What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
The Real Difference between Men and Women, Part 2
[p.6]Lately I’ve been musing on yet another difference between men and women—i.e., their responses to maneuvering extremely large vehicles in tight quarters. I started thinking about this the other day when Ken asked me to assist him in parallel parking a big truck of the U-Haul variety. I was supposed to (a) direct while he (b) drove.
Of course I started to panic and perspire all over the place because I knew from direct personal experience what would happen:
1. He would tell me what to do.
2. I would try to do it.
3. He would tell me I was doing it wrong.
4. I would tell him to take a hike and perhaps make a rude gesture or two.
5. He would yell at me and before you know it, we’d be fighting in front of all the neighbors just like a couple of crazy teenagers in love.
This kind of fight happens because Ken is a guy whereas I definitely am not, which means that we simply do not speak the same language. For example, when I stand there on the curb and say, “You’re fine, Sweetheart, except you’re getting kind of close,” I think I have done a masterful job of summing up the situation—i.e., that he is fine because he hasn’t rammed into the neighbor’s pickup although give or take a few inches and he will. Also I think the whole “Sweetheart” thing is a nice touch. It shows him how supportive I am, don’t you know.
So what does he do? He slams on the brakes and bangs his forehead against the windshield just like my dad did that day I got my learner’s permit.
Dad and I were taking a little test drive to the grocery store to return a vast quantity of empty Coke bottles. As I approached an inter-[p.7]section whose light had just turned yellow, I began to accelerate with the intent of leaving the Gremlin next to me in the dust.
Dad roared at me. “Stop!”
I’ll tell you the truth. I was torn. On the one hand, I really wanted to obey my father, the man who’d given me life and so forth. On the other hand, I hated to think that I was the kind of girl who could be beaten by a Gremlin—a Gremlin, for petessakes—which I used to think was the equivalent of car vermin when I was a young and snotty girl adolescent. So I kept on pressing the gas pedal in a general downward direction.
“STOP!” Dad yelled again.
I fought with myself a second longer, and then I did the thing I thought would best please ye olde fathere. I brought the car to a swift and sudden stop—in the middle of the intersection. To this day I can still see my father pitching forward as if in slow motion, with a thousand empty Coke bottles soaring past his ears.
“WHY DID YOU STOP!” He sounded just like a man who’s taken one too many Coke bottles in the head.
“Because you told me to,” I said, flipping my hair a little and wondering if I should use some more Sun-In. I almost added a “Duh, Dad,” but refrained since I perceived he was somewhat shaken.
At that point my father, who rarely raises his voice, let me have it, which taught me a very important lesson—it’s no good trying to please the men in your life, so you just ought to go ahead and please yourself.
But I digress.
As I was saying, when Ken asked me to help him with the U-Haul, I began to hyperventilate—until I had the totally brilliant idea of finding Ken another guy to help him. I imposed upon a neighbor we barely know who graciously agreed to lend a hand.
Now here comes the truly amazing part of my story. Even though our neighbor, Andy, and Ken are barely acquainted with each other, they had this instant non-verbal communication thing going about the truck. Andy stood on the curb and began flapping his arms around like he was trying out for head cheerleader AND KEN ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT ANDY MEANT. He parked the U-Haul easily. No problemo, in fact.
[p.8]“How did you know what Andy meant when he starting doing all that stuff with his hands?” I asked later that evening.
“Did you have to take a special class when we were in junior high school?” I asked. When Ken and I were in junior high school during the Dark Ages, girls and guys used to be separated for certain subjects—Home Economics for girls, Shop for guys; Advanced Note Writing for girls, Arm Language for guys.
Again Ken shrugged which I took to mean he didn’t know, although I could be completely wrong.
With guys, I’ve learned, it can be pretty hard to tell.