Out of Context

Global MusicI know this isn’t much of a confession. It’s not as if I’ve just discovered global music, he’s a drug addict, a phone sex guy, the head of a religious cult, an ex-con, or married with four kids, a wife, and a minivan in Des Moines. But he owns a lathe, and I just found out.

We just moved in with each other, you see. And, along with bashed thumbs, bruised shins, sore backs, and woefully misplaced boxes which we won’t see again until the next move, this gave us an ideal opportunity to discover all the dirty little secrets we’ve been hiding from one another in the past many months of blissful dating.

He discovered that, despite my incarceration at the University of Chicago English department and the appreciation for fine literature which it implies, my collection of the classics is substantially dwarfed by my mass of flimsy paperback murder mysteries. My Nero Wolfe novels alone take up two times the shelf space of my collection of Shakespeare. He discovered that I care more about my house plants than I do about his cat. (He: Tux is eating that plant. Is that gonna hurt him? Me: Ohmygod! My poor plant. My poor baby! Was the big mean kitty biting you? Serves him right if he gets a belly ache, the fuzzy little creep. Here, have some Miracle-Gro. You’ll feel better.) He’s discovered that, at 4’11”, I’m entirely indifferent to whether shelves and cabinets and such are placed artistically and eye-pleasingly on the walls. I only care if I can reach them. He’s discovered that I own five different kinds of vinegar, six kinds of oil, and two varieties of bread crumbs. He’s discovered all of this, and he still loves me.

I, on the other hand, have discovered that he owns a lathe and am tormented by sudden nightmares and doubts about the relationship. It’s not that I fear that instead of spending quiet evenings cuddled up with me at the computer playing Tex Murphy he’ll spend all his night out in the garage lathing things. (Is lathe a verb? It should be.) For one thing, his love for his computer is surpassed only by his love for me…I think. For another, we don’t have a garage. It’s not that I fear that he’ll bash me on the head with the thing in a fit of rage. He doesn’t have those.

It’s not even that I’m worried that it will scar the surface of the table where it’s sitting. So, what’s my problem?

It’s simple. While everyone in my family can spell “lathe” and most of us can probably define it as “that spinny thing that carpenters use…makes table legs, right?” no one I’m related to has ever used, much less owned one. Ever. We wouldn’t know what to do with one. We wouldn’t know if it had to be plugged in, run off a battery pack, turned by hand, hitched to oxen, or baked at 350 until golden brown. We would probably kill ourselves if we tried to find out. In my family if a table needs a new leg, we either get a new table or repair the problem by propping up the legless side with a stack of paperback mysteries. In my family, household repair crises that can’t be ignored or fixed with a stack of books are solved in an easy three step process. 1. Panic 2. Call repair guy 3. Pay said repair guy.

I guess things are a bit different in my honey’s family. First of all, they can not only spell and define “lathe,” they can use a lathe for repairs and for…fun. If a table needs a new leg, my honey and his family would be liable to make a whole new set of legs just for the sheer joy of it. Heck, they might make several sets until they could decide which legs looked just exactly perfect with that particular table top. My darling would probably get so inspired that he’d make a set of chairs and a sideboard just to keep the table company. And they would all look great. And all the legs would stay on forever. In his family, household repair crises are never crises. They’re a gladsome opportunity to haul out the tools and have some fun.

How can I, a hereditary mechanical incompetent, find eternal bliss and joy with a man who has more power tools than I’ve got medieval dream poetry? What will I do the first time he calls from work and asks me to have the lathe ready for him when he gets home? Will he still love me when he discovers that I don’t really understand why double-sided mounting tape doesn’t work as well as dry wall anchors?

So, okay, it’s not Romeo and Juliet. Our worlds aren’t all that far apart, and I love it that I live with someone who can fix broken things, and build new things, and install entertaining gadgets. But that lathe still makes me nervous. I think I’ll feed it to my houseplants.

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