We are working on the house.

Well, I say "we" … Let me rephrase that. J is working on the house. She's been painting all weekend. The bathrooms (1). Me? I've been taking her to B&Q to buy the paint and making her the odd cup of tea.

She knows better than to ask me to help. She can see the evidence of the last time I tried to paint whenever she goes into the back room. A wall painted red in a mad moment of inspiration and perspiration. That's wall, singular. I never got to the rest. I only finished that one. And even then, "finished" is maybe too authoritative a word to describe my frankly pitiful efforts. It's finished in the same way the Sagrada Familia is finished (2). This ability to arse up things is another example of my learned helplessness, J says. She thinks I pretend I can't do things so I don't have to do things.

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Well, maybe there's some truth in that. But I think it's more to do with the fact I'm an ageing new man who is good (or at least OK) at all those metrosexual skills, you know - washing up, washing, ironing, talking to the kids, loosening lids, telling J if her skirt is tucked into her knickers - but seriously lacking in more old-fashioned man skills (3).

And there's another thing. I know that deep down she really likes this stuff. Or at least likes the sense of achievement she feels at the end of it. When we somehow manage to build a chest of drawers from Ikea she is positively glowing when we hammer the last bit of MDF on to the back. Me, I'm just thinking: "Glad that's over." I get no pleasure from the process or the finished item. The only sense of achievement I ever feel is when I make one of my veggie chillis (mostly because I like the taste more than anyone else) or successfully record a movie on Film 4. That's the extent of my abilities.

And so I've spent the past couple of days guiltily lounging on the couch aware that J is usurping what should be my traditional position in the home. Part of me thinks this might be a great example for our daughters.

"Look," J could say, "look at men. They're useless. Everything you do in life you will have to do by yourself."

But it's not an example I'm particularly proud of. I am allowing myself to be emasculated when it comes down to it.

And the terrible truth is I'm too lazy to do anything about it.

On Sunday night J calls me through to look at her handiwork. "Looks great," I say. I don't want to mention that she has missed a bit.


[1] Yes, plural. Don't get too jealous. You haven't seen the size of them.

[2] It's not.

[3] Apart from hammering nails in. I'm ace at that.