Illustration: Serge Bloch

What You'll Learn

  1. Introduction
  2. Living With It
If you asked my wife what her number one complaint is about our marriage, I know what she'd say: She can never get me to level with her. She's not looking for more honesty in our relationship. No, what she really, really wants is for me to help her use one of those long stick things with the bubble in the middle that tells you whether an edge is perfectly straight or not. I'm exaggerating. Slightly. She'd be just as happy to spend a romantic weekend stripping moldings. You see, my wife and I are proof of the maxim that opposites attract. She loves home projects. And I loathe them.

Oddly, it was a bit of Aurita's carpentry that first won my heart. One evening many moons ago, I returned home to my tiny apartment to find that she had constructed a massive pine bookcase that ran the length of an entire wall. It held all the volumes and LPs that had been piled, Stonehenge-style, in a circle around my bed. I had a strong suspicion right there that this might be the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Back then, I suppose I wrote off her hammer skills as a hobby; more practical than stamp collecting, certainly, but a hobby nonetheless. And so for the first eight years of our marriage, a happy equilibrium held. I did the cooking. She did the cleaning. We split the childcare duties for our three sons. A series of wrench-toting landlords took care of all the maintenance that our apartments required, as Aurita looked on critically, and occasionally retightened a bolt or two after they left. But with the exception of the year she asked for a Milwaukee workcart for Christmas, I saw no danger signs that there was a Norm Abram lurking within her, looking to hacksaw his way out.

Then, three years ago, we bought our first home. It's a beautiful house, an 1895 Victorian with details so original that, until recently, it still had gaslight valves sticking out of the ­attic walls. We'd even gotten a pretty good deal on it, since the elderly man who'd lived there for five decades had converted the first-floor library into a white-tiled, handicapped-accessible latrine with no door. (The real estate agent had touted a "spacious first-floor ­powder room.") On our second afternoon as homeowners, I took the boys on our monthly trip to Williams-Sonoma while Aurita and her father ripped out the bathroom—tile, fixtures, plumbing, and all—in a miracle that I still equate with walking on water. (At the risk of blowing my own horn, she'd been equally stunned by my earlier revelation that pasta ­doesn't have to come from a can.) Everything was going great until I used the verb "hire" and the noun "painters" in the same sentence.

"We can do it ourselves," Aurita said.
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