Sex Drive…and sex park.

Pulling into the parking space this morning I felt like a teenage boy losing his virginity. I went in and it was too far to the left. On try two I was too far to the right. In and out I went, off rhythm and crooked. Finally I pulled all the way out to start again. This time it worked. Flipping my back pack onto my shoulder and my hair off of my face I met the eye of a woman parked perfectly across from me. I gave a sheepish shrug hoping for a bit of camaraderie, but instead her eyes were wide and cold. She wanted no part of the mess that is my parking.

This reminded me of a piece that I wrote for The Good Men Project this fall.

Small black car
If this were my car I could maybe park it.

I will paste it here in case you don’t want to click the link.

In my family my mom drove. This was a necessary evil. Each time she saw a potential hazard she slammed on the brakes jolting the three of us forward and testing the functionality of the seat belt. She was also constantly worried we had missed a turn. This was before the era of GPS so there was lots of opportunity for confusion.

 

Despite the mental and physical exhaustion caused by my mother behind the wheel it was better than the alternative. My father was not a rule follower even when it meant breaking the law and risking the lives of his family. It was his way or the highway…particularly on the highway. My dad decided that it was easier to drive a car when you centered the hood of the car the dashed yellow line that ran between lanes. As a result we were a giant, deadly Pacman driving down the Mass Pike, gobbling dashed lines like packman pellets. The blare of horns was constant, just like my mother’s white knuckles.

 

In 2010 the Institute of Advanced Motorists found that in heterosexual couples men were four times as likely to drive as women. Amanda Marcotte writes in Slate magazine that men consider it emasculating when women take the wheel. I don’t know what my father thought…but I thought it might well extend my life span from 10 minutes to 70 years.

 

In our family Steve drives. In the early days of our relationship we would defer to each other. We acted as if driving were the desired position and riding was somehow “less than.” So I would “let” him drive and he would thank me and offer a favor later to show his gratitude. It worked quite well for me. As the years went on we just accepted that he would drive. On days that I had been out and about alone I would walk to the drivers side by rote even when we were headed out together. He would always seem pleased. So I would drive us. The kids would express surprise that I was driving while Dada was in the car and I just told them honestly that I didn’t like to drive very much, and Dada did.

 

I worried a bit that we were perpetuating a commonly held stereotype about gender roles. This concern didn’t prevent me from staying on the passenger side. I would tell them about my childhood where my mother drove all the time and figure they might chalk it up as personal preference not a societal expectation.

 

Over the years my driving skills dimmed as my night vision got worse and I had less and less practice. Now I am worried about perpetuating another myth…that women are worse drivers than men. Neither Steve nor I have gotten into an accident with another car in the years we have been together. We have had a few dings and dents… I seem to have a vendetta against trash cans near the driveway. I insist they are purposefully placed in my blind-spot. Steve has a particular curb on the way home from hockey that he has driven over three times. He describes it as jagged and jutting, and entirely uncurb-like. We are tied at zero serious accidents.

 

According to the National Highway Safety administration men cause 6.1 million accidents a year while women are responsible for 4.4 million, perhaps because (according to the Federal Highway Administration ) they drive 40% more than women. A 2014 report from the Insurance Institute of Highway safety takes into account the above numbers to conclude:

 

“That means men drive about 30 percent more miles than women. Yet, they’re implicated in slightly less than 30 percent of car accidents. Men do cause more accidents, but they are actually less at-risk than women, by a small margin.” This still leaves things a bit murky for me, which allows us to continue this entertaining debate.

 

There is one area that leaves no room for debate. I am the worst at parking. Not just the worst in my family, but possibly the worst in the world. I can easily spot my car in a lot because it hangs so far out past the other vehicles. After observing this a few dozen times I made a correction and began to pull into spots so far that the parking blocks became one with my front bumper. So I stopped pulling in as far. Which resulted in me hanging out the back again. A study from Ruhr University in Germany indicates that I follow the rule when it comes to parking. Sixty Five men and women were asked to park an Audi A6 pulling forward into an empty parking spot. They found that women took 20% longer than men to position the car, which in the end was less centered in the bay than the cars driven by men.

