VENTURING opinions about differences between men and women is a surefire way to get yourself in trouble. Here I go.
When it comes to gender and light fixtures, men see the light, women see the fixture. I say this based on a sample of three -- my wife, her sister and myself -- and on one repair incident.
My wife's sister lives on the other side of the country, in Phoenix. Until last weekend, I did not have a clue that she cared about our light fixtures. But last Saturday my wife pulled a new fixture out of a box and announced that some months ago she and her sister had determined that the "awful" old fixture in the hall was going to be replaced.
In hindsight, I saw that this change was a result of a sisterhood weekend last fall. When my wife's sister came east for an autumnal visit, I thought that the two of them were getting together to talk about old times. Now I see that they were talking about old light fixtures. I later learned that a porch light has also been marked for replacement.
Who knows what other domestic "reform" schemes they have hatched. Being a guy, I could not discern what was wrong with the old hall fixture. I figured it must be broken. Yet when I walked over and flipped the switch, the bulb went on, just as it was supposed to.
"What's wrong with this one?" I asked.
That is when I got "the look." Roughly translated, "the look" means "How could you be so dense?" Or "I can't believe I am living with a person of such limited sensibilities." Or "I should have married that other guy." It is a look many men are familiar with.
To my eye, the old light fixture resembled the new one. Both had bases made of metal and globes of white frosted glass.
It was true that the old one was fatter and perhaps had a more industrial look than the sleeker new one. The new fixture, I was informed, was an Italian design. The old fixture was not designed, it was probably stamped out at a factory in Toledo.
But the old fixture had something going for it that I really liked, namely it was already attached to the ceiling.
Being a veteran of marriage, I sensed that this change in decor was not up for negotiation. A new light fixture had been purchased without my input. Its location had been determined without my input. Now the new fixture was supposed to go on the ceiling without my verbal input. I was permitted to fetch the ladder, climb up it and start working on the wires.
I wanted to perform this task without electrocuting myself. I was not sure, at this point in our domestic dialogue, that my wife felt the same way. I turned off the circuit breaker that controlled the juice to the light and got the ladder.
Happily, the wiring scheme employed to power the old fixture turned out to be pretty basic and legal. There was a black wire, a white wire and a green wire. All I had to do was disconnect the wires of the old fixture, attach the new wires (black to black, white to white, green to green) and keep the white and black wires a safe distance away from each other.
Attaching this sleek new Italian to the ceiling, however, presented a problem.
The older, fatter fixture had a mounting plate, a piece of sheet metal about the size of a dessert plate that had held it to the ceiling.
The sleek new Italian didn't have that. It had a threaded nipple and a sliding metal bracket.
It only took me the better part of an hour and a trip to a hardware store to figure out that I was supposed to screw the bracket into the metal junction box stuffed up in the ceiling, then use the threaded nipple to secure the fixture.
But eventually I got the fixture assembled, attached it to the ceiling and screwed in the light bulb pulled from the old fixture.
Eyeing the new, thinner globe and simmering light, my wife proclaimed that the space looked much better.
The hall looked pretty much the same to me, until the next day. That was when the old light bulb in the new fixture burned out.
"The hall light needs changing," my wife told me.
But of course I could see that.