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Janet Carlson

Janet Carlson

Posted February 11, 2009 | 04:43 PM (EST)

Popular Mechanics: A Modern Woman's Heartthrob


I never thought I'd fall for a handy man, but as my ballroom dancing teacher used to advise, "Be mindful of your expectations. They can get us into trouble." I felt sheepish at first about appreciating M so exuberantly for (among other fine qualities, I insist) his ability to fix things -- namely:

My computer. The week we met, the hard-drive in my barely-over-a-year-old MacBook Pro crashed. I steeled myself for the inevitable series of surreal appointments with those young whizzes at the Genius Bar in the Apple Store. "Let me take a look," M said. It was dead as a door nail. He took care of data retrieval (after Apple said they couldn't do anything) and rebuilding, as well as the emotional comfort I'd need for the loss of what at Apple they call my data -- a chilly understatement for my writing, family photographs and other valuables. His professional skills are seductive; I really love the elegance of a man who knows his way around an operating system (about which I have not one mb's worth of a clue). M told me that Apple, for all it's mythic reputation for excellence, installs crappy hard drives made in China, and it's better to buy and install one of higher quality from Seagate (warranty regulations permitting). In the ensuing months, my 21st century handy man -- the deluxe techie model -- graciously handled various laptop snags, taking three minutes to fix what would have taken me two hours of coaching from someone in India.

Next thing you know, my bathtub drain clogged and, being an unhandy single head of household with a knack for networking with all manner of service pros, I picked up the phone to call my plumber, who'd previously told me never to use Draino on antique pipes in an old house. "What are you doing?" M asked. "I'll fix it." And he did, just like that.

Then, there was my car, a spunky Toyota Rav4 which I bought used a couple of years ago. Check Engine -- the menacing light on the dashboard told me -- get thee to the repair station. "Nah," said M, "my cousin owns the automotive place in my town; let's take your car there." I watched as M and his cousin lifted the hood and bent over the front of my car, their hands reaching for this and that, knowing exactly. It caught me by surprise to find this such a beautiful sight.

I fried the brakes one day driving a few miles without realizing the emergency brake was engaged. As I was cruising along the highway in New Jersey, I discovered the brakes were now squishy, i.e. not stopping my car, and I feared for my life. I called M, who a) answered on the second ring and b) gave me instructions for diagnosing the situation, and then c) advised me to drive slowly with plenty of distance between me and the next car. My own personal GPS kind of guy with a safety feature! I've taken a lot of pride in being an independent, capable woman, but lord it felt good to have him escort me home like that.

Forget that my handy man saves me a ton of money on repairs, I'm talking about the irresistible athleticism and grace in what he does, plus the sheer helpfulness. I'm not alone in this. I hear it all the time lately from women who respond as I do -- no matter how handy they might be, or what else they might say in their match.com profiles. Sure, we keep a list in our minds about the qualities in a mate we consider important: emotional availability, intelligence, humor, income, career ambition. All undeniably relevant. But what is bedrock? Let's face it: handiness.

I know I have my particular skills and strengths, and I know I can learn to do all of the above about which I sound helpless, just as I can open the door for myself and pay for dinner. But these tech tasks are so easy for M, and I get such a kick out of his competence. Being a self-reliant woman surely doesn't mean I have to get good at everything. That would be no fun at all.