Women and Men: From Tragedy to Farce in Three Acts

ACT ONE: Life is grim these days, but I try not to be a whiner. After all, who likes a woman who plays the gender card every 10 minutes?

So I sit through the relentless sexist barrage from the Republican Party, with all their knee-slapping jokes about gals and aspirins and birth control, their fervent libertarianism except when it comes to government control over women’s bodies, their grin-and-bear it advice when it comes to pregnancy from rape.

In fact, listening to them, I wonder if the whole GOP isn’t dedicating itself to repealing the 21st century, along with the latter half of the 20th? I wonder, too, looking at all their righteous, authoritarian, white male faces, what they know about women — or men who are different from them. Do we really scare them so much?

(Intermission: an interlude during which mixed beverages may be consumed, legs may be stretched, the first act forgotten)

ACT TWO: Sometimes, she wonders about men and cars. Take these two men she knows — quite well, in fact — who are father and son.

The son is driving a car that has gone from gently used to full-blown jalopy status in a matter of years. She knows this, since she rode home from the airport with him, sitting quietly and uncritically in the backseat. The back tires squeaked and squawked and trilled, and the backseat was just as comfortable as your average wagon train.

Admittedly, she doesn’t know much about cars. No, let’s be frank: She is a moron about cars. But she has opinions about them. Such as, cars should have shock absorbers, dammit.

She mentions this to the father, who promises to talk to the son. It’s a safety hazard, she tells the father. He nods noncommittally. He promptly “forgets” to talk to the son till she reminds him another 29 times.

Finally, the father has a talk with the son. He mumbles all kinds of things about “Mom’s getting all excited about your car” and “why don’t you get it fixed and make her happy?”, accompanied by shrugs and eye-rolls and “you know how excitable women are” glances.

It’s the kind of guy-talk that would have infuriated her years ago. These days, she doesn’t care that much. She thinks they can call her excitable, they can roll their eyes, they can shrug their shoulders — and it really doesn’t matter that much. All she really cares about is that her kid is in a safe car and she’s done everything she can.

After that — well, you know what? There is no after that.

ACT THREE: Parking is a blood sport in Austin. Fine. We all moved here, we can live with it, no big deal.

But then, the city traffic planners decided to improve parking. On busy streets, they changed the normal parking spots to back-in parking. You see a space, you put your car in reverse, you back in. Voila! How hard could it be?

You want my opinion? It’s murder.

I have tried it. Once. I spent a good five minutes backing up, almost sideswiping another two cars, swearing, fretting, sputtering, backing up again with the same results, pretending I’d changed my mind and really, after all, did not need to park since I was a neurosurgeon who was being paged by the hospital and it was an emergency and I needed to save someone’s life. I drove off in a shame spiral, in utter defeat.

Since then, I’ve been complaining to my husband that the whole back-in parking idea was a male vendetta against women. “Have you ever heard any women say they like it?” I demanded over and over while he pretended he was busy. “No, you haven’t — because women hate it!” I said. (Sometimes you have to answer for your spouse.)

Anyway, we were having dinner with our friends John and Helen, and when I raised the dilemma, John assured me I was right.

“It’s because women,” John proclaimed, “hate to go in reverse.”

I sat over my chardonnay, contemplating his wisdom, savoring it.

Women hate to go in reverse. Pithy, profound, true. Women want to go forward, not backward.

Get it, traffic planners?

Get it, Republican Party?

No — let me answer for you, as well. No, you don’t and you couldn’t care less.

P.S. Speaking of going in reverse, that may also be true of my headline. I have no idea whether this blog post goes from tragedy to farce or farce to tragedy. Sometimes, it’s so hard to tell them apart.

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)

See a loosely related post on how to talk to women so they don’t get offended and beat you up



22 comments… add one
  • jsh Link

    You know what they say: Voting is just like shifting gears. To go forward: D. To go backward: R.

  • I learned this convoluted tip from Mom when I was 16, “It’s easy to drive in reverse. Just don’t look in the read-view mirror! Then you’ll have nothing to explain, when your father gets home. After all, you didn’t SEE anything!” Well, she made it through the Depression with everything intact!

