Dr. Susan vs. Dr. Laura: Can I Do Manly Things While My Husband is Away?

The following was taken from Dr. Laura’s website. Have questions you want somebody that isn’t Dr. Laura to answer? Ask me!

The question: “My husband is going on vacation for 2 weeks and, as a surprise for him while he’s gone, I’m planning on having some work done to our home…fix the floor, remodel, trim the trees and bushes, etc. I was going to have family help with these things to keep costs down. I have previously mentioned the things to him that I plan to do. He works long hours 6 days a week so I can stay home with our 14 month old baby. I love him and appreciate his hard work and thought this would be a nice way to help him out with things that he doesn’t have time for. Do you think that this is a good idea?”

Dr. Laura
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Dr. Laura’s answer: “No. I think it’s going to…even though he doesn’t have time and these things do need to be done…I worry that it’s going to leave him with the feeling of not being needed, of being a failure, of not having followed through for you and of not being able to do 16 things at one time. I don’t think so, if…no…no [Laughs]. I don’t know how else to say “No.” 

Now if you know he has a hobby but doesn’t have the time to put together the wherewithal to do this hobby…like nuts and bolts, screws and hammers, and saws and drill presses and what-have-you that guys like to play with. Whatever these things are, you might want to set up a little hobby area for him. You can remodel that so that he gets rewarded for his hard work, he can come home and fiddle…whatever it is that he likes to fiddle with. Maybe it’s paint, so you get paints and an easel and some class for 6 weeks. 

I think you should set up something for his R&R but I don’t think that you should do the things that really he knew he should be doing because I think it’s going to make him feel bad. I wouldn’t take the risk. Do the hobby thing. I think that’s guaranteed.”

Laura, Laura, Laura. After last week’s falling out I wasn’t sure I could ever come back. Thankfully, this week’s advice-off doesn’t make me want to set fire to my computer. Stupid, yes. But there is no rape apology here, so I will manage.

Laura is right in that it’s not a great idea to undertake these projects while the husband is away, but not because men are some kind of simple, programmable machines that get all Hulk-smashy when the vagina-havers try to do man things. Instead, it’s just not a great idea because this is shared space. What if you paint the walls a luxurious emerald green only to find out that emerald green was the color of his beloved grandmother’s coffin? What if the furniture you so lovingly pick out turns out to be covered in a resin that gives him hives? Or if when you are trimming the trees and bushes, you rip out his all-time favorite money-growing plant?

By taking this upon yourself, you are not saying, “I am disappointed in your laziness and inability to be manly,” but you are saying “my vision of our house is the only one that matters.” There are certain things that just don’t work as surprises: surprise! a puppy!; surprise! I sold the house and bought a camper!; surprise! I remodeled while you were away!

If it would be a wonderful surprise, it will also be a wonderful thing for you to do as a non-surprise. Talk to him about it. Get his input, and then put in the time. It won’t ruin the loveliness of the gift, and it will save you from doing something that is really hard to undo that makes his life miserable.

It’s your living space. It’s his living space, too. He needs to be a part of the remodeling.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

15 replies on “Dr. Susan vs. Dr. Laura: Can I Do Manly Things While My Husband is Away?”

There are great eddas passed down in my family of the remodeling while you were away wars between my maternal grandparents. No harsh words were ever spoken on the subject, but if one shouldst leave for more than a days time, lo upon their return the furnishing of the house would be altered. To think that if the two had but looked to agree upon furnishings afore hand they might have made peace and purchased far fewer rolls of plaid wallpaper.

Last time I went away for a long weekend, I came back to a copper-colored dining room. The time before that, the horrible bathroom wallpaper was stripped and the walls painted white. One time I came home from work to find the upstairs hallway painted bright kelly OMG St. Patrick’s Day threw up in here green. But it makes the Mister happy to keep himself occupied while I’m gone. He knows I like color, so as long as I don’t come home to something pink, it’s fine. Less work for me, frankly!

Do people actually take this “Dr.” Laura seriously?  If I were a dude I’d be super pissed that she was telling my wife to not give me awesome surprises.

I would totally fix the floor and trim the trees etc.  But then again, I’m extremely independent (my friends say annoyingly so…) and tend to love fixing things (engineer…so I sometimes will fix things that aren’t even broken).  My landlord loves me because I rarely call him if I’m having problems with things, because I usually just take care of it myself.  I don’t understand how anyone would be upset or feel unneeded if you don’t add another 80bagillion things on their lists of things to do!

Remodel… that’s a whole other thing that should have both people’s input because the house is both yours, and making changes should be agreed upon in advance.  Other mundane/annoying chores would be a VERY pleasant surprise!

I think the woman even says that she mentioned to her husband that she was planning to do x, y and z at some point. When he didn’t say anything other than, “Yeah, that sounds fine” that was her cue that some surprise home improvement would not run amiss. What  I don’t understand is why she felt she had to bring horrible Dr. Laura in the loop.

Heteronormativity makes my skin crawl.

Half of my old rugby team were involved in dance. The most technically proficient rugby player I know at the moment is a woman. One of my good friends, a Design Technology student at a local University, manicures his hands weekly because he hates his nails to wind up untidy from the workshop. One of my other good friends, a ‘girly girl’ who wears pink uggs to school, is an A* Maths and Further Maths student and was part of a nationally successful hockey team. One of my best heterosexual male friends is a fantastic clothes designer who was in said rugby team for three years. STOP GENDERING PERFECTLY NEUTRAL ACTIVITIES. All of these people are wonderful, talented teenagers who have more wisdom about where gender roles can shove it than Dr. Laura has been able to acquire in her entire antiquated life.

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of men will not break down and weep because their wives are capable of doing physical feats they are not. Really. I don’t know if Laura understands what she does, but she is part of this incredibly irritating movement to simultaneously demonise women and infantilise men. Ugh this shit pisses me off so much. It’s people like Dr. Laura who fuck it up for everyone, not even just women.

Susan, as always, your advice is sensitive and much more coherent than my rage. It just irritates me so much.

PS: Dr. Laura is Professor Umbridge. She likes cat plates and will tell me I must not tell lies.

“Dear Dr. Laura,

Why do you fail so much and so often in giving such inane replies? How do you do it?”

“Well miss Longstockings (and what kind of name is that anyway, didn’t you take your husbands’ name?) I think of what people with brains would suggest and advice the complete opposite! Have you already petted your man today and told him he was a good manly manly man?”

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