Much to my continued surprise, I find myself a New Yorker. And by that, I don’t merely mean that I happen at this moment to live in New York. I mean that I hate to drive. That I’m overwhelmed by big box stores. When I go to Times Square, I no longer marvel at its majesty, but instead complain about the tourists who block my route from the subway to the theater by staring up in the sky and posing for pictures with the Naked Cowboy.
But I’ve come to realize that there’s one part of me that’s still from the rest of the country. New Yorkers, more than any other people I know, hire people to do their work. They have housekeepers, doormen, handymen, personal trainers, personal shoppers, and dogwalkers. They send out their laundry. And they have everything under the sun delivered.
Apparently I haven’t quite made that leap. This week, I shocked my NYC friends by painting the wall of our apartment all by my lonesome. Here’s the proof:
And next week I just might slap up some wallpaper.
Now, this DIY stuff is nothing new to me. Back when my sewing machine still worked, I sewed my own clothes. And when I bought my first house on a baby DA’s salary, I spent every weekend at Home Depot. By the time I sold that house three years later, I had tiled a hearth, lineoleumed a laundry room, laid down a wood plank floor, painted thousands of square feet of walls, replaced two faucets, and even built a cedar fence. Consider me handy.
And in many ways, my recent painting adventure was typical of my do-it-yourself tendencies. I do my own taxes. I made my own video trailer for my new book, 212. I navigate my way through the lay-out for the (admittedly imperfect) newsletter I send to my mailing list. And today, I’ve tinkered once again, creating a mystery thank-you gift to send to online friends who pre-order 212. (Details below, online friends.)
But if you ask my husband, I’m no DIY-er. He teases me that if we had enough money, I’d hire a butler to cater to my every whim. Why would he tease me that way? Because despite lingering self-reliance, in some ways, I have begun to adjust to the New York way. My dog, the Duffer, has both a dogwalker and a daycare center. I’ve been known to have wine, groceries, and even a small container of chicken soup from the downstairs-deli delivered. If it were up to me, we’d send out our laundry instead of dealing with the apartment complex laundry room. And, I’m ashamed to say it, I once paid a woman to clean out my closet.
So what’s the deal? Why do I happily entrust some aspects of my life to others while I pride myself on handling the rest on my own? Am I hopelessly conflicted and inconsistent, or is there some method to my madness?
I tried to hire someone to figure it out for me, but couldn’t find anyone on Craig’s List (kidding, of course). The most noble explanation is that I recognize which tasks I’m either really bad at or simply hate to do. I’m bad at throwing out old clothes from my cluttered closet, but I’m good at taxes. I hate folding laundry, but creating my home-made book trailer was pretty damn fun.
Or maybe it’s about bragging rights. You can bet that I told every person who visited my Portland house that I built that (semi-crooked) fence myself. And if I do take on that wallpaper job, I’m sure I’ll point to every bubble and wrinkle like a gold medal. But there’s no glory to be gained in doing laundry or preventing your closet from ending up on the next episode of Hoarders.
Or, you know, maybe I’m just random and incoherent about these things. I’d love to hear from others on this. What sorts of things, both in your work and home life, do you do yourself, and when would you prefer to hire out?
P.S. As I mentioned, my most recent tinkering was on a special mystery thank-you gift for online friends who pre-order my new book, 212. For every hardback copy of 212 purchased by March 22, I will send a mystery gift to thank you for supporting my work. See details here. (And, yep, I did the html myself so forgive the imperfections.)