The Star Wars fans who need to grow up

What the hell would anyone do with a three metre-long, 2.7m-wide home-made Star Wars space ship that’s not waterproof?

I’ll find out soon when the winner of my husband’s Trade Me auction comes to pick it up. The x-wing featured on the site’s 'cool auctions' space and by close time had attracted more than 46,000 views. And thanks to what I stupidly thought was innocuous wording on the sale blurb, it delivered me a sharp reminder that there are many, many women-hating blokes out there.

My husband makes models in his spare time. It started off small, making battleships for our military-hardware obsessed child, while I worked night shift. Then our little boy moved on to Thunderbirds and the model building up-scaled.

The object that sparked it was a beer barrel in the basement. “I thought, ‘that looks like the base of Thunderbird 3’,” he told me. (Who thinks that? You’re a grown man! This is what happens when you spend too much time watching TV with your children.)

Anyway out of the garage came Thunderbirds 3 and 1, metres-high rockets constructed from found objects, including bits and pieces he rescued from building sites on his day job. I got used to carefully wiggling the lawn mower out around newly-glued bits of couplings, fins and nozzles.

It’s quite chilling when a fun project based on a universally loved movie exposes an underbelly of middle aged men who haven’t evolved.

Every time we went shopping he was seeing the shapes of further models (“I could cut that ball in half and it would make a great Death Star!”) Household objects went missing in the quest for a perfect part to glue in the cockpit or on the afterburner.

He’s been a Star Wars fan since the first movie screened in 1977 so there was a certain inevitability in what came next. A Star Destroyer, complete with internal lights that kept going on the blink, and constant complaints from the child that Dad had stolen his die-cast model and wouldn’t give it back. That went to a fan who hung it over his billiard table, the money sent to Starship.

And then, in 2015, the biggest challenge yet – the X-wing fighter. (“Because it was difficult.”) The joy when we tossed out an old computer and he found inside – cockpit model parts! The frustration as I couldn’t get to the Christmas decorations because there was a space ship in the way. Actual time spent thinking about the detail and pouring over plans – real plans, you would not believe the extreme lengths Star Wars fans have gone to explore and expand this universe – was wildly disproportionate to time spent building it.

However this year the finishing dab of paint went on and he decided to sell it. Since he can’t remember his Trade Me password and was busy working, he asked me to put it online. Our eldest son whipped out his drone and took some pretty cool pictures. I couldn’t get hold of hubby to OK the wording so I winged it ... chucking in the phrase “took four years to build and now it's finished, wife wants it gone” and cheerfully asserting that visitors and time wasters were welcome to take a look.

Most of the more than 90 questions and comments on the site came from Star Wars fans in awe of his handiwork. But there were a disturbing number urging him to jettison the wife, encase me in carbonite or build a Dalek and lock me up in it. Awkward, when I was the one answering those questions on his behalf … I had unintentionally designed a torpedo that boomeranged on me. Curse my clever turns of phrasing … I was not the marketer I was looking for. Some were funny and gentle but others – that I refused to answer – were downright nasty. It’s quite chilling when a fun project based on a universally loved movie exposes an underbelly of middle aged men who haven’t evolved.

"I've found a good way to keep the missus quiet, is to freeze her in carbonite and use it as your modelling desk."

"Sell the wife." 

"Did you consider getting rid of the wife instead??" 

"Echo Base this is Rogue 2. Jettison the wife into hyperspace. Repeat. Jettison the wife into hyperspace."

"I would say X-Wing wants wife gone and list her for $1 res."

"Buy a lawn mower and sell the mrs's." 

"The Death Star must be next .... clever you are, move her to the shed we will build next project in the lounge??"

I asked my husband what he thought about that. “You asked for it because you wrote it!” he said. “You can’t put that on social media and not get comments – I knew you would!”

My husband is a plasterer and doesn’t have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or anything else – his diary is still a book and his phone is tradesman-tough stone aged. I am a journalist used to using social media to promote my stories. But the barbs sent my way were unexpected and still hurt. The reality of anonymous commenting is that yes, maybe I did ask for it. But is it too much to hope for a world in which that’s not the automatic response to a light-hearted comment?

The auction closed at $355, which he was happy with. It’s the construction that gives him pleasure – gluing two random objects together so they look like something else. The appreciative comments are the cream on his project.

But when he wants to get rid of the next model he can take out his typing finger and list it himself. It’s going to be a TIE fighter. I don’t know which one that is, but I know it’s going to take up a lot of room.

Early efforts ... Thunderbirds are gone. Photo: Alexia Russell

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