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The Bungle Years: Who's the man?

Unlike most boys, I didn’t grow up building things. I never sanded, screwed, plied or painted really anything outside of Cub Scouts. Even then, I paid one of my friends $2 to have him build my pinewood derby car for me.

My dad is perhaps the most white-collar guy to ever live. He didn’t teach me how to change the oil on a car, but he did teach me how to write a memo (true story).

“Too many verbs, son. How many times do I have to tell you to take your personality out of it? Just state the facts, then hand it to the secretary. Write it again.”

Luckily for me, I was able to hide my inabilities from my wife until after we were married. I may have been able to keep them hidden our whole marriage, if it hadn’t been for the weird gifts people gave us.

I don’t know what gets into people’s heads when they give wedding presents. My wife and I are young, poor, Mormon college students, and people gave us presents like wine-servers and olive-pitters. I don’t know what it is about our description that puts people under the impression that we will be throwing cocktail parties.

“I bet these two really young and poor Mormons would love to invite all of their French friends over into their spacious Ogden apartment for a night of wine-tasting and cheese-nibbling.”

If they wanted to get us something we actually needed, they should’ve gotten us ramen-noodle recipes and the answers to my statistics homework.

An example of one of our gifts that was perhaps a little too sophisticated was the oak ottoman. When we unwrapped it and saw the picture on the box of the fine-oak, leather-cushioned, retractable-lid, living-room centerpiece foot furniture, my first thought was “Wow, this will complement our Deseret Industries couch very nicely.”

Naturally, being the man of the house, it was my responsibility to put it together. My wife offered to help me, but I didn’t want her to know how bad I was with such things, so I told her I could handle it.

The second I saw the instructions, I knew I was in trouble. There were absolutely no words on it anywhere. It was just a bunch of pictures of rectangles connecting in weird ways with other rectangles. Occasionally, there would be something that slightly resembled a screw that would have an arrow pointing toward a corner of one of the unknown rectangles.

With my limited handiwork skills and the C-plus I got in high school geometry, I knew I was screwed. They say everything happens for a reason, though. For the last few years, I have had a back problem where my back starts to cramp up if it is put into extreme circumstances. Thankfully, bending over and struggling to build something is one of them. I eventually gave up and told my wife that I had started it but couldn’t finish because of my back.

I came home from school the next day and immediately noticed the ottoman, completely put together, standing beside the couch.

“How in the world did this happen?” I said to my wife in the kitchen.

“I had 10 minutes between school and work, so I decided to finish putting it together.”

“Did you say 10 minutes?” I said in disbelief.

“It really only took me about five. I had enough time left over to sand the edges.”

So my wife is officially the man of the house now. I guess the good news is that my inability to work with my hands is still a secret to my wife. She has since put me in charge of hanging up the drapes and installing ceiling shelves. She figures that since I won’t have to bend over, it won’t hurt my back. I still don’t think I can do it. If any of you want to help, please let me know. I will even pay you $2.

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