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Monday, July 16, 2007

Of wood and testosterone

A few weeks ago I was over at the local lumberyard placing the order for all the wood and hardware I'd need to build my pergola.  As I was waiting for my order to be tallied up, I noticed a flyer taped to the back of the cash register, advertising a basic carpentry course.

Now, while I consider myself fairly handy, and own plenty of woodworking tools, I have never had any formal training.  It's mostly been a matter of trial and error... and figuring things out for myself.  So, when the sales rep came back with the paperwork for my order, I asked him about the course. 

I was a bit shocked by his response:

"No, no... we only offer the carpentry course for women."

Excuse me?!

I thought for a moment that he was pulling my leg and waited for him to crack a smile.  But it turns out he was dead serious.  He explained that he had tried open enrollment for the course... but he'd noticed from the very start that there was always a problem with the men. 

Apparently, if you tell a woman to hold a drill a certain way... or to measure a certain way... or to do any of a thousand other simple-but-vitally-important tasks ... she is going to make a note in her notebook and do exactly as you say... every single time. 

But if you tell a man to do any of those same things, he will nod, smile and think to himself, "OK, I can disregard that 'advice' since I already know how to do that." 

You see, most men think they were born knowing how to use tools.  Not only that, but if their fathers ever showed them how to do something a certain way... even if it was such a dangerous method as to risk disemboweling oneself... no amount of instruction or classroom demonstration will have the slightest effect.

The crazy part, he explained, was that plenty of men would sign up and pay good money to ignore his advice.  But the end result was that the women were losing out because he was spending most of the class time helping men fix the damage they'd done to their projects due to simple inattention to instructions. 

So after a while he decided that men simply needed to learn carpentry by trial & error or osmosis... or select themselves out of the gene pool trying.  And no amount of classroom instruction would have any effect whatsoever on the outcome... other than to annoy the female students.

His parting words as he walked me towards my car were:

"I count myself lucky that I didn’t have to teach any of those guys to shoot.  I can't imagine how the army is able to teach anyone about guns with all that testosterone flying around."

And that my friends, is why the local über-macho lumberyard only offers carpentry classes for women.

Posted by David Bogner on July 16, 2007 | Permalink


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When I teach the motorcycle riding course course, I find it's the women who tend to listen better and follow instructions better. (not every time, of course; there are some guys who listen well, and some women who don't, but overall, the women tend to be better students). It's too bad that only about 25% of the class (on a good day) is female. I'd prefer it at 50% (or higher!)

On a seperate note, Home Depot has several in-store "How to" courses in various home repair categories. Unfortunately, at least at the one near me, the classes are all on Saturdays. :-(

Posted by: JDMDad | Jul 16, 2007 6:05:11 PM

Would it be wrong of me to connect this post to your previous pergola post?

Posted by: Safranit | Jul 16, 2007 6:30:48 PM

JDMDad... When I took my motorcycle safety class (you get a break on insurance in CT for taking it), I paid very close attention. And my wife still won't let me buy a bike! :-)

Safranit... Wrong? No. Unkind? Perhaps. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 16, 2007 6:40:44 PM

Not true. I can identify two males in my family who don't have a clue which end of the screwdriver to hold. Probably because one of their brothers does.

Enjoy the pergula. I can already imagine grape vines growing along it.

Posted by: jennifer | Jul 16, 2007 6:56:47 PM

Ummm...I too made a connection to the previous pergola post.

So, can we safely assume that some time in the future your son is going to be standing at the top of a ladder while your daughter will heed the warning labels?

Oh, and regarding the classes your lumberyard offers...this same testosterone rules applies to asking directions.

Posted by: beth | Jul 16, 2007 7:31:52 PM

Does the carpentry course have a day on climbing a ladder?

Posted by: JoeSettler | Jul 16, 2007 8:40:38 PM

Hi David AKA Trep,

The pergola sounds cool...

And while the story is amusing, some of us men are capable of both learning and following directions...

LOL ;o)


Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | Jul 17, 2007 12:35:58 AM

Savage Kitten is the handigeek in our house.

She set up her computer by herself, has a printer that works, and the darn thing is connected to the internet.
I haven't had a working printer since two months after the warranty expired several years ago.
Nor have I connected either of my two machines to the internet.

She also repairs drawers and doors, and is pretty good with small tools (small hands, ergo small tools).

She's the only one who can get the videotape player to work.

Very savvy about her car, too.

Can't change a lightbulb, however. Too short. Even on the step ladder.

So I'm still usefull for something.

Till she figgers out that they do make taller ladders.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Jul 17, 2007 1:41:18 AM

That is so funny.

My hubby loves tools and has no idea how to use them. In fact, years ago, he went on a shopping spree at Home Depot and bought all these tools to cut wood and whatever else they are good for, as well as a bunch of wood because it was on clearance. The wood has never been touch and the tools are still in the box. Those that he has used, are collecting dust because, naturally, what he REALLY needs is the bigger and more advance type that can do all types of fancy stuff. But he doesn't exactly know how to do it, but one of the days he will figure it out.

