When I was young and would ask for help putting together a new toy, my dad would smile and say, “Ineptitude is not an attractive quality.”  At the time, I didn’t truly grasp the meaning of the definition of “ineptitude”… I just knew that if these words came out of my dad’s mouth, it meant that I was putting together my new toy on my own.  In retrospect, I was never on my own.  My dad was always just around the corner and, if I truly needed help, after I had truly put in the effort, my dad would teach me how to correctly finish my project.

As I grew, the mantra was repeated.

“Dad, how do I find ‘x’ in this equation?”
“Kiki, you can figure it out… ineptitude is not an attractive quality.”

“Dad, do you know where the Band-aids are?  How deep is a cut that needs stitches?”
“Old girl {don’t worry, it’s a term of endearment}, you’re fine… ineptitude is not an attractive quality.”

“Dad, does the car have enough oil in it?  I want to go on a road trip this weekend.”
“Daughter, why don’t you go and check it? Ineptitude is not an attractive quality.”

You get the idea.  And, soon, so did I.  It took awhile  {I earned straight A’s in math…. learned to butterfly bandage a deep cut on my own… and now know my way around a car}, but I then thought I realized the lesson my dad was trying to teach me.  And so I approached him with my theory.

“Okay, dad,” I began, “I figured it out.  Your generation was different… Women could rely on the institution of marriage.  They could rely on the man’s income and skill to be taken care of.  Nowadays, divorce is rampant and a woman has to be able to stand on her own.  Also, men aren’t into the same submissive, brainless types that permeated the 50s.  So…” I paused, feeling triumphant, “That’s why you tried to instill in me that ineptitude was not an attractive quality! Right?”

He laughed and smiled, the corners of his sage eyes crinkling a bit.  “Not really, Kiki.  I just think you are special and beautiful.  I won’t always be here to help you {that part made me get teary}.  This life is only truly yours when you can take care of yourself.  When you rid yourself of the inability to help yourself, or ineptitude, the world becomes a larger, more accessible, and more wonderful place.  You will feel confident navigating this world and setting the rules and boundaries for your own life.  And, yes, that strength and independence will attract the right kind of man; the kind that appreciates, encourages, and values your will… and respects your right to your own life.  So I suppose what I mean is that ineptitude is not an attractive quality to the right kind of people: those who value confidence and strength, the type of people that you should be associating with.”

I realized that I had much to learn… and so the discussion continued for numerous hours.  Here is the Cliff’s Notes version of some of the more powerful points my father made.

First, a definition.  Ineptitude {n}: 1. unskillfulness resulting from a lack of training 2. having no qualities that would render it valuable or useful {so, to avoid being inept, one must have a skill set that comes from training or preparation and it is only then that they will have qualities that render them valuable and useful.  And, yes love, you want to be valuable and useful.  These are the reasons {thanks to my wise papa} exactly why you want to be anything but inept.

1. People are Rarely There to Help When You Need Them. When I first heard my father say this, I was immediately defensive.  “Dad! You’re wrong.  People are generally good…” He cut me off.  That was not what he meant.  What he meant was that when the blender broke, a car tire went flat, or my computer broke down, I would likely not have someone directly at my side at that moment.  I would likely be alone.  He wanted me to be able to feel calm, confident, and able when a stressful situation arose.  He stressed the importance of being able to “stand on [my] own two feet.”  For it is only then that a person becomes able; and being able means that an individual can make an impact {see number 3}.  You, Cupcake, should be able to stand firmly on your own two {pedicured/perfect/adorned with adorable high heels} feet.  You and I both know {and, apparently, so does my father} that you are more than able… and you were born to make an impact.

2. You Must be Able to Take Care of Yourself to Truly Take Care of Others. This is a total and complete truth.  For the full truth, read this article: “It’s Your Life, Too.”  My father is infinitely wise.  If, at some point, something scary/unpredictable/random happens and it involves your friend/family member/husband/boyfriend/child and you are the only person there to help them… but you are not a capable person {you are, instead, a sadly inept person}… how are you to help them?  You will likely crumble under the stress of the situation if you are not prepared.  You will not be prepared if you have not learned to first deal with stressful situations as they pertain to you as an individual.  You are, in a word: inept.  This is certainly not an attractive quality to people around you as they cannot rely on you or feel safe or trust you.  Ineptitude diminishes your value to others and your value in a relationship.  Also, ineptitude causes stress… which causes wrinkles {and not the happy smile/laugh-line type of wrinkles}… and you, sweet thing, do not want to muddy up your face {which is a woman’s story} with stress induced lines.