  • Steve Link

    On behalf of husbands and fathers and sons, let me say this: “Ouch.” And then, on reflection, “There she goes again.”

  • This is genius!

  • I’ll always take the drive-through parking spot, so that my tired Jeep Cherokee is pointed in the right direction when I want to leave. It doesn’t like to go in reverse either.

  • My husband is an avid backer inner. His father was a firefighter who used to have to back fire trucks into the firehouse and therefore all his children were taught from day one how to back in. When we go to Target, he backs in the spot. He says he prefers to pull out. So what does that say about men?

  • Sheryl Link

    You’ve got to pity me, too, the only female in a house of all males ( save the mute old dog). Eye rolling is a sport. I’m used to it, but love them regardless. And I can even see it with the eyes in the back of my head!

  • I don’t like to back into a space either. Which is funny because if I front in, then I must back out. Reverse has to happen at some point. But I don’t mind backing out. It’s just not the same and I don’t know why.

  • Oh those show-offs that back into parking spaces voluntarily. We have one short street in Tucson that has that parking and it is near the University campus. Maybe those young people have better hand-eye coordination? Or they just want to be positioned for a quick getaway?

  • merr Link

    I long for the day when there were only 2 debates! I think there are about 20 of them now, and nothing means anything. Sad and disappointing.

  • You won’t mind if I steal the line “Women want to go forward, not backward” when my husband makes fun of my preference for pull-through parking spots, right? As for those buffoons referenced in Act One, I’d say it’s a farce, but that implies I could laugh at their antics.

  • Yes, and that just supports the theory that women should rule the world.

  • What bothers me is the incredible amounts of money that are being wasted by the clowns mentioned in Act One with pompous debates so numerous I lost count a long time ago. I’m quite sure the situation would be very different if women were in charge. As you say, we go forward, not backward.

  • Women don’t want to go in reverse. What a wise man. Love that line. Think I may nab it and put it to good use too. Thanks Ruth.

  • bonehead Link

    Ruth, I really believe you should add “playwright” to your resume, if it’s not already there. This was wonderful! You hit some great points, and there is one that I think deserves more exploration. What about the wives, daughters and female supporters of the “righteous, authoritarian, white male (not always, don’t forget J.C. Watts) jackasses. I’m mean these guys are a given. They’re the same ol’ boys that want us to go back to the original Constitution (slaves, women and poor people in their place). What’s with the “The Stepford Wives” that support them? What’s different about their brain and your brain? I like your brain.

  • I lose all sense of spatial awareness when I look over my shoulder in the car to back up. My husband finds it HILARIOUS. This, among other reasons, is why I’m terrible at parallel parking … or really anything other than regular parking lot parking. You see, I grew up in the suburbs, where if you’re nice enough to spend $$ somewhere, they are nice enough to provide free, simple parking (close by).

  • After managing a horse farm for 15 years and learning how to drive a ridiculous pickup with horse trailer attached(filled with horses kicking the &$@”out of the trailer) I got over the fear of parking and backing up a car. I do not recommend it as a training method as the fear factor is extreme, but is is effective!

  • This is one of the best posts I think I’ve read! I also like one of your commenters: D for forward and R for reverse!

  • I’m not a talented reverse parker either–there’s a building in NY that still bares a scar to prove it. Like Casey, I think I need to swipe your line

  • I had such a strong drink after Act I, that I avoiding going in reverse and am determined to replace the tires on my car. This week!

  • thomas goggin Link

    Loved your tie-in of the Reps. repealing the 21th century and part of the 20th and parking in reverse,especially when it’s unnecessary. I don’t know if you saw or heard the man who put his dog on the roof for a long drive to Canada’s speech after his Ohio victory, but I think it’s the best example of the whole campaign for all these fellows. It was a clinic on being boring and one long, empty cliche that would be hard to surpass. That he could elected president of this country this year is a tough thing to swallow. There is certainly something really wrong going on here. tomg

  • What made me wait so long to read this?

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