Throw Your Hands Up At Me.

Once upon a time, certain parenting manuals recommended good mothers and fathers keep their daughters away from high-minded books and strenuous physical activity. The former would rot girls’ brains; the latter would imperil their wombs. (I’m paraphrasing.) Let’s just say I wouldn’t necessarily have made great marriage material in mid-nineteenth century England.

For a start, I have philosophers, historians, critics and novelists from Matthew Arnold to Oscar Wilde sitting on my bookshelves, with heavy doses of Durkheim, Hobsbawm, Kierkegaard and Voltaire in between. My reading list for the summer includes some knock-outs too, like Holy Feast and Holy Fast by Caroline Walker Bynum and Foucault’s History of Sexuality.

And then there’s the annual moving adventure in which I cart, carry, haul, and heave my boxes, bags, and bric-a-brac from one apartment to another. This summer’s move (the fourth, and counting) across Madison, NJ held a new challenge: furniture assembly.

Challenge 1: The 27-step, full-size bed. It took me three hours and twenty-six minutes (if I had to estimate), after which my screwdriver needed a tune-up, my wrist needed a massage, and my new housemate was undoubtedly second-guessing my grasp of the English language. (There were plenty of “shoots” and “galldarns” emitting from the room, among other choice phrases…)  I could have sworn the pictures were in Swedish. By a minor miracle I only back-tracked twice and didn’t lose a single peg or screw or nut while I was at it. And the bed hasn’t fallen in on me yet.

Challenge 2: The “Craigslist-steal” desk. At nearly five-feet long, it was a feat to even transport the pieces in my Civic hatchback. (If you put both the back seats down and then tip the passenger seat back so it’s laying just about flat, a 1991 Honda Civic DX has almost 72″ of cargo space. Yes, I measured.) Safely back to the apartment, I had to unload the pieces that it had taken two people to put in the car. The legs, crossbeam, and drawers on wheels were no problem. The desktop, standing almost as tall as me, was another story.

Like the blackened pot I blogged about a few months ago, this was a multi-strategy operation. I tried walking with it on top of my feet, twisting it back and forth, sliding it, pushing it, lifting it…you name it, I gave it a shot. And, lo and behold, managed to inch it past the dining room table, through the living room, and into the bedroom which has become my study. (Did I breathe a prayer of thanks for first-floor living quarters? You bet I did.) I’ve reassembled the desk, too, and it hasn’t collapsed either, thank you very much. Even held my weight while I put up new brackets and rods for curtains this afternoon.

So, in good fun and celebration for my victories over instruction manuals, I blared “Independent Woman” while I finished unpacking this afternoon. Classy, yes?

I should qualify: I love interdependence and I definitely don’t just “depend on me.” I know I couldn’t have finished this move or any other without good friends, family members, and strangers helping me transport the material portions of my life from place to place. Pure independence is not only rather overrated, it’s impossible.

Still, sometimes it’s deeply satisfying to say, “I can do it myself.” And then prove I actually can.

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