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