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My secret is out.

For the past eight years, since I met the Lovely Louise, I haven't done a thing around the house. I've successfully pretended that when it comes to doing manly-man things, I'm completely inept. I haven't had to fix anything, repair anything, or service anything. I've convinced her that we need to have someone come in and do everything. Fortunately, she never questioned me very closely about the basement full of tools I have, with which almost anything can be fixed.

It's not that way anymore. I've been caught out.

After we put the new kitchen in our house in Florida, the walls were a mess. She ripped off the old wallpaper, and when the kitchen guys ripped out the tile, we had to have new wallboard installed. I did mention that I had some experience with doing that, but thankfully she didn't listen to me, so we had a wallboard guy come in, install wallboard, tape it, and compound it.

This morning, everything changed. She said she has decided to paint the walls, which are so rough from taking off the wallpaper that they would be impossible to paint without some major prep work. That was when I got stupid and said that I could do it.

Next thing I know, I'm up on a ladder with sandpaper, sanding down the rough walls. I bought some joint compound and a putty knife, and I started filling in the holes left by the wallboard guy. When I asked her if she wanted to leave the walls rough so they would have some texture, she looked sadly at me and my stomach dropped. I could tell she wants them smooth.

I'm trapped. Out comes the stepladder, which I never use because I'm afraid of heights (yes, two feet off the ground is a height). I start sanding, but only to clean off the loose bits. It's still far too rough to paint, so the Lovely Louise volunteers to head to the hardware store and pick up what I need. Can you see I'm not getting out of this?

When she returns with more joint compound and an eleven-inch knife, I've sanded the whole kitchen. Back up on the ladder to fill in the rough patches with a light skim coat. I now have to let it dry for 24 hours before I can resand everything and put a final skim coat in place with the big knife. One final sanding and it will be ready for painting. I'm not doing the painting. She believes she's a better painter than I am, and I have no intention of correcting her. Besides, painting takes patience, and I ran out of that many years ago.

She's so excited that I've actually done something around the house that she's now on a mission. When I asked her today what she was doing on the computer, she said she was looking up how to change the filters in our air conditioning system. I'm letting her go ahead. I'm not even going to mention that I used to change a/c filters back when I was handy.

In any event, my secret's out. I have a cellar full of tools because I used to fix everything around the house myself. Sometimes I did a great job and sometimes I didn't, but I always gave it a shot before calling a real man. My greatest fear is that now she'll try to get me to do things before calling a repair guy. I have visions of filling up the back of my truck with tools so that I can bring them back and forth between Cape Cod and Cape Coral in case I need to fix something.

That’s not going to happen, but it's going to be much more difficult to claim ignorance if my wall repair turns out to be acceptable to her. Many years ago, I got out of doing laundry with the theory that if half a cup of detergent is good, then two cups would get the clothes even cleaner. It didn't, and I spent hours cleaning suds out of the laundry room. Maybe if I deliberately do a lousy job on the walls …

P. S.—The Lovely Louise just read this. Her comment? “You'd better do a bloody good job or you can bloody well do it all over again!” I love Brits.


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