Most of the time I feel like a fairly capable, intelligent person. And whilst I have all of the athletic prowess of a common garden snail and the physique of Benny Hill, for the most part I am assured of my masculinity and social standing.
Fair enough, I wasn’t educated at Oxford or Cambridge nor was I prop forward (don’t even know if that’s an actual Rugby position) for my school team but I did play a bit of footy and didn’t shy away from the odd rough tackle (no, that isn’t a euphemism).
So why is it that now, in my early 30’s, there are still 2 topics that make me feel like I do in that recurring dream that everyone has where you find yourself standing in your PE class wearing a girl’s gym slip? (What do you mean, you’ve never had that dream before?) And the dual causes for this sudden reduction in my masculinity and self belief? DIY and Football talk.
Just because I don’t follow a particular football club or have no interest in how to put up a set of shelves using self refracting monkey bolts, I immediately become a social pariah.
I once had a 15 minute conversation with a taxi driver about how badly the ‘Blues’ were playing that season. I managed to blag my way through a quarter of an hour by nodding my head sagely and saying “exactly,” and “yeah, good point,” etc, until eventually he asked me who my favourite ‘Blues’ player was (no, I didn’t say Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf – he was reffering to a football team). I scrambled for a few seconds and then, with great relief, I managed to recall the one ‘Blues’ player that I knew at that time. There was a momentary pause as the driver processed this information.
“But he plays for Leicester City . . .” he said.
“Yes, I know” I confidently retorted.
“But we’ve been talking about Birmingham City for the entire journey!”
That was pretty much the end of the conversation and the final ten minutes of the journey were painfully silent, save for the gentle jingling of the driver’s Birmingham City mascot hanging from the rear view mirror.
As mentioned earlier, my other weakness comes in the form of DIY or anything that requires what ‘manual types’ refer to as ‘common sense’ or ‘being good with your hands’ – mind you, the latter was said about Bill Clinton and look how that ended. Because of my general lack of interest in this area and, it has to be said, my past ineptitude, I tend to avoid doing any home improvement activity that involves anything more complicated than changing a fuse or ‘turning it on and off again’.
However, it was a recent conversation I had with one of those very ‘manual types’ whilst waiting around at my daughter’s parents evening a couple of weeks ago that spurred me in to action. Once again my stupid bloody machismo has lead me in to a trap. He was a nice guy, and we got on to the subject of houses etc. He was explaining all of the jobs he still has yet to complete in his home. My fiancee cackled like The Wicked Witch of The West and then very kindly brought it to the guy’s attention that I was completely useless at DIY and that we always paid someone else to do stuff like that. Within those few seconds after the proclaimation of my fecklessness, all of his warmth and laughter died . His smile became a frown and he repeated the words as if searching for some hidden meaning.
“You. Don’t. Do. DIY? You CAN’T do DIY?”
In that moment of embarrassment and shame I became resolute: I CAN DO DIY. I WILL DO DIY. Goddammit! Am I Not A Man?!
Which leads us to my attempt, this morning, to reseal around our bath and replace the beading. It’s been leaking for a while. It’s a very straight forward job. Remove the old stuff. Clean it down, dry it off and get resealing. Simple. Easy. I can do that. So please, would you be so kind, as to explain to me why it took me over an hour to do it, and when I finally gave up – I mean, ‘finished’ – did it look like a small child had spilt a vat full of correction fluid around my bath? And just to compound and confirm my failure my daughter surveyed the damage, tilted her head to one side and with a patronising tone seldom heard from one so young said:
“Never mind, Dad. At least you tried really hard.”
Half an hour later the tube of sealant lay in the bin and the remnants of my tool kit was up for auction on Ebay. It’s time to accept what I am. I may not be a walking Football encyclopaedia or have a working knowledge of how to use the detachable Sparrowflange, but I’m still a man.
I’d like to see how one of those ‘manual types’ would cope if I asked them to edit a 2 minute interview from 2 hours worth of footage and then encode me a 2-pass MPEG2 file with a maximim bitrate of 7.2.
Yeah. I’d show them.
Let me know if you’ve had any similar ‘feeling like a geek/nerd/loser’ experiences.
Fellow geeks unite! After all, are we not men too?