In was early in my marriage when I asked my wife if she would fix a split seam in a pair of my pants. She happily indicated that she would and left the room. As I waited for her to return with her sewing kit, I thought to myself how fortunate it was that at least one of us could sew. When she came into the room holding a stapler in one hand and my pants in the other, I knew that the fine art of sewing did not exist at all in our new family.

I have had only two direct confrontations with sewing in my lifetime. Once, with a college student's reckless abandon, I tried to sew a button on a shirt. After drawing enough blood to require a transfusion, I attached the button. It stayed on for 18 seconds before falling on the floor and rolling under the couch, never to be seen again.

The other time was when I helped my sister remove her sewing machine from the trunk of my car, and pulled a muscle in my back. I retired from sewing after that.

Once I thought that sewing was rather like touch typing: It only looks impossible, until you know how to do it. The difference, though, is that at least you can plainly see how a typewriter functions. I have studied a sewing machine for minutes and still cannot figure out how it can put thread in one side of a piece of fabric and push it back out from the other side without ripping the garment to shreds. It defies the laws of nature, and so I classify it with other nature-defying activities I avoid, such as flying, eating snails and watching an entire stock-car race.

As a bachelor, I could play helpless and get women to mend rips or sew on buttons. Now that I'm married, this approach no longer works. Since my wife learned the stapler school of sewing at the hands of her mother, and since my sister lives 300 miles away, I have three remaining options.

One is to have the sewing done by a professional. I don't think many independent tailors still operate their own shops today; they probably went the way of the watch-repair shop and lunch counters that made real melted milks. I could take the clothing to a department store, but unless you bought the merchandise there you're treated with the disdain you thought was exclusive to real-estate agents faced with someone looking for a $70,000 home in Georgetown. Then there is the dry cleaner, but I find it hard to believe that any place that can lose my shirts can have been blessed with the ability to sew.

Option two is to make a serious, wholehearted attempt to learn to sew. After all, I learned how to touch type and operate a toaster oven. But I suspect that any such attempt could only come after years of psychotherapy to remove any mental block.

Last is the no-fuss option: Simply give or throw away the ripped clothes and buy replacements. It's good for the economy, it's easy on the nerves, and it saves wear and tear on the stapler.