3. More Opportunites Await Those Who are Able. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that more opportunities are created by those who are able.  Someone who feels confident enough to take on the world alone and feels that they can handle what the world throws their way will not hesitate to do something courageous.  It is only through preparation {or being adept as opposed to being inept} that one is courageous; and it is only through being courageous that one is able to make a meaningful impact on the world {as everything cowardly and easy has already been done}.  It takes a courageous {prepared and able} woman to chase her dream, start a business, present an idea, create something, or make any kind of meaningful contribution to her own life, the lives of those around her, and the world.  Living without courage is like living half-asleep.  Ineptitude results in a nothing more than a half-lived life.

4. Until You are Independent and Happy On Your Own {Adept}, You Will Not Experience Genuine Love. You’ve heard it before, “You can’t love someone else until you truly love yourself.”  Guess what? It’s true.  It is a similar concept to not being able to take care of another individual unless you can take care of yourself, but it is slightly different.  The difference is this: loving yourself means valuing yourself, respecting yourself, acknowledging your right to a full/adventurous/fabulous/varied life, and feeling confident in exactly who you are {even that “who” changes daily… exploring the different facets of yourself is a part of loving yourself}.  To do this, you must be an adept individual who is prepared, confident, and knows her self-worth.  You have to allow yourself to be exactly who you are and to be adept, not inept, at living as yourself, as an independent individual, before you can allow someone else to truly love you.  If you do not know yourself, you cannot expect someone else to know/love you.  In fact, it is impossible because not knowing yourself means that your true able/informed/prepared/explorative self is lying dormant.  Love is not something that lies dormant; love is something constant and yet fluid, true and piercing, and exciting.  Love does not survive in a dormant environment; it can only be smothered there.  You must be complete, able to navigate this wondrous/crazy/inexplicable world, before you can navigate the world of love.

5. A Man Who Wants a Weak Woman is a Weak Man; a Weak Woman {One Who is Inept} Will Inevitably End Up with a Weak Man. A weak man is one who is limited, both in perspective and ability, and who therefore limits the perspective and ability of his partner.  To limit the ability of his partner, he must find someone who he can control.  A woman who can be controlled usually has a somewhat low self-esteem and almost no trust in her ability to take care of or provide for herself.  She believes {consciously or sub-consciously} that she will find someone to give her life direction and meaning.  This can cause a woman to end up with a man that take the scope of her potential life experience and limits it to a life experience that is controlled and, therefore, restricted and incomplete.  This was one of my father’s greatest fears… that either of his two daughters would ever allow themselves to be controlled by a Weak Man; a man who would limit their right to a full and varied life.    An adept woman, one who removes all traces of ineptitude from her life, is a strong woman.  A Strong Woman recognizes her right to a fabulous life in which she makes the decisions for herself, in which she sets her own rules and boundaries, and in which she controls the scope of her life experience.  A Strong Man, one who is confident, secure, and able, will be attracted to this type of a woman.  A Strong Man will settle for nothing less than a Strong Woman.  A Strong Woman knows that she has the power to make the decision of allowing the Strong Man to be a part of her life {as he is able to make the same decision in regard to her being a part of his} and the two strong and adept people expand one another’s life scope as the other’s strength and adeptness makes the partnership much stronger.

A couple of months ago, I was setting up a surround sound stereo system and I found myself tangled in about one hundred wires.  I took a deep breath and thought, “Ineptitude is not an attractive quality.”  After a few hours and a permanent crease in my brow from the furrowing I had done while peering at directions that must have been written in Korean, I was untangled and my sound system was fully {and correctly} wired.

When I finally brought my dad into the room to show him my wiring abilities, he literally beamed.  He turned to me and said, “Good job, baby.  You’ve always been this way… Remember when you were a kid and used to put together your own toys?”  I smiled… wondering if he fully grasped that it was he who had taught me independence, self-reliance, and strong will at such a young age.  I responded, “Come on, dad.  Don’t you know that ineptitude is not an attractive quality?”