Despite what some people think, I can drive, I’ve been doing it for years, but men seem to struggle with this notion. What is it about men that makes them want to help us with things like driving? Is it chivalry or sexism? Is it kindness or condescension? Whatever it is my reaction to it ranges from outrage to quiet resignation. They seem to feel a need to offer help I neither ask for nor need.
My house sits on the southeast corner of what is hardly an intersection, though I suppose it’s technically one. On that corner and stretching the full block to the west of that is a construction site. For the past few months, five row houses have been going up where there once was an empty lot and a small transfer station.
Whenever I am exiting my garage one of the helpful construction workers stands to the side of my garage motioning that it’s clear for me to back into the street and indicating which direction I should be rotating my steering wheel to exit the garage. The other day a guy actually stood in the middle of the street gesticulating madly in a way that was more distracting than helpful, so much so that I stuck my head out the window and asked: “You do know I can drive, right?”.
My neighbor does the same thing. I have lived in my house for five years, and I’ve been entering and exiting the garage without incident the entire time. Whenever my neighbor Jeff sees me backing out he’ll stand behind me offering the same wheel-turning hand gestures as if without his assistance, who knows what might happen. It’s as if these men can’t help themselves. I am hardly a damsel in distress type. At least I don’t think so. But when it comes to driving men seem to think it’s their mission to help us.
I used to drive a standard shift car. Once I offered a ride to a work colleague, and he went on for almost ten minutes marveling that I could drive a shift, while he could not. It seemed to spark some sort of cognitive dissonance in his head. I’ve found if you really want to impress a guy don’t perform deep, abstract reasoning or complete the NY Times crossword in pen, nope, all you need to do is parallel park in three moves; it will render them either speechless or blathering on about your mad skills.
One of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen is someone trying to park a tiny car in a giant space, and the worst thing is, the driver is a woman. I hate loving it because it just takes one on these videos to validate every notion that women can’t drive or navigate a car without help. On the other hand, it never fails to crack me up. If you have a spare six minutes it’s worth watching.
I don’t think men are inherently better drivers or more skilled at maneuvering cars, but they seem to. If you Google the question you’ll find studies supporting both sides of the argument and some that assert the skill is not gender specific. I will say though that helping women drive is gender specific. Not all men do this, but everyone who has ever offered me unsolicited advice and wheel turning directions has been a man. And I gently remind them, I can drive.