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I Need a Manny, Not a Boyfriend

Photograph by Twenty20

My house (er, apartment) is a constant din of whiny kids and me in a whirling dirvish gig of home maintenance to keep things looking like only a tornado (and not a tornado on top of an earthquake) hit it. It's all a blur of constant motion and chaos. I attack dirty dishes, wrestle laundry piles and re-heat mac 'n' cheese. I stomp around in a perpetual state of exasperated exhaustion.

So when my boyfriend, Manboy X, plays the role of a nurturer while I'm too busy being unattractive and wench-like to even chat, it of course feels like a dream-come-true for any single mom. Finding myself now with more hands around the house is like tripping over a vat of Botox with a sign that says "take me, I'm free."

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That being said, I realized this past week that I may be falling in love with the hands more than the man. It's not that the man is not fall-in-love-able, it's just that those hands really get in the way of me seeing him clearly. I imagine it's like a dude who meets a "perfect 10." How is he not constantly blinded by her body? How can he ever really get beyond that to truly know if it's an authentic match? This is what extra hands are to a single mom.

I had this revelation while away on a job. My boyfriend, embracing his true uber-helpful nature, offered to assist with picking up son AJ (5 years old) at 6:45 a.m. from my ex-husband's apartment (who has to be at work at 7 a.m.) and take him to pre-school. Later that same morning, the ex-hubs texted Manboy X something had come up at work and could he please pick AJ up from school, to which Manboy X said no prob. Upon my return there was assistance needed on a trip to IKEA to haul back bunk beds, AND later that day when a fan was to be installed by a dude outside of Home Depot, Manboy X insisted he oversee the situation while there was a stranger in my house.

If I could pay to outsource everything, would the relationship be different?

He is selfless and fantastic with both me and my kids and will do anything for us. He is like a Summa Cum Laude of Mannys with a Ph.D. in generosity and big-heartedness. I bet this is why Heidi Klum fell in love with her Manny. Or Ethan Hawke and his nanny. Or Robin Williams. When someone is this skilled in caretaking, how can you not want to turn that Summa Cum Laude into a make me Cumma So Loudly? It's intoxicating. A natural nurturer is Catnip for a parent. We need care-taking, our kids need care-taking, and these personalities are so seductive.

The only problem is, Manboy X was my boyfriend first, not my Manny. Our relationship has been a major turning point for me. My default position with men has always been martyrdom. I never ask for help (can do it myself), state my needs ("don't have any") and am always self-sufficient (watch me throw this electric drill around). But something changed with Manboy X. The more his nurturing side came out and the more he offered help, the more I saw how it made him feel good to provide it and the more I said, "Yes." For the fist time ever I could really count on a man to show up for me.

Then my deep (dark, twisted) psyche started to de-romanticize Manboy X when this way more valuable "Manny Knight" persona started to appear. Soon that was all I wanted. Manboy Knight was amazing at helping me do things I would never have asked for help with (buying a dryer, installing a swing). I have always been the "man" and the "woman"in my house. But Manboy Knight wanted to play the man's role and I let him.

It suddenly all became clear. This dynamic is way more valuable to me right now than romantic love. I really don't need a boyfriend. I just need a Manny.

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I am not sure what's going to happen to me and Manboy X and if I'm falling in love only with Manboy X's inner Manny. My friends tell me, "No, Em, this isn't what a manny does; it's what a man does. You've just never had it, so it feels like a paid position."

If that's the case, I have a lot of adjusting to do, but I can't help but wonder what it would be like for us if I had a paid manny, nanny or babysitter a few days a week, a housekeeper, a tutor and an athletic coach. If I could pay to outsource everything, would the relationship be different? Sometimes I feel so trapped by the limitations of my life that it's impossible to see anything or anyone clearly—especially ManboyX/Manny.

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