By: Mary Fran Bontempo
IMG_0907My husband is dating a ladder.

As every woman knows, the bloom and excitement of new love lasts but a short time between a man and a woman. But between men and their tools, well, that’s a lifelong affair.

I lost Dave’s heart to a ladder about a year and a half ago, when, on our bi-weekly visit to our version of the country club, a.k.a. Costco, we happened upon a young woman performing gymnastics with a ladder. As Dave watched, fascinated, she flipped, folded and bent the thing into more positions than in the Kama Sutra. No woman could compete, and Dave wasn’t the only guy standing in the aisle transfixed and kind of drooling.

Nor was I the only woman dragging her guy away, as if steering him from a back alley behind a club on Bourbon Street.

“No. No way. If you get on that damn thing, you’ll kill yourself. That is way too much ladder for you,” I scolded. I almost added, “You’re too old for that,” but I stopped myself in time.

When guys are young, they hide stolen copies of Playboy beneath their mattresses. When they grow up, it’s tool catalogs, which are by far the bigger threat. I mean, no ordinary guy is going to wind up with a Playboy centerfold, but a titanium hammer or a ladder that extends to twelve feet, now that’s a possibility. (I could go a little off-color here and allude to any number of reasons as to why a twelve foot extension ladder appeals, but I won’t. The ladder is also called the “Little Giant.” Discuss.)

Suffice it to say, the guys have to be protected from themselves. I mean, they could really get hurt, with either the Playboy magazines or the tools. And if a guy is only a weekend warrior with a tool belt, the stakes are even higher. (Once, when Dave was debating over whether to take down an entire section of fencing or simply patch it with a new section, he asked daughter Laura’s opinion. “Well, Dad,” she said, “you’re going to hurt yourself either way, so you just need to decide if you want to get hurt taking something down or putting something up.” I almost peed myself.)

But there comes a time when you have to let your guy have some fun, and given that our back porch in O.C. needed re-screening and the ladder we were working with was literally falling apart, I relented. “Okay. You can go to Costco and get that ladder. I don’t like the idea, but it’s safer than what we have now. Just promise me you’ll take it easy with the thing, will you?”

On Friday, Dave emerged from the car grinning like the Cheshire Cat, ladder in tow. He hasn’t looked that happy since…well, let’s just say it’s been a really long time.

To ensure that he knew how to handle his new love, the manufacturers provided a DVD along with instructions that began with the heading, “Getting to Know Your Ladder,” which he poured over, fascinated.

Until, that is, he realized they were directions, an anathema to men, at which point we became a threesome as he needed me to figure out how to work the thing.

Which just goes to prove that while a guy may love his tools, he’ll always come back to a woman willing to read directions.