ALL I WANT FOR Christmas is a handyman.
Not a man who considers himself handy. I've got one of those. I want a handyman.
A guy who will fix everything that is loose or broken in my house when I tell him to because I am paying him.
I want a man who will change the faucet in the bathroom, fix the leak in the shower, paint the interior shutters and then winterize the windows in the kids' rooms.
I want somebody who will fix the chandelier in the dining room, who will paint the trim in the hall and then tighten the front door knob.
And I want somebody who will do it right now.
Not this weekend. Not as soon as he finishes reading the paper. Not when he gets a minute. Not after getting lost for the afternoon in a hardware store. Not at halftime of the football game.
Ask any woman what is missing in her life and she is more likely to say timely repairs than she is to say romance.
"Husbands are a frill," says my friend Jan. "But a handyman is a necessity."
What we need is a man who is part plumber-electrician, part carpenter-painter, a guy who is good with a caulking gun and a spackling trowel. A guy who can sand and varnish with the best of them and hang drywall like he was born doing it. A guy who does all these things, not for love, but for money.
My friend Suzanne's husband can do any of these things, but he is also a lawyer and so she must wait for the court docket to clear before she can get a light bulb changed. "If he could bill for all the hours it takes him to do something for me, we'd be rich," she says.
I suggested to my friend Jan that I wouldn't mind if my handyman had something in the way of rugged good looks, too, and she howled in protest. "No. That's the mistake we made the first time."
"We married for love without finding out whether he was any good under the hood of a car."
Another friend once said that men were only good for sex and heavy lifting, but that is not entirely true. There are many tasks done best by men -- rodent and insect disposal, unclogging toilets and anything involving a lawn mower -- but only if you can wait until they get around to doing it and if you don't mind that they didn't change out of their good clothes first.
My friend Betsy says that's why men and women do tasks in separate rooms -- say, the kitchen and the garage. Because a man's pace infuriates a woman. "By the time he gets out the forks and counts them, I have the potatoes mashed," she says.
Men are not often helpful in the decorative arts, which is why you never let a man choose flowers but you can ask him to dig the holes for them in the garden, if you don't mind waiting until after the first frost.
Men should never be allowed to purchase wallpaper without a note signed by you, but they often do a very good job of hanging it, if your children have not outgrown it first.
"If you feel like you must ask their opinion, go ahead," says Betsy. "Then you can ignore their answers because they won't even notice when you do."
Your handy man will often tell you that quality workmanship takes time, and he will compare himself to Michelangelo, who spent a lifetime painting the Sistine Chapel while laying on his back and working for a patron grumpier than you.
It is at this point that your handy man will offer to skip church to finish whatever task it is you are complaining about.
They are always offering not to go wherever it is you want them to go so that they can do whatever it is you want done. Don't be fooled by this ploy. Changing the screen in the storm door to glass is not negotiable.
All men think of themselves as handy, even in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary. My friend Susan sold her house and moved to another to get away from her husband's poorly executed household repairs and she told him he was not allowed to so much as change the liner in the trash can in their new home.
Your handyman will display righteous indignation when you threaten to hire a stranger to do a simple job that he can do in 10 minutes. He will then say that he'd never consider hiring someone to come into your kitchen make him a sandwich for lunch, though he is certain he would get it sooner if he did.
Tell him you wouldn't mind if he did. As a matter of fact, you'd write the check.
Pub Date: 12/10/96