I will be driving a 17′ moving truck tomorrow, through not-overwide city streets. I’m not looking forward to it. The first time I drove a vehicle that size was five months ago, when we last moved.* I hated it then; I like driving little, zippy cars, cars that feel like just a really big metal suit with an engine, cars like my much-lamented Yaris. Driving the truck was big and clunky and slow.
Oh, and scary. Did I mention scary? Driving that giant thing along narrow streets, getting lost, having to loop around and try again, not being sure of the dimensions and constantly worried that I was going to hit something or someone with the ponderous mass I was steering… By the time I got that truck home my shoulders were already sore from tension, and I hadn’t started carrying any boxes yet.
Those who know me know that I have a competence ego as big as any man’s. (Well, not any man’s, there are plenty of men and women too who are worse off than me. What I’m saying is I fall solidly under the male-typical arc of the bell curve.) I wanna do it myself, I wanna figure it out without help, and I get prickly if unwanted assistance is offered. I’m not sure what magic ingredients in my genetics and upbringing gave rise to this delusion, but I truly do believe that I am capable of learning to do anything and everything, without direct assistance from anybody else. Now I’m a grownup, so like most of us with an overblown competence ego, I’ve learned that sometimes I do indeed need help, sometimes other people will do something better than I will even if I try really, really hard, and that my worth as a person is not lessened by either of these truths.**
In the last couple of years, though, I’ve thought more deeply about gender roles, and played more deliberately with adopting both masculine and feminine roles in different situations. So five months ago, driving that beast of a truck through crowded Decatur streets, gritting my teeth and trying to deny my fear, because dammit, I am competent and I can do things like drive giant trucks — it occured to me that if I wanted to, I could put on my “girly” hat and say to the boyfriend, in a quavering little voice, “Driving the truck was really scary, will you do it for the rest of the trip?” Because in the feminine role, it is totally okay to not want to drive giant trucks down tiny city streets. Being too scared or simply feeling incapable is not a weakness in the feminine role. I could admit to that feeling and continue undiminished.
It was an interesting moment of appreciating the different freedoms available to the gender-conforming on both sides. In the masculine “I can do it” role, I would have to push back against my fear, ignore it or overcome it and drive the damn truck: saying I couldn’t was not a viable option. On the plus side, I would walk away with greater competency, because in truth I could drive the truck, and the more I did it the less scary it would get. In the feminine “please help me” role, I would have the freedom to acknowledge my feelings, to say, “Whoa, that is a big-ass truck and driving it here is scary!” I would also have the freedom to let go and let someone else do the task that I felt very uncomfortable doing.
What I actually did, when I got the truck home to Shaun, was report this whole chain of thought to him. And he did drive the truck for most of the rest of the move, which was nice for me. And there was a big difference between taking on the feminine “Please help me” role because it was the only one available to me, and taking it on after consideration and in full acknowledgement that I could go the other way if I chose.
And here’s where part of that difference comes in. My original plan was for tomorrow’s move to be Thursday’s move, and for Shaun and me to go together to the truck rental place, and for him to do all the truck-driving. But due to circumstances entirely within my control***, we have to move on Wednesday instead which means I have to get the truck by myself. It’s the best of a number of bad options, and so I’m going to have to suck it up and channel my dudely competence ego, telling myself that not only can I drive a stupidly huge vehicle, but I can do it in a city I’ve never driven before, and it will be no problem because I am awesome and can do anything.
It’s good to be able to push through fears and anxieties. It’s good to be able to acknowledge them and let someone else carry the load. And it’s especially good to be able to do either one, depending on what’s best for my family.
Bitter personal rants section
* You notice that, that our last move was five months ago? And it was a particularly hellish one, so that both of us are suffering some post-traumatic issues as we pack up all our things yet again. Moving again so soon wasn’t in the plan, and it just goes to show you that all that stuff your mom and dad said about negotiating clearly with people you’re going to be working/living with, and steering clear of situations with a lot of inherent volatility, were very smart. Going to be tiresomely grownup about such things in the future.
** In leisure pursuits, where nothing but my own enjoyment is at stake, I completely revert to type and am liable to bite someone’s head off for trying to tell me “Do it this way instead.” I think 50% of Shaun’s and my fights have been caused by him trying to give me tips when I’m playing StarCraft.
*** We set our move date as the 30th because that was convenient for us, and I sort of forgot that it was end-of-month, and probably a very popular move day. As a result, I only went to reserve the truck yesterday, by which time there were none available for the 30th. Which means that instead of this:
8:00 – Wake up, eat, pack up last few things
10:00 – Pick up truck with Shaun, Shaun drives the thing, we load, drive, and unload
5:00 – Return truck, settle into new place
my moving day now looks like this:
6:00 – Wake up, eat hurried breakfast, pick up truck
8:00 – Drop truck off at home, get on train to go to work
12:00 – Finish work, sprint out of there to get earliest possible train home
1:00 – Help Shaun load all the stuff he couldn’t carry by himself, as well as all the stuff that couldn’t go on the truck yet because we needed to leave plenty of room for the big stuff; drive and unload. Do all this as fast as possible because we only have five hours left with the truck.
It’s my own damn fault for not reserving the truck sooner, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.