As a nice wife, I bought him some books on woodworking - has never been opened, and even got him the name of some woodworking/carpentry clubs, but he refuses to go and bond with his fellow tool guys.

The positive side of this is that I always know what to get him ... a gift certificate to HD or Lowes, even if it's only for the adventure and rush of testing and buying the tools.

Posted by: jaime | Jul 17, 2007 3:17:39 AM

You have been tagged – see this post: http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/

I have tagged you for two reasons:
1. I really want to see what you will do in response;
2. I also wish to introduce you to the people who regularly read my blog. As the Christmas Poo song from South Park says: "Mister Hanky the Christmas Poo, he loves me and I love you; therefore 'vicariously' he loves you...". It's catching. Now pass the infection along.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Jul 17, 2007 4:39:13 AM

Clarification: this post: http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2007/07/eight-treasures-rice-pudding.html

It's a meme. I'm a sucker for memes.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Jul 17, 2007 4:44:05 AM

jennifer... My guess is that they simply haven't had a chance to embrace their inner carpenter yet. :-)

beth... Hey, look who's here! And with a new post up, no less!!! I've missed you. BTW, those peaches look yuuuuumy! Oh, and as for the whole asking directions thing... we find our way to the lumber yard just fine, thankyouverymuch! :-)

JoeSettler... funny man. You want to come over here and rub liniment on my sore back? Huh? Well do you, punk? :-)

Maksim-Smelchak... Yeah sure. Just like most of us think we're above-average drivers. We can't all be right. :-)

Back of the Hill... I'm also the designated bulb changer in our house due to certain, um, elevation differential. :-) Oh, and as a rule I don't do memes... but I'll take a peek.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 17, 2007 8:22:05 AM

For so many reasons, I really, really don't.

Posted by: JoeSettler | Jul 17, 2007 10:28:20 AM

we have a thing called the RTFM syndrome. If someone says that her/d\his dive computer does not function, we say RTFM

Read The F*@#ing Manual

Posted by: asher | Jul 17, 2007 12:43:21 PM

I'm the Geek-Manager in a non-tech department. Instead of saying RTFM since no one in the department would ever read the manual, I like to say that the error is between the chair and keyboard.

Posted by: Aharon | Jul 17, 2007 4:28:24 PM

As a woman who just learned to shoot last week, do you have any information about the carpentry course? Where do I sign up?

Posted by: toby | Jul 17, 2007 6:39:24 PM

Many years ago, a boyfriend suggested we go to the local NRA and learn to shoot. We took a course, and the instructor said essentially what your lumber-yard guru said. He explained that girls, generally, did not play 'soldier' type games as kids, and so had fewer bad habits to unlearn, making them not necessarily better students, but certainly easier ones. I think, though, that restricting the carpentry class to women only on that basis is, while amusing, sadly descriminatory. What if your son wants to take a class? That lumber yard would lose his business for life.

Posted by: Camron | Jul 18, 2007 5:01:36 PM

I'm going to link you up to me... I think this is a rippingly funny story: In my house, though, I'm pleased to say, we're both pretty handy. My spouse used to fix cars for a living (at one short period of his life. He did lots of other stuff, too) and is pretty knowledgeable about computers.

I, OTOH, whenever I work in an office, am always designated the person to call before calling tech, because I can usually fix just about any office appliance by poking at it long enough. of course, the danger with that is that I occasionally break them, too.
Which is my third point: part of the reason guys are so hard to re-teach is because they have experience and are taught from very young that it's okay to fool with things, whereas girls tend to be taught to call someone or find out how to fix it by asking someone or reading a book, and better get it right the first time, or give up and ask someone "more knowledgeable."

In my house, though, my father was always starting projects ...and leaving them unfinished, whereas my mother, although not particularly handy with large tools, at least as far as I've ever seen, used to sculpt and do crafty things, so I was never afraid of handling tools,albeit small ones, and graduated up to large ones in high school because I was too shy to act, and I sucked at acting, anyway (If only they could see me up on the bimah now).
SO, tools? No problem. I went from soldering irons and chisels and screwdrivers, to jigsaws, hammers, and well, pulling fax machines apart.

Posted by: Kol Ra'ash Gadol | Jul 19, 2007 7:11:15 AM

JoeSettler ... Your loss. :-)

asher... I hear that a lot. I wonder why? :-)

Aharon... Same concept as Asher's. Guilty as charged.

toby... It is being held at Olam HaEtz at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion.

Camron... I agree that it is discriminatory, but so is excluding men from women's gyms. The management has to weigh the needs of all parties and in both examples the men would negatively impact the value and enjoyment for the women.

Kol Ra'ash Gadol ... Yeah, society really does a number on women. Hopefully that is changing.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 19, 2007 2:36:33 PM

Well, if we keep gettin g the only available carpentry courses...
(Of course, that kinda stinks for guys who might like to learn something....)

Posted by: Kol Ra'ash Gadol | Jul 20, 2007 1:09:11 AM

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