 

Recently Steve popped into the coffee shop where I was working for what I thought was a quick hello. When he reached for my car keys I asked him where he was headed. “Just to move the car” he told me. “You are taking up four slots.” I had arrived to an empty parking lot at 8am. Now around lunchtime patrons were headed to the sushi spot next door. The problem with staying between the yellow lines might just be genetic. With no other cars in my way I had pulled forward enough to center the cross hatch of the 4 parking spaces under the belly of the beast. My father would have loved my parking job.

Level Failed, try again.

When my dad switched from living to dying my mother took up solitaire.

As soon as there were computers she spent her life at them, writing books, preparing syllabuses, whatever else tenured professors at ivy league schools do. She was happy there, creating, editing, annotating. The super speedy click of her long polished fingernails on the keyboard was the constant, comforting sound track of my childhood.

In one of his last acts of rebellion in the not long enough life of a rebel my dad had refused to die in his bed in his room, instead he co opted the three room suite of kitchen, family room, breakfast room and spent December and January there receiving some visitors, talking some nonsense and smelling worse and worse.

He didn’t like light so we had the shades closed against the sun and its reflection on the lake. So my mother’s laptop added a bluish cast to the room as she flew through piles of cards.

I could always tell if she wanted me to sit and stay by what she did with the laptop screen. Tilted halfway to keep the game active was my yellow light, shut with a click meant come on in, and there were a few times when she didn’t look up, the clicking coming from the draw piles, rather than her full on typing mode.

She was in survival mode, not creative.

(For those of you without kids age 6-14 that is a minecraft reference.)

My father was the last person to have big expectations for me. He asked for what he wanted. Often forcefully. Despite the fact that I lived 3 hours a way, was tending to a failing marraige, was in graduate school, and working he expected me to be by his bedside always.

I tried. I drove back and forth and only got in one accident. I was really no where during that time. But that was fine with him. If I couldnt be sentinal at least I couldn’t be engaged anywhere else.

If this makes him seem selfish, it should, he was, and also generous and loving with me. He had the gift of shining an intense bright light on whomever he attended to. At times (many) this light was the light of inquistion. Equally as common was ridicule. The last alternative was the light of life, reserved for people who surprised and interested him. So I became one of those.

So my mom took a semester off of work, I checked out of my life, and my dad became more of himself. Like they say about money and drunk people imminent death tends to make you more you.

Then it stopped. He got sicker and there was just solitaire. I couldn’t regale them with conversation about being a newly wed. My husbands drug use and my affair were topics too taboo even for me. (Then.)

But we were in survival mode. At least the rest of us.

My father died on Valentine’s day 2000. I was not home with my husband, nor was I by his side. I had moved into a crappy little apartment. Perhaps my penance for the affair, and heard the news over the phone. I remember the feel of the carpet on my knees. I had no furniture in the apartment, and I looked out the large window at the rushing river  and tried to feel my father.

This is the moment that I will know. A skeptic by nature and nurture I opened up to the possibility of him still being out there, expecting things of me.

But there was nothing. His light was gone, and the darkness felt absolute.

Then the arms of the other man, kneeling beside me on the floor, hugging my frozen self into him. And this is why I struggle not to judge anyone. I was a cheating cheater and so was he and in this exact moment he was the most and only person who could take me away from the life that I had already chosen to leave. Like a catalyst for an inevitable reaction, I know. KNOW. I wouldn’t have made it through that time. So in the midst of universally accepted bad behavior, and grief like I have never known I decided that I now had to expect things of myself. Shit.

I wanted to write about technology. My meditative/medicative obsession with candy crush. Level failed, try again. I was going to tie in Minecraft, and my mothers solitaire. This other stuff came out though. I guess it was time.

I forgive myself for cheating. I would do it again in that exact situation. But now is not then, and I am not her anymore.

I share this with you as a glimpse into how perfect moments can be contained inside layers of crappy choices and situations, and probably the opposite. Road to hell and all.

Lets judge each other a little less right now.

And just as importantly lets judge ourselves as little as possible.

Level failed, try again.