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!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • 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.