Last week I faced the ultimate test of the single girl. IKEA furniture.
Round One – IKEA 1, Single Girl 0
Now, I am not the most handy girl. I do some stuff around my home but somehow everything that other people say is “so easy” turns into “wow, I’ve never seen/heard of that before” when I attempt it. Trying to change my beige plugs to white resulted in 5 days of no electricity in my kitchen. The one weekend reno of my fireplace surround resulted in a 5 month hole in my wall, (im)patient waiting for free help from a friend and finally paying someone else to finish the job.
But, thousands of people put together IKEA furniture every day. I am determined to be a competent, independent single woman and put together two small bedside tables.
Table #1 – got the piece almost all together but the top drawer won’t close. One screw is sticking out just enough to catch on the roller bit. Feeling proud of myself for figuring out the problem, I promptly strip the screw trying to fix it. And then I chipped a nail. My fingernail not a hardware nail. And then I walked away before I threw the bedside table out the window.
Sidebar here to explain why chipping a nail is more than just a shallow first world complaint for me. I was a nail-biter all my life. I tried countless times to quit. It’s a disgusting habit and I felt ashamed that I couldn’t stop. I spent thousands of dollars and countless hours of my time getting fake nails done. But two years ago when I was seeing a therapist to help deal with my anxiety I realized that my nail-biting was a response to anxiety.It’s always great to pay your therapist when they help you realize the blindingly obvious.
So, on my 42nd birthday I decided that every time I caught myself biting my nails I would stop and ask myself “what do you feel anxious about right now” and deal with that. That was 18 months ago and I haven’t bitten my nails since. So, having nails is a bit of a new thing for me.
Okay, back to Round One. I wisely walked away from the bedside table before I also had a broken window. I texted a friend about my frustration. Her response? “yeah, my husband had trouble putting together the IKEA furniture I bought last weekend”. I walked away from my phone, too.
Round Two – IKEA 1, Single Girl 1
I’ve evened the score. Table #2 resulted in success. It was a close call, though. If this was a real fight, I would have lost a few teeth in this round. I spent 10 minutes looking for a screw that had mysteriously ended under the couch (did I mention I’m cat-sitting?). I spent a few moments cursing IKEA for not aligning the holes better as I struggled to fit the top on. And, when I finally got the whole piece together, carefully NOT stripping any screws, I discovered I had put one piece on backwards and now the screws showed on the front. Which lead to me having to TAKE THE PIECE APART AND PUT IT TOGETHER AGAIN!
For all those times when I have cursed my stubborn personality – beat a dead horse? Why, thanks, don’t mind if I do! – at that moment I gave thanks and gratitude for my stubborn streak that is as wide as an IKEA parking lot.
I debated giving myself extra points for being able to deconstruct the piece without breaking anything but I figured I also probably lost a point for putting the piece on backward in the first place.
Round Three – IKEA 1, Single girl 1.5, XY friend 0.5
Ladies – you can strip on a pole, strip your leg hair off with wax, strip off your gaunch to go skinny-dipping but do not, under any circumstances, strip a screw!! Men apparently already know this since all my male friends just nodded with the obviousness of the whole thing when I explained my situation.
One of the things that I hate about being single is doing my own home repairs. In these moments, especially in Round One, I just wanted to hand the whole mess over to a husband with the knowledge that in the cosmic order of gender assigned tasks, this one is his. Gay friends – I have no idea how you sort this out.
I know this is a fallacy. When my girlfriends talk about their husbands, I AM listening. I know that not all men are good at home repair and that not all women are, well, me. And that the reason the grass is greener on the other side is that it’s fertilized with bullshit. But, if you can find a husband/partner who loves to do home repairs, baby put a hex ring on it!
It’s hard for me. Probably more accurately, I am hard on me. I think I should be able to do everything for myself and by myself. I hate asking for help. Single women should be strong. Right? Cause otherwise we’re weak. Bad enough to be pitied for the stigma of singlehood without being unable to do home repairs. Or, car repairs (yeah, I suck at those, too). I feel like I should stand by with smelling salts when I admit to my male friends that I take my car to the dealership for servicing.
I think we are taught that independence is supposed to equal freedom. But I am learning that being unable to ask for help when you need it is a particular kind of prison. A cage of isolation made of pride and ego and maybe some fear thrown in there for good measure.
When I moved into my place, lots of friends came over and helped me renovate. When I look around, I don’t think “I am so weak for needing help with this”. I think how lucky I am to have people in my life who love me enough to spend 5 hours stripping wallpaper for me. (remember – stripping wallpaper? Okay. Stripping screws” NOT okay). That love and generosity is imbued into my walls and fills the air.
So, I asked for help. And, a very wonderful XY friend (with freakishly strong wrists) unscrewed the stripped screw and screwed in back in properly. I think it took him all of 15 seconds. Problem solved. So, I gladly give him a half point for that and I am giving myself a half point for asking for help.
When I look at my bedside tables, I have the perfect balance. One table put together all by myself – feeling proud of that one and for my
stubbornness perseverance. One table put together with some help from a friend – feeling blessed to be able to ask for, and receive, help.
Perhaps IKEA is really Swedish for “learn about yourself while putting together inexpensive home furnishings”.
Only one problem … there is a really nice dresser that matches the bedside tables …