On Saturday night, Mister Soandso and I were on our way home from a benefit dinner we hosted for a Ugandan relief project. While we had great fun preparing and serving the meal, afterwards we both decided we were in the mood for a margarita. We stopped at a local restaurant that serves a mean margarita and a damn fine bowl of guacamole.
I was driving my Honda Odyssey because it takes quite a bit of gear to prepare and serve a meal for 10 people. There was no way it all would have fit in the Mister’s car. As I approached the restaurant, I noticed two parking spaces across the street, separated by a parked car. As I slowed, I saw that while the first one had a large “no parking” zone ahead of it, thus making it easy to back into, there was also a Loading Zone sign in front of it. That being the case, I prepared to back into the open one between a SUV behind and a truck in front.
And then Mister Soandso and I both noticed the two men smoking cigarettes in front of the open Loading Zone parking spot. By their animated gesticulation, they were clearly of the impression that I should park in the parking spot in front of them rather than back into the space I had chosen.
The Mister took a closer look at the sign and realized it was only a loading zone during the day so I ditched the spot I was lining up to back into and pulled forward to back into the front spot.
And the men very carefully directed me into the spot. One even held his hands up to indicate just how many inches I needed to continue to back up so as to be perfectly parked in the spot.
When we got out of the van, he says, “Glad to see you finally managed to get yourself parked,” and then he smirked at his friend who laughed.
Aloud, I said, “Have a nice night.” But I thought something very different.
Namely, I can f*cking parallel park just fine without your g-d-damn help, thank you very much.
Now, maybe he’s just a really friendly guy and was filling his Good Samaritan quota for the day. Or maybe he thought that the spot I was going to parallel park in looked to be too tight for my mini-van to easily fit into and wanted to make sure I knew there was an easier spot. Or maybe he was concerned that traffic might be impacted if a car happened to turn down that street and had to wait for me.
Or maybe he figured that since I am a) a woman and b) driving a mini-van, that I needed all the help he could offer in order to park my vehicle.
I decided to not engage with him. I decide to not tell him that while I appreciated his pointing out that I could indeed park in the Loading Zone spot, I didn’t really need him to guide me. I decided to not tell him what a really insulting thing he had done. I decided to not tell him that I am actually a damn good parallel parker and have in fact taught many people how to improve their parallel parking skills. And I decided to not tell him that if you drive a mini-van, you probably learned how to park that thing in all sorts of challenging places.
But I did mention to Mister Soandso that I bet he wouldn’t have said a damn thing if Mister Soandso had been the driver.
The reason I’m still thinking about this 36 hours later isn’t because that dude is worth my time and energy. I’m still thinking about it because I can’t think of a single time in my life when I haven’t thought, either aloud or to myself, “Thanks, but I can do it myself.”
I am stubborn and head strong. But I am also the second of 3 girls and heard way too many references from my father that I was “just a girl.” He wasn’t a horrible dad, but he was in a place in both time and emotion that set us up to be at odds with one another. My father had wanted a son. It was the 70s and women had only been given the right to vote for 50 years – wage equality was as much a dream then as it continues to be today.
I could focus on the economic, political, and societal norms that exist today that cause there to be a division between men and women to the extent that a stranger might feel the need to tell a woman how to drive. But I won’t and I won’t for the same reasons I didn’t tell that man to leave me alone.
I won’t because I can’t change any of that, no matter how much I’d like to. The only thing I can do is be me and raise 2 boys to be the kind of men who know better and do better.
But what about my daughter? Have I unconsciously raised her to think like me? To think she has to be better, faster, smarter, funnier, quicker, “everything-er” more than boys and that she shouldn’t ever need help? I honestly don’t know whether to hope the answer is yes or no.
Because while I want her to be as emotionally healthy as possible, she lives in a world that doesn’t show any likelihood of truly embracing real equality any time soon. She will have to be better, faster, smarter, funnier, quicker, and “everything-er” in order to get to the same place as her brothers. And heaven knows, it is a terrible thing to feel like you have to do it all, and by yourself, in order to be successful.
I don’t know what the answer is – perhaps even why I wrote about this today. I only know that being determined to do things by myself is a deeply engrained part of my psyche. It is very hard for me to trust anyone enough to ask him/her for help. As you might imagine, this attribute hasn’t made my life any easier. But it also made me independent and adventurous. It is a dual-edged part of my life.
I guess I’m no more sorry for being prone to say “Thanks, I can do it myself” as I am for not saying anything to that man.
I am who I am and he was a most-likely drunk who wouldn’t have changed his thoughts anyway.
But for the record dude, I can parallel park my mini-van just fine without your help, you asshole.