My Latest Girl Car

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In this column I have talked from time to time about "guy cars" and "girl cars." I have pointed out that there are a few fundamental differences in how most men and women view their automobiles. 

The typical guy wants a car that is an expression of dominance over his personal universe. He wants it to project an image of his status and virility to the world. He wants it to be a four-wheeled extension of his ideal self, looking and sounding as powerful and in-charge as he (comically) imagines himself to be.

Most women are happy with a car if the engine starts when you turn the key.

Of course, there are other features a woman will appreciate in a car, like seat heaters, or a color scheme that looks good with her eyes. But mostly, women take a pretty practical approach to personal transportation; they would like to be able to travel to a desired destination in reasonable style and comfort, and they would like to have enough room in the vehicle to take all their crap along with them. 

Young women tend to drive small cars, because they themselves are small and they apparently don't have all that much crap. Still, their colorful little Fiestas and Civics can be expected to contain a fairly comprehensive selection of music, designer sunglasses, reading material, snack foods, cosmetics, and at least a basic wardrobe (especially shoes), because, well, you never really know, do you?

Once a woman has a family, this whole dynamic sort of explodes. She not only needs space for all her crap, but also for her kids and their crap. And, as every parent is well aware, kids can generate an awful lot of crap! So, in the latter part of the twentieth century, this need for additional crap capacity led to the creation of the ultimate "girl car," the Mini Van. 

The Mini Van can best be described as a sort of gigantic rolling handbag, with room for at least half of a soccer team - complete with appropriate equipment, costumes and snack foods. And it is designed to go just fast enough to avoid being classified as a  geological formation.

I bring all this up because I now drive a Mini Van.

As I have pointed out before, I have always driven "girl cars." I know this because within a week of buying every car I've ever owned, all my male friends start telling me how they just bought the same car for their wives. Or their daughters. Or that they had been considering getting their daughters the same model I bought, but decided on the bigger engine.

And then all my female friends start telling me they think that my car is "really cute." Trust me on this ladies, "really cute" is not what any man wants to hear about the image of his status and virility.

Now I won't go into all the detail about how I wound up with a Mini Van. What I have been telling everybody is that I put up with it because it was an opportunity to get a lot of vehicle for the money, and that it is ideal for hauling my guitars and other gear around to gigs. 

Note the use of the word "hauling" to make the whole thing sound manly and industrial.

But the simple truth is, I like the Mini Van, and I'm not entirely certain why I do. Sure, it is practical - and everyone who knows me knows that "Practical" is my middle name. (That last sentence, by the way, is an example of "irony," sort of like Sarah Palin complaining on Fox News about not-always-truthful journalism. My middle name is not really "Practical.")
I think the thing I actually like best about driving a mini van is that nobody expects me to compete with other guys in that whole "dominance over the personal universe" thing. I'm talking about when you're sitting at a stop light, and the guy next to you races his engine and smirks at you as if to say, "Come on, Daffodil, let's see what you got," so you race your engine right back at him, and then one thing leads to another, and the next thing you know you're trying to explain to your wife how you wound up somewhere in central Iowa with a broken transmission and a speeding ticket.

We've all been there, right guys? 

Instead, as a driver of a Mini Van, I can now just smile, shrug, and when the light changes drift happily - if a bit tectonically - on down the street.

Copyright © 2010, Michael Ball


Mike Ball is the Erma Bombeck Award-winning author of "What I've Learned So Far..." and the book What I've Learned So Far... Part I: Bikes, Docks & Slush Nuggets.