How IKEA Can Test Marriage

What do Einstein, Chomsky, and Freud have in common? They were extraordinarily brilliant Jewish men who couldn’t hang a picture if their lives depended on it. Albert Einstein could have discussed the Theory of Relativity in his sleep, but had you shown him a hammer he’d have run the other way screaming. Noam Chomsky authored over 100 books on linguistics, war, politics, and mass media, but ask him to work a drill and you’ll see his face pale (then again, the man is 88). Sigmund Freud was the father of psychoanalysis, but I’m betting that no amount of mind-reading could enable him to hang floating shelves.

Speaking of floating shelves and brilliant Jewish men… My husband and I got into a serious argument last night. Here’s a synopsis of it:

Me: “Don’t panic, but I need you to do something.”

Daniel: <Immediately, his nostrils flare in Pavlovian response to seeing the IKEA shelves that are clutched to my chest> “No.”

Me: “But…”

Daniel: “NO!” <A bead of sweat forms at his temples, and he angrily swipes it away> “After 14 years together, you should know by now that this is not my skill set.” (That’s engineer talk for I don’t know how to do this.)

Me: “That’s a lie. I didn’t even know you 14 years ago.”

Daniel: “Yeah, you did. We had already gone out on two dates by that time.”

Me: <Grumbling> “Should have asked whether you could hang stuff.”

Daniel: <Grinning smugly> “Oh well. Too late now.”

Me: “I knew you never loved me. These last 14 years has been nothing but a sham.”

Daniel: <Looking bored> “Uh-huh.”

Me: <Waving IKEA shelf in the air like a flag> “This is what real love is. Putting your heart and soul into doing whatever it takes to make your spouse happy. REAL LOVE EQUALS SUFFERING! Lots and lots of SUFFERING!”

Daniel: “I am suffering. Please stop.”

Me: “Fine. I have a brain in my head. I’ll do it myself.”

Daniel: <Muttering> “This is not going to end well.”

I stomped up the stairs determined to teach Daniel a lesson in pain. As I untangled the cord connected to the drill, I vowed that come hell or high water, these shelves were going to get put up before the night was over. The problem, I soon realized, was that I didn’t actually know how to work a drill.

“DANIEL!” I hollered. “How does this thing work?”

“Call Howie,” Daniel growled, coming up the steps.

“Noooo. Not happening.” Howie is my family’s handyman and without fail, every time I call him, the first thing he shouts is, “Why do you keep calling me? I’m retired, you know.” Howie looks to be in his eighties and is hard of hearing, but whenever I ask him for a name of someone else, he sighs and says no one is as good as him so he might as well just do it himself.

“Fine,” Daniel relented and attached the right drill bit for the job. “Here it is.”

“Thank you.” Feeling suddenly very grownup and confident, I took a deep breath, and pressed my finger against the trigger. I aim for the spot I had marked earlier with a pencil when Daniel suddenly shouted, “STOP!”

“What?” I frowned, annoyed that he broke my mojo.

“Where’s your screw?”

I tilt my head like a confused dog. “I need a screw?”

“Uh, yes.” Daniel’s eyes were bulging. “What was your plan exactly?”

I shrugged. “I was just going to use the drill by itself.”

My husband took a step back, looking visibly shaken. “Actually, I’ll just do it.”

I wasn’t about to argue with that. “Thanks, honey!”

Ten minutes later, one shelf was finally up. Daniel and I stared at it wordlessly.

“You didn’t use a level,” Daniel said in an accusing tone, finally breaking the silence.

I crossed my arms and looked at him defiantly. “Levels are for wusses. I can just eyeball it.”

Our gazes returned to the slanted shelf.

“I’m out of here,” Daniel said, walking away. I could tell that this time he really meant it.

“I don’t need a man’s help, anyway,” I muttered to my dog who had been watching this entire time. “I am woman. Hear me roar.”

Half an hour later, the only progress I had made was the display of holes in the wall and a fair amount of debris on the floor. The drill had it out for me. It’s the only explanation that actually made sense.

I trudged down the stairs and found Daniel sitting on the living room couch. He took one look at me and said, “Just return them.”

“I think if you just tried aga—”

Not. My. Skill. Set,” Daniel said through clenched teeth. “And it’s not yours, either!”

I sighed.

You know what Natalie Portman, Nigella Lawson, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have in common? All are talented Jewish women who could probably work a drill better than me.