-vis the move, and requiring surgery and a long recuperation, preferably on another continent. Scotland in the summer would be fine. Just call me when it’s over, when the last half-jar of pickle relish is safely tucked away in the refrigerator. No, don’t toss it if it’s moldy. That mold could be the cure for something. Thank you very much.
And may Whoever Is On Duty bless YOU and YOUR endeavors, especially if your endeavors involve moving in any form, even if you’re just moving a lamp to another table in the same room. All moves are treacherous and require Divine Assistance and at least one Guy…. Mary