Monday, September 9, 2013

Stick Shift

Today I was listening to Car Talk at work, as one does, and a woman called in to complain about her husband. Actually, she started by saying something like, "My husband is a really wonderful man," which you know is a bad beginning because when you genuinely admire someone you don't have to schmooze, and plus he--I mean, they--were from Colorado.

Her complaint was that he downshifts their automatic into second gear when he slows down, which is, obviously, madness. She said that this drove her crazy because it was bad for the car and that she "had to pay half the car payments." I nearly jumped out of my seat in the Fashion Pod because I thought she was going to say he would leave their automatic in gear when stopped and PULL UP THE PARKING BREAK because that's what my ex used to do, and in spite of what a docile super-trad girlfriend I was at the time, it made me want to bite pieces out of the dashboard and throw myself screaming onto the pavement.

To my great shame, I'm the only person in my family who can't drive a stick shift with ease. I learned but never really practiced. The Car Talk brothers told the Coloradan wife that not only did putting the car in second gear not hurt the car but that she should be sympathetic to Husband because men these days so often don't feel like they're useful and that was his way of feeling like he was DOING something.

Okay. My ex wasn't even driving his own car. He wasn't even driving my car. He was driving my mom's car. Nothing prevented him from buying his own car and coming to pick me up for things, but he didn't, nor was he a very good driver. This was years and years ago but I'm still thinking about it, because I have no idea why he didn't buy his own car.

And the woman who called into Car Talk. It's not about the wear and tear on the car. It's about how she has to pay half the car payments and then still be expected to put up with his manly foibles. What does she get out of this? Oh yeah, nothing, because he's not taking care of her by paying for the car himself. Maybe if he wanted to feel like a man he could have done that very basic of American male things--have a car. And that universal manly thing--pay for stuff for his wife.

I would like to know what was preventing Mr. Colorado from buying his own damn stick shift instead of expecting his wife to finance his fantasies.

All this talk about women taking over stuff men used to do is nonsense. Men just don't do the same stuff they used to do. Nothing is stopping Mr. Latin Mass from getting up going to Mass every morning or getting involved with his church, he just would rather feel sorry for himself than DO SOMETHING.

I'm a bit tipsy on a Monday, so tonight you get the unedited version. Tomorrow I will have blogger's handover, I'm sure, so enjoy it while it lasts.


  1. +JMJ+

    When you leave an automatic in gear, does that mean neutral?

    And why did your ex-boyfriend have to buy his own car when he could drive yours or your mother's? ;-) I'm not saying he was right, but it's true that when people don't take what is clearly the easy, logical next step, it's because there's a sense in which they don't have to.

    Anyway, this reminds me of one of my former friends. She never let her ex-boyfriend drive her car because she didn't like the way he drove his father's. He honestly couldn't afford to buy his own, but that was her policy.

    1. I should have said he left the car in drive, not in gear. So instead of just putting it in park, he left it in drive and pulled up the handbreak. I was trying to remember if he put it in neutral and then pulled up the handbreak, but I don' think he did.

      It's true he was able to survive without a car by relying on the kindness of others. I suppose that wouldn't have been the case if everyone he knew had taken your former friend's approach, but that seems a bit antagonistic to me. I'd rather date a guy that I wouldn't have to worry about that kind of thing with. Maybe that's an unrealistic expectation.

      This plays into my theory that men, if they're not independent, are a burden. There' no "neutral." I really think it ends up hurting women when men don't take pride in looking after themselves.

  2. It's funny. 'Men just don't do the same stuff they used to do,' reminds of an article I read a while back on the guardian website about the birth of the Women's Lib movement where a lot of the women were actually saying how what inspired them was the very fact that men's roles had changed and men no longer felt they had the responsibility that their father's had once thought was key to being fully matured adult male.

    Once you have a culture where men are even allowed to entertain the thought that having a wife and family, working the boring job to make ends meet is dehumanising, un-fun just not what a real Man should do, the shift in identity and accompanying roles ends up biting a lot of women in the back (and actually, the more I've learned about gender roles in the past and how both sexes saw marriage - check out Professor Amanda Vickery's research on Georgian society for example - I'm beginning to see this as a recurring trend: men 'stop doing what they used to' and legitimise their new roles and conduct, women react by seeking more ways to financially and legally protect themselves).

    1. Fascinating. I'll have to think about that. It sort of upends the both feminist and anti-feminist points of view.