Suzanne Fields

Calling a repairman is not only expensive, but requires hours, if not days, of waiting for someone to arrive. Although do-it-yourself instruction manuals claim to make assembling things as easy as building with Tinker Toys or Legos, many women fantasize about divorce watching their husbands, growing ever more frustrated, struggle with how tab A goes into slot B, usually with a profusion of imaginative profanity. (The kids are not necessarily asleep.) Dashboard satellite maps have reduced the severity of husband-wife fights over how to get directions to the vacation house, but there's no such wizardry for fixing clogged garbage disposals or preventing floods spilling out of the washing machine. To avoid being cast as the nagging wife, a woman has to be the Little Red Hen of house repair: " All right, I'll do it myself." Cool tools replace Tupperware for coffee klatch partying. "Dare to Share" morphs into "Dare to Repair."

As Valentine's Day approaches, husbands are exhorted to buy their wives hammers in hot pink by Tomboy Tools, as advertised in Brides magazine. But the wise husband is well-advised to include matching hot-pink thong panties in the gift box. A girly tool belt in purple suede holds drills, hacksaws and screwdrivers. "Femme fatale" takes on an entirely new meaning. Rosie the Riveter in contemporary mode flexes muscle both on the job and in the boudoir.

Discussions of machine tools always include suggested techniques for coupling systems, with instructions for how to fit connections, evocatively described as "male" and "female." Men and women are finding ways not to depend on each another. Independence can be a great asset, particularly when you've only got yourself to rely on, but cool tools can make human coupling more difficult than ever. Running for president might be easier.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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