Sisterhood Blog

Fixing the Sink and Dispelling the 'I Need a Man' Myth

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

As International Women’s Day flooded the social scene with events celebrating women’s political, economic and social advancement, my own personal empowerment took place in a flood in the bathroom.

My adventure began unexpectedly at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon — when else do emergencies happen, really? — when I walked into the bathroom and stepped into a two-inch puddle of water. I might have chalked it up to shower spray, except that there was also brown water on the toilet and a few inches of dirty water in the bathtub. Clearly there was a problem.

As loath as I am to admit this, my first thought was, predictably, about the man in my life. (To put it in perspective, the fact is my husband worked as a plumber for our first few years of marriage, so it’s not necessarily a gender thing, just a professional thing. Or so I keep telling myself.) But my spouse of nearly 20 years happened to be away last week, and there I was at home a few hours before Shabbat with my 15-year-old son and 7-year old daughter facing a flooded bathroom.

It’s amazing how much certain situations become all about gender. The thought, “I need a man to do this for me” was knocking on my brain like a toddler who has to pee. I didn’t want to let that thought in, did not want it to take over my life’s experience. But it was there. I wanted my husband home. And I was looking at my son, all of 15, as if perhaps he would save me.

It took a significant degree of self-honesty to admit that I have never fixed a sink. “Sure you have,” my oldest daughter said later. Really? I asked via non-verbal facial expression. “Well, we’ve watched abba fix sinks,” she corrected herself. Exactly.

So, putting aside that sense of shame that comes with the realization that I’m just a big talker, I took a deep breath and rolled up my sleeves (and pants, as it were) and got to work. I didn’t panic, and I began to take stock of the situation. What I discovered, to my own surprise, was that my husband has actually taught me a few things over the years. I knew what a few of the pieces were and how they get on and off. And the truth is, plumbing has a lot of logic to it. Water flows through the pipes usually in the direction of gravity. That’s the pshat — all else is midrash.

I quickly fixed the bathtub which turned out to be a minor issue, and got started on the toilet before calling in my son to help. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t turning him into “the man around” when he is still 25 years younger than me. I fixed the multiple toilet issues all by myself (yes, really, go me), while he began on the sink. When we realized it was a two-man job, so to speak, that’s when the hard part started. We both got very wet and dirty but found the first problem, and fixed it.

There were, however, multiple blockages, which required us not only to remove the pipes beneath the sink but also to move the sink itself. (I have no doubt that there is an easier way to do all this, but I don’t want to think about that right now.) At a certain point my 18-year-old daughter came home and joined the party. (By the way, the bathroom isn’t really big enough to fit three people, so it was quite a scene).

As my daughter and son were learning to cooperate over the clogged pipes and I was directing them, I must say that my deep pride exceeded all sense of frustration at the situation. They are strong, they are capable, they are smart, and they are fully equals. And so am I. That was really nice.

The good news is, we fixed everything — and the bathroom, by the way, has never been cleaner. The other good news is that we now know a lot more about how our sink works than we ever thought about. The bad news is we were at work for about three hours, until minutes before Shabbat, and we did not have all that much cooked food around. But we ate at neighbors and all is well. Nobody starved.

The other bad news is that in all the fuss I forgot to turn on the heat before Shabbat and it was quite a cold night, and some of us have been with drippy noses ever since (drippy noses but no drippy sinks!).

Most importantly, though, I have forever dispelled the nagging “I need a man” mantra from my consciousness, the mantra that so many women have carried for generations, the mantra that has so often kept women from even trying to discover our own power. And next time my daughter thinks to herself, “I fixed a sink,” her memory will be true, and it will be her own.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Plumbing

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.