I was lying on the cold basement floor at eight months pregnant, repairing the heater, when I had an epiphany—ours was not a typical marriage.
On such occasions, my husband feels no compulsion to rescue me or take over. He actually finds my willingness to embark on such repairs charming. He's also relieved because he hates fixing things. His repair strategy is "If I can't do it with duct tape or hot glue, I'll learn to overlook it."
My father was a blue collar man; he fixed things for a living. I could tell the difference between an Allen and socket wrench by the time I was 6. My husband's father was an Air Force administrator. When things needed to be repaired in his house, there were lots of swearing and flying objects. After my husband helped his dad put up wood panels in their basement, his father asked him what he learned. My husband-to-be replied, "I learned that when I grow up, I'm going to hire people to do this kind of work." Fortunately, my father charges a low hourly rate for family members.
Stereotypes and Shame
Christopher and I defy gender stereotypes. I played all manner of competitive sports from age 6 through college and then worked as a sports photographer for the next 12 years. He still struggles to understand offsides and routinely embarrasses himself when playing pick-up basketball. He uses 10 times more words than I do and is more relationally facile than me.
If you imagine that we've always appreciated and respected these profound and quirky differences, you would be wrong. Until recently, we toggled between feeling shame and disappointment.1