It’s 6:30 pm and I’m sitting on the floor with the pieces of the grill in front of me. The kids want to grill out but that’s not going to happen if I can’t put this thing together pretty fast.
“Screw…big washer…little washer…nut.”
“Wait? Is that right?”
“Why do the washers have to be different sizes?” I thought as I look from the packet of assorted screws, washers and nuts to the diagram in front of me back to the collection of metal parts at my lap.
I continue to fumble with the different grill parts. About fifteen minutes go by and I have one of the handles successfully attached to the side of the grill.
“OK”, I think to myself, “Three more to go. Maybe the next three will go faster now that I have the hang of it.”
Half way through attaching the second handle my friend says to me, “Are you wanting to do that all by yourself?”
“No! (I half-lie) “I hate doing stuff like this!” (I half-lie again)
He chuckles and comes over to me. I watch as he works, handing him parts of the grill as he asks for them. In about seven minutes he has the grill completely constructed.
All at once I feel anxious for having given up my thinly veiled, “I-can-do-it-myself-I-don’t-need-you” stance and that sense of peace and relief I feel when I am being taken care of by a man.
And therein lies the old conflict…”I can do it myself. Come rescue me.”
Maybe the conflict isn’t quite as strong as that anymore, but there was certainly a time in my life when it existed just like that. Now, the conflict resides in me more like, “I have been doing all of this by myself for so long that now it feels weak to give some of it away.”
The great irony is there was a big part of me that had wanted to simply ask, “Will you please put this together?” – without my having to touch one washer, large or small. I wanted him to be his manly self and put the damn grill together without my having to do it.
When I first became single, it was a thrill to be the one to get to hammer the nails in the walls. It was an act of freedom to climb on my own roof and clean my own gutters. But I have been cleaning those gutters for a while now. And I have been vacuuming up the water that floods my basement when I don’t clean them.
But this isn’t about wanting a man around the house to do home maintenance that I don’t want to do any more. It is about a lot more than that.
That Sunday night, I enjoyed the simple pleasure of being a woman, being taken care of by a man. And once I allowed it all to happen, I enjoyed it.
As I watched my friend put the grill together, there was a certain order to life. There was comfort in those old, familiar roles that men and women know how to step into. There was tenderness in the moment—In one person giving to another and the other person giving back by receiving, without a loss of independence and without a loss of pride.
And as I clean up from dinner that he cooked on the grill, I hear a familiar sound come from the family room. “Oh my God. Is he vacuuming?” I peak in the room to see if it is true; and there he is, pushing the vacuum. I’m all at once shocked, touched, and turned on. I smile remembering the old joke that there is no greater aphrodisiac than a man pushing a vacuum.
For the third time in one evening, I am reminded of what is possible between men and women when we let each other in and allow ourselves to care for and be taken care of by each other. I counted my blessings for having learned how to receive and to have a friend in my life who so willingly gives.
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Cristin Whiting, Psy.D is the contributing author to the Life Launch Training Team. She is currently working on two different books and hired as an adjunct professor in the Psychology Department of Wake Forest University. Cristin participates in a weekly Master Mind group for writers. She also volunteers as a coach in a leadership training program.
Cristin has a website and multimedia blog called The Zephyr Chronicles which tells the story of her year-long quest to answer the question, “What does it mean to live a life of freedom?” Cristin enjoys abundance in her life through her love for music, dance, writing, and her family. She creates bridges through inspiring (and being inspired by) others who live abundantly and freely. Cristin currently resides in Winston-Salem and has a private psychotherapy practice as a clinical psychologist.