The Power and the Glory | People & Places | Smithsonian

The Power and the Glory

She bought the electric drill to get a tidier household. Then she found out about the secret sisterhood

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When I told my friend Leslie about my new power drill, she thought I was trying to be funny. We were out walking, and I was thinking about Women's Power to Shape Our Environment and the primal satisfactions that came with attaching tiered baskets and a spice rack to my kitchen walls. "Really!" I said. "It's changed my life!"

Leslie detonated in laughter.

But why? Only a few weeks before, every square inch of floor and counter space in my house had been covered by the detritus of modern life (clothes, toys, books, foodstuffs, kitchen utensils). Acting on the basic human rage for order, I bought a Skil 3/8-inch variable-speed reversing power drill and set to work. I practiced with lower-order tasks, such as hanging the paper towel holder in the kitchen, and progressed to the tiered baskets and the spice rack. I found places to put things, and that made me feel serene. I discovered that I could make a hole in the wall without it falling down, and that made me feel...strong.

Still, Leslie's laughing bugged me. Would I be forever alone with these feelings?

Well, I am not alone. In fact, there is a whole tribe of us. We are strong. We are invincible. We are Women of the Drill.

My first intimation of this sisterhood came the next week, over coffee with my friend Linda. I had just hung an enormous wall mirror in the living room, making the space seem twice as big and myself feel, well, huge. I had to tell someone, but with Leslie in mind, I adopted a self-mocking tone when I told Linda, "Hey, I got this drill. It's changed my life."

"Yes!" Linda answered. "I know exactly what you mean!"

She knew exactly what I meant! Linda, it turned out, had been fearlessly installing light fixtures, closet rods, you name it, for decades. In no time I was sketching out ideas for projects and asking her advice.

A month or so later, I discovered that my sister-in-law Emily also had a drill—I saw it under her bathroom sink when I was looking for the toilet paper. I was so excited I carried it into the living room, heedless of the dinner party guests conversing over hors d’oeuvres. "Is this yours?" I asked—sure that it had to be, because my brother would never own such a thing. "I have one too," I said before she could answer. Our eyes locked.

"That pegboard..." I said.

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