I've always been one of those girls who is equally comfortable hanging out with either gender. Throw me in the middle of a super girly shopping and spa day, or cram me in the backseat of an all-boy truck, stopping for fast food on the way to a football game, and I'm equally happy. I don't fare as well once you get to either extreme; for example I'm almost never fluent in female TV talk because I don't really watch Grey's/SYTYCD/Bachelor(ette)/etc, and I get uncomfortable pretty quick when it's just a bunch of guys sitting around a table drinking beer and waxing eloquent on what the best possible Cowboys defensive lineup will be this season. But anywhere in the middle? I'm down with it.
I have also always sort of prided myself on knowing how to do some things that have not been traditionally "girl world" activities. I can change a tire, change my own oil, drive a standard, tell time on a analog clock, figure out which way is north, follow directions, make minor repairs (using tools!), etc. But there's always been one glaring absence from my boy world repertoire - I have never mowed a lawn.
Actually, scratch that - I have never even started a lawn mower, never even really looked at one past a two second "yep, there's the red lawnmower, in my way to park in the garage yet again" type of glance. I know nothing about how they work, whether or not you can run them while they're on the driveway or if that will, somehow, tear up the concrete? What if I run over a rock? Will the blades somehow spin the rock violently around inside and then shoot it out directly into my face, causing irreparable damage and all sorts of self-confidence issues? How do people mow those lines into the grass? What about piles of dog poop? Do you just mow right over those or avoid them? Will the dog poop get caught in the same spinning vector of death the hypothetical rock was in earlier, and also end up on my face?
The process seemed fraught with potential disaster, and I was content to avoid it altogether.
However, I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine about cliche male and female activities, and it became clear, once again, that I could never really take a super proud stance until I rectified my mowing deficiency. So last night, I told Cody that I would mow the lawn today while he was at work. He said ok, but apparently did not believe me because once I started sending him a barrage of text messages this afternoon, requesting different bits of mowing information, he seemed to lose a lot of confidence.
Cody (4:22pm): I am planning on doing it when I get home
Elise (4:23pm): But wait! I am trying! Just give me some steps 2 start it
Cody (4:26pm): (gives me some instruction) and watch out for sprinkler heads along the road and for my gopher things
Elise (4:27pm): Ok. Thanks!
Cody (4:28pm): I would feel better about it if u would wait and let me show u this time...
Cody (4:32pm): Don't run over my gopher things!
Cody (4:39pm): Did you see my gopher things?
Elise (4:42pm): I won't! Geez...
And you'll be glad to know that I DIDN'T run over Cody's gopher things. At least I don't think I did. I did, however, run over a pile of dog poop AND a rock, both accidentally, and neither one ended up all over my face. Lucky break, or status quo, I still don't know. But I feel good about it, either way. In fact, I was feeling SO good about my new-found mowing independence, that I decided I would even go get gas for the mower because I mowed so much (and it took me so many tries to start it) that I ran out of gas. So off I went to the gas station, covered in grass and sweat and smelling just like a boy. Take that, cliche! I am a grass-mowing girl!
(Sidenote: I see women, ALL the time, mowing their yards. So believe me, I am well aware that this is not any kind of huge female accomplishment. I only mean that it's an accomplishment for me, as I have always been completely clueless to the process.)
Anyhow. I get my little red gas container filled up, drive back home, refill the mower, and begin the rope-pulling, mower-starting process. Surely I'll be quicker at that now that I am so experienced, right? Well, it's still taking me forever, and actually the rope won't even pull but I figure out you can't be on an angle or it doesn't work...so I straighten out, start pulling my rope, and hear "Elise? Hey Elise! Is Cody not around?" It's my neighbor Scott, the reigning Lawn and Landscape King of our subdivision, and so I stop yanking on the rope and give a little laugh and try to explain that I am attempting to mow for the experience, and to do something nice for Cody. Scott turns to survey my progress as I'm explaining, and as I look at the freshly-mowed lawn through his eyes, I start to see less "yay, mission accomplished, shorter grass!" and more "super crooked lines with random patches of long grass in between". Scott, whose lawn is never anything short of pristine, looks somewhat horrified. I think we can be pretty confident that he won't be asking me to mow for him anytime soon.
He's a super nice guy though, and as I ask him if he doesn't think it's just awful that I've never mowed a lawn before, he placates me with a story about how his wife hasn't ever planted a plant. Now I know this is A) probably not true and B) a story just to make me feel better, but the truth is, even if his wife WANTED to plant a hundred plants, Scott would have that whole project diagrammed, engineered, and perfected to the point where all she would need to do is dig the actual hole over the pre-measured X Scott had drawn in the dirt, drop the plant in, and walk away. He's seriously a landscaping ninja. Cody and I are...not so much ninjas with the landscaping. We're more like landscaping sloths, lazy and producing a lawn full of clumsy attempts at passable neighborhood standards. So it's not like I'm totally ruining this gorgeous green heaven Cody's slaved over, but in glancing back at my crooked stripes, it's clear I'm not really adding anything to the overall effect, either.
But like I said, Scott's nice, and so to save me from my (probably palpable) embarrassment, he walks over to the side of a small hill we share and pulls on this coat-hanger looking wire that is sticking out of a little mound of dirt. Suddenly my nasal canal (which is notoriously sensitive anyway) is filled with the most rancid, gag-inducing smell I have ever encountered. And on the end of this wire, this coat-hanger thing that Scott's just pulled out of the ground, is a dead, rotting gopher.
"Huh," Scott says. "Look at that."
I'm having a hard time looking anywhere else, because this rotted half-corpse is crawling, absolutely CRAWLING, with the hugest maggots I've ever seen.
"Wow," I say, trying my best not to gag and run away. "Are those...um...are those maggots?"
"Yup," says Scott, as he kind of shakes the wire, flinging giant maggots and gopher particles into the air.
I honestly don't remember exactly what happened next, except that it involved me making some excuse about having to go inside so Lydah (who wasn't the least bit interested in the gopher corpse) wouldn't try to eat it or anything. Scott was saying something about how he should have checked that trap earlier, and I was saying yeah, sure, I'll bet, I'll be back in a minute...and then I ran inside with the dog and slammed the door behind me.
As I sat on the floor, just inside the doorway, I took a deep breath and exhaled. Gone was the stench of rotting, maggot-ridden, rodent corpse. In its place was Downy, and laundry detergent, and the basil I have growing in a pot on my windowsill. I wiped the sweat off my forehead, looked at Lydah (who was giving me a look loosely translated as "are you kidding me with that jab about me EATING that nasty thing?") and thought, not for the first time, that I'm glad Girl World is my natural habitat.