Last night, I stopped at a gas station to fill my tank with petrol and get my sour gummy worm fix. At the pump next to me was a very well groomed man, in khaki pants, a button down shirt and a distraught expression, standing next to a Mini Cooper. He was very upset. I overheard him saying “I just wish they’d hurry up and get here. It’s been like, forever,” to someone on his cell phone. Initially, I felt sorry for him and looked for signs of damage on his shiny, red, petite vehicle. I thought maybe he’d been in an accident and was shaken by the events. I started pumping my gas and accidentally made eye contact. Once I did this, I felt obligated to express concern for his traumatic situation and offer assistance. “Are you Ok?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just waiting for the AAA guy to get here; it’s been an hour since I called them. My car won’t start,” he replied nearly in tears. “I put the key in, and it won’t do anything, I hope it’s not anything serious”. At this point, against my will, my demeanor changed from sympathetic to disgusted.
This was not a young man; I’d say he was in his 40’s. He was not driving a car that is normally issued as a rental. It had Florida tags on it, so I determined that he lived here and wasn’t just visiting. We don’t have a superior public transportation system here in Florida, so if you want to go anywhere…you have to drive. He didn’t have an accent, so I assumed he wasn’t recently transplanted from a foreign location where bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation. What I’m getting at is…the dude had seen a car before. You don’t have to be a Master Mechanic to troubleshoot what was wrong with the vehicle. “Your battery is dead,” I said, wanting to laugh at him. “I have cables in my car, I can give you a jump,” I offered, half-heartedly, stopping myself from demanding he turn in his man card in exchange for my assistance. “Thanks! Been driving my whole life, I’ve never been good with cars,” he admitted. “I can see that,” I said as I went to the rear of my car to get jumper cables.
It was at this point that the AAA guy showed up, he was covered in tattoos and grease. When he exited his truck, he came over to us and started talking to me. “It won’t start? Pop the hood and I’ll take a look, honey. I bet it’s the battery.” “Women. They never have cables. Right, buddy?” the AAA guy joked with the owner of the car, wrongly assuming that I was the damsel in distress. “Oh, good. You’re finally here. I was just about to get my cables. You heard him. Pop the hood, honey,” I said to the guy in the Dockers, openly laughing. “Oh, this is your car?” he said to the girly man. “At least it’s not a Miata,” I blurted out, again, unable to hide my amusement. The AAA guy and I were getting quite a kick out of this situation at the girly man’s expense, but he seemed to be oblivious to the ribbing. His phone rang, “Oh, it’s my wife”. As he answered, the AAA guy and I questioned simultaneously “You have a wife?” surprised that there was a female in his life. “That poor woman married a dope,” I thought. Having had enough of this blatant display of un-masculine behavior, I bid both men a good night and got in my car to escape.
This may be a sexist thing to say; but there are certain things I expect a man to be able to do. No, it’s not that bringing home the bacon thing…even though I love bacon and would welcome anyone bearing gifts of smoked hog with open arms. I believe in equality and would not expect anyone I set up house with to pull more weight than I do. I’m liberated; I can take out my own garbage, use a shoe to kill a bug, start a lawn mower and change a tire. If I can do these things, I think my mate should be able to also. My father is to blame for teaching me most of these skills, except the lawn mower thing, credit for that goes to Google.
I’ve been to charm school, believe it or not. I was shown the tasks that society thinks female members of society should master. I can navigate my way around a kitchen, balance in stilettos, apply make-up and talk about my emotions with the best of ‘em…whether or not I choose to do these things is, simply that, a choice. Someone took the time to show me how to do these things, just in case I needed to be well-rounded. While make-up and walking in high-heels is not a life skill needed by everyone, you should be able to prepare food and express yourself.
I never thought I had preconceived notions about gender roles, but I guess I do. I had a female neighbor, when I lived on my own, that would knock on my door at all hours of the night and ask me to come eliminate whatever creepy crawly had set up shop in her kitchen. For the record, I’m not a murderer. I would hate for someone to bludgeon me to death because I got lost and wandered into somewhere I wasn’t invited, so I have learned to overcome my fear of bugs and catch and release, whenever possible. I would assist her, mostly because I thought it was funny. As far as I know, insects have never been responsible for home invasion style robberies, they don’t carry guns and the fact that she was 1000 times larger than this insect that sent her running from her home… seemed insane to me. But, I also helped her because I figured no one had ever expected her to perform pest control duties on her own. I never openly in mocked her like I did the guy at the gas station. Why I thought it was acceptable for her to be incapable of managing certain aspects of her life, but ostracized the guy…I can’t thoroughly explain.
My son seemed to exit the womb with a predetermined knowledge of cars and football. I thought it was just a boy thing to do, but I guess it was more environmental than anything else. By the time he could speak, he could visually identify the make and model of most of the cars on the road. Looking back, it was information I encouraged him to absorb. As I come from a long line of football fans and car enthusiasts and I was raised in a house where there was a male majority, I tend to relate better to male centered activities. Whether you’re trying to or not, you teach your kids what you know. I guess, if I had a bunch of sisters…my son might be hosting tea parties.
My behavior at the gas station last night surprised me. Was I being a chauvinist or just expecting someone to be self-sufficient? I sometimes advise my son to be a “man” when he starts to cry after a non-injury inducing fall, or is trying to work up the nerve to jump from a high point on the swing set. Would I do the same thing if he had been born a she? Shouldn’t everyone be encouraged to be a man, if by man, we mean rational and fearless?
He, along with everyone else that sits behind the wheel of a car, should have a basic understanding of automotive maintenance. It’s just responsible- and will keep him from being stranded in the dark, waiting for AAA to show up. Maybe, I should change my tune to “be a human” so that he doesn’t think that the male species is the only one capable of taking care of themselves?