My sailor won’t batten down the hatches

My sailor won’t batten down the hatches

by Lisa Smith Molinari
The Meat and Potatoes of Life

Ahoy, fellow soldiers’ and sailors’ spouses! Are you tethered to a spouse who won’t hang a ceiling fan? Does your soldier plead ignorance when it’s time to program the remote? Are you anchored to a sailor who can’t assemble the baby’s crib? Does your partner call the plumber when the faucet leaks?

If you answered, “Aye, aye” to any of these questions, then I’ve got the scuttlebutt for you! Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful sailor’s wife who’d thought she’d snagged a handyman, but instead, found herself stuck doing all the home repairs.

Three decades ago, I left home to marry a Navy man. A true greenhorn, I assumed that all military men were “manly” types who tinkered with cars, hooked up stereos, and fixed stuff around the house. I envisioned a happy marriage involving traditional gender roles, where I, as wife and mother, managed the children and domestic tasks, and he, as husband and father, took primary responsibility for yard work and home repairs.

Shiver me timbers, was I off course!

For the first few tours of duty, we rented or lived on base, where housing management was primarily responsible for repairs. So my misconceptions about my husband’s fix-it skills persisted. It wasn’t until we bought our first home in 1998 that I realized – not only did my husband have no fix-it skills — he also didn’t feel an ounce of embarrassment if I handled the bulk of the yard work and home repairs.

In denial at first, I believed he’d change as the demands of our growing family increased. I decided to set a good example, and bought a manual on DIY. With a baby on my hip and a toddler at my feet, I replaced the kitchen faucet. I hung new light fixtures. I assembled the crib. I aerated the lawn. I replaced the sprinkler heads. I jig-sawed my son’s Cub Scout soapbox derby car.

The feeling of accomplishment was so exhilarating, I forgot to notice that my husband hadn’t joined in my DIY efforts. He even stood idly by as I embarked on a complicated two-month project to build shelving along one wall of our playroom. I couldn’t see past the sawdust to notice that he was conveniently and contentedly absent.

One night while simultaneously nursing our third baby and chopping onions for dinner, I asked my husband to assemble a new tabletop grill. The parts bag only contained four metal legs, two handles, and six screws. An hour later, he was still looking cross-eyed at the instructions. “I swear Honey, you could strand me on a deserted island with this thing, and I’d never figure this out.”

A few days later, I was venting my frustrations to another Navy wife. Expecting compassion, I was surprised when she told me … it was all my fault.

At first I thought that she didn’t understand, because her aviator husband was mechanically inclined; whereas, my husband couldn’t identify a “Phillip’s head” and referred to hardwares stores as “Haunted Houses.”

However, she explained: “I’m no stranger to a tool box,” she whispered. “That’s my little secret. Try being helpless every once in a while and see what he does. Trust me, it works.”

But it was too late for my damsel in distress act to work. My husband had already seen me chop onions, nurse a baby, and assemble a grill all at the same time. There was no going back.

Now, as a salty ol’ navy wife, I’m still the one who programs the remote, does the weed-whacking, and assembles the Ikea furniture.

It was too late for me, but if this is your maiden voyage as a military spouse, there’s still time! You may be perfectly capable of skippering your own boat, but don’t go overboard. Stow those fix-it skills in your ditty bag and play the roll of dizzy Ginger or goofy Gilligan while your spouse takes the helm. They’ll figure out how to replace the toilet float or fix the cabinet hinge in no time.

Be ye mariner or landlubber, heed this whale of a tale and your marital DIY projects will always be smooth sailing.

Read more at the website and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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