I’m really good at taking care of babies. I’m intuitive, and emotionally fluent, and when something mechanical breaks, I call the men in my life. Am I selling myself short on self-sufficiency because I’m allowed to, as a “girl?”
So the other day I had another blind first date. She was definitely the girliest woman that I’ve dated so far; when I took in her classic librarian dress and bright red purse, somehow I was glad I had skewed a little more boyish when I got dressed that morning. I even started walking with a bit more swagger. It’s ridiculous and heteronormative, and I hope that it’s something I’ll get over, but I always seem to let the other person’s gender expression inform the way I think of my own role in the relationship. Being the butcher of the two is not a role I’ve practiced much, so I’m not very convincing yet, but it was kind of fun to try it on nonetheless.
Any illusions of butch dependability I was harboring, however, came crashing down as I was giving her a ride home after dinner. The night was gorgeous, cold and dark and misty. Winter. I stopped to let a pedestrian cross — but halfway across the street, he stopped and started yelling at us. My pulse shot up. On his third try, we finally heard what he was saying: “your LIGHTS! Your headlights aren’t on!”
I hadn’t noticed because of all the streetlights, but my heart in my throat, I tried to flick them on and off. He was right. My front headlights were dead to the world.
Trying to make small talk and remain confident during a first date when you’re driving her home through a foggy evening with a darkened car? Not so easy. She didn’t live far away, so I flicked on my hazards and got her home. I parked in front of her apartment complex.
“So…what are you going to do? Do you want me to wait with you?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m good. I’ve got AAA and about twenty family living in town. But thanks for a fun evening!” I replied brightly. We hugged and she traipsed off. And I started texting family to try and figure out what I was going to do next.
Everyone I texted for advice were men — a cousin, my stepdad. They all told me how to check my fuses. Cursing, I got down on my hands and knees on the wet street to reach the little fuse panel beneath my steering wheel. Which apartment was my date’s? Was she watching out her window while I made a fool of myself, not knowing shit about the car I’d owned for a good twelve years?
It wasn’t my fuses. Just for the record.
I was waiting for a rescue ride home when my date texted me. “Are you okay out there? Do you want a Diet Coke?” She was so sweet.
>If she were butch, or a man, I thought to myself, half-joking, my car would be fixed by now.
I don’t know how to change a tire. I can’t drive a stick. When my garbage disposal broke, a male cousin showed me how to clean the trap.
I call myself a girl. I don’t even think of myself as a woman. I’m 30 years old, I identify as a feminist, and yet somehow I’ve been letting men pick up the slack on every “male-oriented” task. All my life. It’s about time I held myself accountable.
I mean, we all depend on other people at certain times in our lives. A certain amount of interdependency is beautiful and healthy. But it’s time I reexamined the skills in my wheelhouse, and start to build up a basic literacy on the stuff I’ve let fall to the wayside just because I knew someone else — someone male, most often — would take care of it for me.