In November, I turned 40 and I wrote about things I know are true. A list of things I don’t know would be much longer and that’s just the things I know I don’t know. What prompted this abridged version was a discussion with my partner. We have been working on our wedding vows. When I asked him about the things he likes about me, he said a lot of sweet things, but he also pointed to my deficiencies. They make him laugh. They make me laugh too. Now. Years ago, they made me angry and they made me cry. Here are five things I don’t know.
I don’t know math.
I was a bad math student throughout my childhood and adolescence. For a long time, in college, it didn’t get better. Then I stumbled into a young teacher’s algebra class and, for the first time, I got it. Not only did I get it, I nailed it. I can still work out algebraic problems. It turns out that’s not very useful in my life. I didn’t go into the medical field or into business or become an architect or civil engineer. Nor did algebra improve my basic math skills. I can work it out on paper, but can barely add and subtract in my head. My partner laughs at my math mishaps all the time. Australians, but the way, call it maths, like the British.
I don’t know how to cook.
I have a few staples that I’m comfortable cooking, mainly Cuban dishes and a few desserts. Generally, however, I don’t know my way around a kitchen. I can follow a recipe and produce delicious results, but it takes me hours to cook. It once took me six hours to make a vegetarian lasagne. I have two main problems with cooking. One is that I can’t multitask in the kitchen. The other is that I’m impatient. I stir too much, turn up the heat too high, check it too often, remove it too soon. Cooking is a magical, alchemical mystery to me.
It took me 12 eggs to make this 5-egg omelette. Also, that’s not an omelette.
I don’t know money.
Money is this elusive thing that floats in and out of my life. I have decent spending habits and I’m never overdrawn on my accounts. I’m good about paying bills on time. However, things like budgeting, investing, interest rates, capital gains, gross things, nets… it’s another language to me, one that I do not speak nor understand. I suppose it’s the language of numbers that goes alongside not knowing math. Maths. All the maths.
I don’t know how to make things.
Needlework, jewellery-making, mosaics, pottery, decoupage, cardmaking, basket weaving… yeah, no, none of it is for me. I used to feel bad about not knowing how to make things. There’s something of a lost grandparental, rural art to this. Capitalism and consumerism have driven us away from create-repair to buy-a-new-one. I also felt that I wasn’t creative unless I could make something with my hands. I have tried a few hobbies, but I don’t derive pleasure from handicrafts and I don’t like buying and storing materials. Writing is a good art and craft for me. It doesn’t require a lot of supplies. The ideas are in the world and the words are pulled from the aether.
I don’t know how to fix things.
Toilet clogged? Leaky kitchen pipe? Replace a light switch? Nope. Luckily, I’m marrying a tradie.
Obviously, my chances of surviving the zombie apocalypse are not good. Given my astonishing lack of basic life skills, you might wonder how I even got to 40. Growing up, I had one responsibility: get good grades. I didn’t have any chores. I never had to make my bed, do my laundry, or cook myself a meal. My parents gave me a tremendous gift: the space to think, play, and explore. It came at a cost, as all things do, but it was also a great privilege and I am eternally grateful for it.
Sometimes I think that I would like to have these skills, but then the feeling passes. I mean, if I could just absorb them, I’d take it, but I’m not interested in making the effort anymore. When I was younger, I felt inept and inadequate, but I’ve gotten better at identifying which of my limitations I want to work on. I’ve also gotten better at being me and accepting my true likes and dislikes.