On a bright winter morning, my phone buzzed with a text from a friend. In a fit of rage cleaning, she shoved a piece of furniture out of the way and managed to put a huge hole in her wall. Not wanting to deal with her husband and his amusement at her superhuman strength while attacking dust bunnies, she texted to ask if I knew how to repair the wall. Because I’ve had my own incidents requiring minor wall repair thanks to kids and a dog, I grabbed the spackle and my trusty spackling trowel and headed over to help her hide the evidence fix her mistake.
When I got there, and as I sanded and applied the spackle to the impressively large hole, she and I discussed all of the tasks we rely on our husbands to do, whether it’s because we’ve never gotten around to learning how or because the task is just plain gross. As we waited for the spackle to dry so we could apply the final coat of paint, it occurred to me that my friend is not alone in her spackling technique deficits. Sure, thanks to toddlers, we all know how to unclog a toilet or decipher how to use the seven remotes our hubbies have connected to our televisions, but many of us don’t have basic skills when it comes to cars and house mechanics.
And we should learn, ladies.
Because, I’m not going to lie: When you jump a dead car battery with your friend using Google and while four kids are running around, it’s pretty damn empowering (and I know this from personal experience). Being able to manage minor car issues will not only make you feel accomplished, it will also make you more confident the next time you are describing a car issue to your mechanic. And, also? No one needs to know that you used Google or YouTube. Don’t sell yourself short, because men look at that shit all the time and they don’t feel the need to share that with the class.
Here are some projects we all need to know how to tackle:
1. How to Change a Tire
Admittedly, this doesn’t happen to us often anymore thanks to run-flat tires and better overall car care, but still, ladies, we should know how to change a tire — or at least have a vague idea. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, and yes, it’s a messy, tiring job, but sometimes AAA can’t get to you for hours, especially if you are on a long stretch of highway. Knowing how to use a car jack, get the lug nuts off the wheel, and where the spare tire is kept in your car could prove to be useful someday. And it will make a great story for your friends at girls’ night out. “So, there I was on the highway, changing my tire and this guy pulls over and says, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing there?’ and I’m like ‘Who me? Of fucking course. Don’t be late on my account. Bye!”
2. How to Cut the Power or Water to Your House
We’ve all heard the stories about basements flooding due to a pipe bursting or an electrical fire in the kitchen. If that happened to you when your partner wasn’t home, would you know what to do to contain the damage as fast as possible? Familiarizing yourself with the circuit board in your home before a catastrophe will lead to a cool, calm head when an emergency (or freaking disaster) strikes. And knowing where your main water shutoff valve is could save you thousands in water damage repair. So, go find your circuit breaker and shutoff valve now. You’ll thank me later.
3. How to Kill Household Pests
Seriously, ladies, put your big girl panties on and squash the big scary bug or empty the mousetrap. If you can deal with your infant projectile vomiting down your back or your toddler’s epic poop explosion in Target, you can handle a stinkbug. Let’s all agree to be brave, okay? Or if you’re like me, my husband runs for the hills at the sight of an arachnid, and I’m left to find something to squash and dispose of the little freak. Typically, a shoe. Then I launch its corpse outside and say something witty like, “Tell your friends what happens when you enter my house, you eight-legged butthole!”
4. How to Use a Power Drill and Other Power Tools
I’m not going to lie: I love having this skill. Somehow, wielding the power drill makes me feel like a badass. It makes me want to puff up my chest and say things like “Come at me bro!” I love the autonomy of being able to hang curtains on my own and help the kids with a woodworking project, and having the ability to fix pretty much anything held together with screws. Do you know how many IKEA bookshelves you can put together in an afternoon with the aid of a power drill? A lot. Trust. Don’t get me started on the radial arm saw, either. I love that thing. I wait for no man.
5. How to Replace Windshield Washer Fluid, Check Oil Levels, and Know What to Do If Your Car Overheats
Admittedly, being married to a car-obsessed man has helped me hone these skills. It’s important for every woman to have a basic working knowledge of cars not only for safety but also for autonomy. On those snowy days when you are trying to get the kids out the door only to find your windshield fluid is low, or on those days when your car has a giant oil spill in the garage and you need to get it to the mechanic, knowing how to locate the fluid receptacles in your car is a necessary skill. Knowing how to deal with an overheated car will undoubtedly save you thousands on an engine repair. And when the gas station attendant says, “Can I check your oil?” you can smugly say, “Nope, I did it yesterday. Thanks, though!”
As for my spackling job at my friend’s house, while I don’t hold any hopes of setting out on a career as a master spackler, I did a pretty decent job. In the medical field, the phrase, “see one, do one, teach one” is oft quoted and my friend can now go forth and save another friend from epic embarrassment because I taught her how to use a trowel. But just to be clear: No matter how many times my husband “teaches” me how to use the lawn mower, I’m never going to get on board (sorry, not sorry, honey). I’ll be glad to clean up with the gas blower, though, because it makes me look like a badass to the neighbors.