Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Minivan Life

The bumper sticker clearly stated: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History. I saw it with my own eyes, perfectly centered on the back of the minivan I was now sitting behind. Curious I followed it around for a few minutes. It never exceeded the speed limit. It made no right turns on red. It paused for an extra second when at the yield sign. Behind the wheel was a woman, in her mid-30s, who would not be making history.

So what was I to make of her bumper sticker? Was it there as a warning to other women, as if to say, abandon all hope, ye who drive the minivan? Or, perhaps, did the driver fancy herself historic and atypical, this woman driving the red Dodge Caravan, busing her children to dance class, or some other typical event? And what is it like to carry the burden of such proclamations but have to attach them to the back end of something so quotidian? The bumper sticker was worn and faded, applied back when the minivan was new and exciting. But it was never that exciting was it? And the message never really trusted.

And I couldn't help but think of her, of course. She owned a shirt with the same message, but I'm sure that woman was exactly the woman she did not want to become, a woman I certainly had no interest in her becoming. In-fact, I quite enjoyed it when she misbehaved, I thought that was when she was at her best, confident and creative, and I tried to nurture that side as much as I could because I do believe well behaved women rarely do make history. Sometimes it happens but I don't need them. I'll take the one who just can't be obedient.

Still, I suppose she saw that house--with its fenced-in yard, and its family pet--as the first step in a slide towards oblivion, and, in modern life, it is hard not to keep all of these things mutually exclusive. I suppose she pictured herself resigned, with an apron on, working in the kitchen, and sweeping the floors, even though I never asked her to, and never complained. Anything she did was fine with me. And if she did nothing I joined right in. But I suppose she pictured herself, someday, behind the wheel of a red Dodge Caravan, her old beliefs stuck to the tailgate, covered in a thin layer of dust and that is why, you see, she ran for her life.

The thought is terrifying, and anyone with an atypical bone in their body would flee if they saw themselves going there. But the funny thing is I find it terrifying too. And, had she ever mentioned these fears to me they would have resonated, in the same way all of her other dreams resonated with me, when she shared them. But, I suppose she thought I had no interest in them anymore, and no desire to even know. After all, how could I love her and have the nerve to introduce her to such banality? It was like I didn't know her at all. But she had stopped sharing her dreams with me long before that, convinced, perhaps, that I couldn't be trusted, and still I trusted.

She nodded her approval as we moved forward because she stopped wanting to build, with me, the life she wanted, but was still curious to see if I would commit to her. And when I did commit I had allotted enough rope to hang. Lost, I had shown myself uninspired, the unforgivable sin, and her dreams were only the first of things she packed away, all in an effort to avoid the minivan life. But didn't she trust that I would never have allowed that to happen?
What were all those conversations I tried to have with her all about, if not to get down to the truth? Didn't she trust that even if we had to leave this forsaken place, and find a home away from it all, in a life less ordinary, that I would have done so with force? Didn't she see that, when we dreamed together, our dreams were really one and the same? And does she wonder, like I do, what such a life would have been like, and how hard it is to watch it drive away?

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