The Saw Does Not Make the Man

In an effort to man up a little, I put a circular saw on my last Christmas list. It must have been refreshing for my loved ones to shop for an item other than CDs and books and I was glad to offer an alternative. So I received a flashy new saw and two sturdy saw horses. Now what?

A saw may seem like a standard tool for a 40-year old man but I’ve reached middle age without amassing many macho devices.  Since I am not a handy person, buying manly tools has always seemed like a waste of money. But when we bought a new home last summer—a home that would require repairs to make it perfect—I knew Tool Time would be coming soon.

Months later, the fix-it list is starting to yellow and curl at the edges.  My wife was once excited about these home renovations, now those tasks lay between us like broken promises.

Even though I now have a saw, having one makes you handy about as much as wearing a fedora makes you Indiana Jones; it’s more than mere ownership. You have to flip the switch and ease that sucker down a length of board and watch it separate into two, neat pieces. You have to taste sawdust and squint through goggles and watch the job get done one precise cut at a time.

But before you do all that, you have to open the box.

My saw sits in an unopened box in my garage like a hardened prisoner up for parole—will it kill me when I let it out? Will I be able to even fathom the directions in the owner’s manual—gosh, will there even be an owner’s manual? For everyone’s sake, there better be.

Luckily, the winter has been cold and wet and has bought me time. Only hired contractors work in this weather, I tell her. She either believes my excuse or has stopped listening. On more forthright days, I remind her that I am working against a long-standing, oddball stereotype that every guy is born to saw and hammer and frame houses. There are many different kinds of men and I’m the kind that cooks dinner, does dishes, folds towels, changes diapers and goes grocery shopping. She nods kindly and goes along with it and I feel better for a little bit. Until I return to the garage and see the saw-in-the-box and the inadequacies come marching in.

Am I doing enough? Am I setting the right example for my two-year old son by perpetuating that stereotype? Perhaps there is no bad example when your every thought and action is designed to serve your child’s development and happiness.

I will teach my son to cook and I will teach him to saw—probably in that order.


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