Challenge Update #5

A friend recently asked me what I was going to do with myself once the blog ended.  I joked that I was going to work as hard as I possibly could to undo everything I learned.  The idea is a tiny bit appealing.

I spent fifty weeks building, grilling, riding, and eating my way to masculinity, so I’m excited for a little R&R, which surely will include shopping sprees, spa treatments, and romantic comedy viewing binges.  (If you haven’t done a Mystic Pizza/Pretty Woman/Notting Hill marathon, you haven’t LIVED.)

But I would be devaluing the great work my MANtors have done if I simply forgot everything.  I’ve been able to overcome some legitimate fears and expand my manly knowledge with their help.  So before I look at the big picture in the final entry, it’s time to rewind and see if I’ll be saying “Whoopsidaisies” when I review the last ten weeks.  (Seriously, at least watch Notting Hill if you’re short on time.  It’s a treasure.)

Week 41: Pick a Lock

Upon reviewing the laws for owning lock picking tools in different states, I discovered that in my home state of Virginia, just the possession of tools is enough to show intent of burglary.  The thought of accidentally bringing them across state lines and ending up in the slammer was enough to avoid purchasing a set of tools for myself.

But that reasoning does strike me as partly an excuse to let my skills slide.  Lock picking was one of those challenges where, beyond the fulfillment of learning a new technique, I actually found pleasure in performing the task.  These manly skills have a habit of leaving my mind quickly, so perhaps it’s time to get a set before I lock myself out of my apartment.  Which, of course, I’ve just jinxed myself into doing by writing it down.

Week 42: Rebuild a Home

I haven’t heard anything about the progress of the home Q and I worked on, but if they kept to the timeline Connor showed us, the rebuilding should be complete by now.  I haven’t tackled any home improvement projects in my apartment as of late, but I have felt more smug while watching home renovation shows on HGTV, so there’s that.

Week 43: Know My History

I think the next phase in appreciating my heritage is learning some Greek.  While on our road trip, Q and I listened to some Teach Yourself Greek CDs, thinking we could learn some conversational phrases as we took in the Pacific Coast Highway.

Unfortunately, we didn’t look too carefully at what we had checked out of the library and ended up with Easy Greek for Businessmen.  So now I can ask my taxi driver to take me to the Hilton Hotel for my conference, but I’m totally out of luck if I need to know where the bathroom is.

Week 44: Be a Plumber

Over the last month, a work crew has been jackhammering in the lobby of our apartment building, replacing the old cast-iron plumbing system with updated parts.  I haven’t offered my services to them yet, but I think they know they could ask me if they needed the help.

Much like the rebuilding a home challenge, the plumbing challenge gave me the confidence to tinker even though I haven’t put my skills to work on any major project.  But I’m sure that drain won’t stay clear forever, and I’ll be called to the front lines soon enough.

Week 45: Kick a Field Goal

The satisfaction of actually kicking a field goal got me excited to learn more athletic techniques.  I was between the Fosbury Flop, a slap shot, and a bicycle kick, but then I decided on watching YouTube clips of White Men Can’t Jump.  I’m not entirely upset with my decision.

Week 46: Befriend a Dog

There’s a dog in an apartment down our hallway that barks wildly anytime he hears me walk to the elevator.  I wish that I could use my newfound comfort with the canine species to pacify him, but it’s proving difficult with the closed door between us.  I’ve never actually seen what he looks like.

My neighbor who lives across from that apartment tells me his children are scared of this anonymous dog.  I wanted to tell his children that it will get better, but I don’t even know if they have a blog yet.  Best not to get their hopes up.

Week 47: Be Skilled With a Knife

Q’s friends gave her a beautiful chef’s knife after they heard about the class we took.  It’s nice to develop a new relationship with a knife now that we’re aware of our bad habits.  We’re still in the honeymoon phase – we take it out of its foam-insulated sheath every week or so, use it for a few minutes, and then immediately clean it and replace it in the drawer.  I think we’ll actually develop better technique once we’re not so precious with it.  I still chop vegetables every day, so I’ve put in another three weeks since I first learned proper technique.  I haven’t improved greatly, but I hope I’m on my way.

Week 48: Tailor Clothes

My hem is still going strong, but I’ve had a couple of clothing mishaps since then: a rip in a sleeve and a hole in a pocket.  Normally I wouldn’t think twice about bringing them to a seamstress, but learning how to sew makes me think I should do the alterations myself.  Or I could split the difference and choose to do nothing at all.  I wonder what I’ll do…

Week 49: Fast From Technology

I found it much harder to finish Walden after I reintroduced technology in my life. Thoreau’s words didn’t seem to stick they way they did when I was living off the grid.  I still have no desire to be parted from my smartphone for more than a sleep cycle.  I don’t know if I tried hard enough.  Maybe I was only a day short of making a breakthrough – just 24 extra hours of technology rehab and I would have been released from the digital stranglehold.  But I’m not sweating it too much.  I do have a lot of television to catch up on.

Week 50: Be a Dad

Peter Jr. is still up for adoption, should anybody have a flour baby-shaped hole in their heart or an upcoming bake sale.  Surviving three hours with three boys hasn’t given me the confidence to start a babysitting service, but the experience was still extremely worthwhile.  I thought I would have been more composed for that challenge, since I occasionally watched my sister when my parents were out, but those quasi-babysitting sessions were nowhere near as stressful as the real deal.  At least there’s something to be said for jettisoning false confidence.

Stay tuned for the comprehensive man scale and a list of my expenses for the fifty challenges.  There must be some kind of tax deduction for “manly education,” right?