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Published: Sunday, 6/18/2000

Picture-hanging isn't a project for singles

Why can't I ever find a nail? And when I do, why is it the wrong size? And, if about once a year, the nail I find is the right size, why can't I pound it straight?

Don't tell me I have to get married just to have someone around to hang the pictures. And the posters. And the doodads that I clutter up the walls with.

Nails and pounding them straight is definitely a Venus-Mars thing. Since there are so many single women now operating households, it would seem only logical that such small carpenter duties as proper nail-pounding should be included in home economics classes, or whatever they are called now. I am sure such a basic lesson would get more use than making a white sauce.

The holes in the wallpaper in my home are not an intricate design in the pattern. Nor did someone spray the rooms with a BB gun. They are nail holes that either were misjudged or changed as I decided on the location of Aunt Mildred's picture or the wicker shelf.

I have two hammers in my personal toolbox that are used for nothing else but nail-pounding. It seems as if someone would design girl tools that are pink, with sequins, and fringe, and feathers. There I go again, giving Martha Stewart an idea.

Last night, when I was re-locating the wicker shelf, I hit my thumb while trying to hold the nail tight enough so that I could pound it straight. It didn't hurt. I must be conditioned to expecting a couple of raps when the tool box is out.

I go through a lot of nails because most of them take on corkscrew shapes as I pound them, first to the left, then to the right, until the nail is so misshapen not even an ace carpenter could direct it straight.

So I get another nail, shove it in the same hole, and watch the plaster crumble. I also lose a lot of nails in the carpet. You know, it's ready, aim, hit hard. But, alas, it isn't a bull's-eye hit. The nail falls into the carpet, only to be devoured by the vacuum.

Now there is also the business of measuring to be certain the picture, or mirror, or whatever it is, is placed exactly the same distance from the two sides and centered. The people who go about picture-hanging armed with ruler and level obviously are determined that the project will be as stationary as the walls, never to be moved again.

Now fess up, women, don't you do exactly as I do?

Don't you get the hammer, a nail, and the picture and go at it, hoping that Providence will place the picture in the center? And, if it isn't quite center, don't you just pull out that nail and move it over an inch or two?

Eventually, after a few more holes in the wall, the picture looks just fine and you can sit down and have a cup of coffee and say, "Who needs a man around the house, anyway?"

Or, you can give it that old eyeball treatment. That's when you decide where the nail should go and then keep your eye on the spot as you pick up the hammer with your right hand, the nail with your left, never, never taking your eye off the spot - remembering that it is by the green leaf on the wallpaper pattern. But which green leaf?

A friend I visited recently decided it was an ideal time to hang five pictures. After all, there would be four women to decide the placement. She had purchased a package of picture hangers.

We gathered where the largest picture was to go. One woman had the tape measure. One had a notebook. One had the tools, and the fourth was the consultant.

It was tough because this particular picture was large and required two nails and hangers. That's when it is difficult; not only to find the center, but to locate two nails at the same level. That explains why so many shelves are hung whopper-jawed. Some of us just can't get the gist of complex measuring.

After about an hour, one woman suggested that her husband would be glad to help.

He said no to the picture hangers and nails we would have used, even though the package label said they were picture hangers. Instead, he insisted on driving 25 miles to find the kind of hangers that only put pin holes in the wall.

With level, ruler, and tack hammer, he hung all five pictures perfectly as we watched in awe. Then we had coffee and thought, maybe we do need a man around the house. Now, that's really hitting the nail on the head.

Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor.



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