As kids, many of us often heard our moms sternly deliver the phrase, "Go to your room;" boys heard it often.
For some reason girls seemed to habitually get a parental pass regardless of what they'd done or failed to do. The men out there having sisters know what I'm talking about. As adult males, we assume that after a certain age or when moving away from home and becoming self-sufficient and married or partnered, some things would never come back to haunt us. Not true.
If you're a regular reader of my column then you've known for years that I'm modestly dangerous when it comes to fixing things around the house. My wife has exactly the opposite skill set. I don't cook, either, and that's a noteworthy home safety feature. My wife loves doing it and is one of the best around and I appreciate her interest and expertise.
So at this point you may be wondering, "What does he do other than write?" Truth is, I've become somewhat accomplished at getting under foot, or, as my wife calls it, being in the way. From a guy's perspective it's a matter of wanting to be of help once in a while, but not so often that what we do might become a matter of routine. I figure if I occasionally hang around long enough, for example, in the kitchen, that she'll show me how to do something that either can't be screwed up, or even if it is, nothing much will come of it. Either option would occupy my time for a short while, keep me isolated in one observable location, and allow her to do whatever she does for hours at a time in her cooking domain.
When I'm finished or excused from her area, I'll have done my husbandly duty and made myself available for a temporary period of time, demonstrating that I really do deserve to have my annual contract renewed.
In contrast, the problem is that my wife is viewing this arrangement from an entirely different vantage point, the female perspective, and not one honest male will admit to being able to see things from there. She simply considers my desire to offer assistance a potential for kitchen disaster waiting to happen, an interruption to her routine way of preparing food, and generally a nuisance. Because in spite of where I stand, sit or lean, I'll be in her way. Ultimately, I'll hear her utter that dreaded phrase reminiscent of my adolescence years, "Go to your room."
These days my room happens to be my office. But for now we're talking about the kitchen, not my childhood home or school classroom, and she's not my mom or one of my teachers.
Even so, without hesitation I'll instinctively march out of her cooking palace and into my office like a punished youngster. How am I supposed to gain any semblance of competence in kitchen domestication if I can't hang around there once in a while during the mealtime preparation stage? That osmosis learning phenomenon didn't work for me as a teenager and it sure isn't gonna happen at this late stage of the game.
I talked with several of my friends and confirmed that my "I want to help — sometimes" predicament is common throughout the retired male population. Of course, there are some exceptions, those men who've opted to cross over to the other side and legitimately learn how to cook. But their numbers are miniscule compared to those of us who are kitchen / cooking challenged, so I remain stuck in limbo somewhere between my office and the kitchen.
I even went so far as to Google cooking classes offered locally and immediately hit two obstacles: 1) the cost, and 2) an intermingling of adults and kids in most classes, and as I recall they tend to make a lot of noise and enjoy snickering at inept grown-ups.
I also learned there are cooking vacations. These sounded great for people into that sort of thing, but on the rare occasion that I opt to travel I'm not doing it with the notion of preparing my own sustenance. Cooking clubs are functioning around town, but their web posts sounded focused on those who actually have a knack for preparing food rather than being marginally skilled at boiling water and exploding microware popcorn bags. I suppose for now I'll just hang out in my room.