On the Road Again

Earlier this week I spent on the road driving to North Carolina from Maryland, listening to burned CDs Jay let me borrow since the smartphone AUX option in my 2008 Honda Civic no longer works. The CDs were Dire Straits, Tom Waits, War, Blondie, Pink Floyd, and for some reason a whole new decade (my high school decade): Beck. I’d hoped the Tom Waits would be the one with the “woke up this morning with cold water” song on it, because that’s the only album of his I like, but no such luck, so I listened to the last three, and finally resorted to turning up the volume on my phone so I could listen to more Neko Case because her songs won’t get out of my head right now. The CDs were the kind one might expect from a man in his 50s, the music of my childhood, from when my sister and stepbrothers were pot-smoking teenagers, and I hung around them as often as possible, until they went off and did what teenagers did, and came home again to make an airplane out of me by lying on the ground and lifting me up on one foot and holding my outstretched arms, or putting me on their shoulders, and I loved it.

As for my Honda, the paint job is peeling, the magnetic locks no longer work, and it now has over 170,000 miles on it. I bought that car new, proudly by myself because I barely count my then-husband, simply because his work consisted of simply being present, and he was terrible at playing bad cop. Plus we both looked like we were in our early 20s and it was our first time buying a car, without our parents, from an actual car lot, and not some used vehicle found parked on the side of a country road, or in a Penny Pincher ad (the old days version of Craig’s List, for my younger readers). I went in with a price in mind, I’d done my research online, had talked to my stepfather who gave me all the tips of what to say and do, I knew the Kelley Blue Book value, etc., and I was willing to walk away if necessary. And I got the car for $18,000… or maybe $25,000. I can’t remember, but 18k sounds a lot smarter so let’s stick with that.

Like I said, my second husband, whose pseudonym I forget so we’ll call him David, is the kind of guy who, when you’re out looking to buy an expensive item, says, “Well you’ve been needing one, and it’s a good price, so go for it!” right in front of the salesperson, instead of something like what my first husband would do, which was comment on what shoddy work it was, that he wouldn’t take it for free, that you couldn’t pay him to take it, that the store across the street had several better quality options for much lower prices, until the salesperson offered to throw in an extra, I don’t know, house, for free if we bought this one particular item for half the price it was being offered for. It was one of the things about my first husband that I really admired.

Not that my second was a bad guy at all. He was (and still is) a very sweet guy and he made a good husband. Right now he’s making a good husband to some other woman (I mean, dude did not waste any time, did he?), but in all seriousness, I do hope treats him really well, and I’m happy for him.

Before I left for North Carolina, Jay texted me to be sure to check my oil and tire pressure before I left, which is the kind of thing my dad always told me, and which I used to do, because that’s what people used to do (check their oil, I mean). People except for either of my husbands. Now I just get the oil changed before I go and let the mechanic do that. But back then that was what you did, and if you needed to pour coolant or water or windshield wiper fluid or whatever needed to be topped off, you did that too. I started to tell Jay I don’t think people check their oil anymore, that maybe he didn’t get the memo, because he drives old cars, hence the reason why he has all these CDs, including The Who, which is permanently stuck in the CD player of whatever that car is that he drives—a sedan of some sort, they all look the same to me—which is so old it doesn’t have a smartphone jack in it.

I’ll never forget when I first started dating my first husband, who was what we called a metrosexual, and I was baffled that he didn’t check the oil in his car.

“My car is new. People don’t do that anymore. You don’t have to do that with new cars,” he’d explained, and he’d laughed and made fun of me. How could I not know this information?

I’d only driven used cars, my first having been a 1988 Pontiac Sunbird, which I’d gotten my junior year in high school (1993). When that one died a few years later I got a 1987 Ford Taurus, and when that died, I got a 1994 Toyota Corolla. Each of my cars cost about $1500 to $2000 each, which I paid for with help from my dad—and I think he may have given me one of them. I’ve always been so focused on all the things he didn’t do for me that I forget how much he really did for me. Like it would’ve been really cool if he’d paid for my college tuition or my rent and bills in college like my roommate’s parents did for her… but most parents really did not do that then, except for the rich ones, and maybe it’s still that way today, though it sure seems like parents pay for everything now. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, or because I’m upwardly mobile. Doesn’t matter.

What I really wanted to say about all of this is that my dad would go on about how I need a man to take care of me, and he would tell me to get Ryan to check the oil in my car, and get Ryan to go with me when I made any big purchases, or if any kind of emergency situation came up or if the house needed repair then I’d be fine because Ryan, and later David, would be there to take care of it.

Now listen here, Dad. Do you think Ryan knew diddly squat about what to do when the plumbing messed up, the roof got leaky, the tire got a flat? Which reminds me: I had a boyfriend who ruined my car by changing the flat and cranking the jack up and lifting my car before putting the lug nuts on, which dropped my entire car onto the wheel bearings–and he did this not once but three times. Do you think he had ever changed a flat before in his life? And do you think that David got me such a great deal on a car when it was time to buy one? What do you think Ryan did when my Corolla broke down in rush hour in midtown Atlanta on spaghetti junction? Well, of course he came and got me, and/or maybe I called a tow truck, but I will tell you that I was not happy, especially because that car had been dying and Ryan decided months earlier that he needed a new car, because a business owner can’t drive a shoddy car. Apparently his wife can. Not that I’m still bitter. 😉

What really pisses me off is how my dad thinks I can’t do any of that stuff on my own, that I haven’t been taking care of myself since I was 18 years old. He may have finally gotten a clue when he told me a couple of years ago after my second divorce something about me not being able to take care of myself, that hopefully I’d find another man soon, when I replied that I’d been doing a pretty good job of taking care of myself for 20 years now, so I guessed I’d be just fine. As tough as my mom was, and as tough as my stepmother is, I’m not sure how my dad thinks women somehow cannot survive without men. In my experience women do most of the work. Though it wasn’t like that with Steven.

When I met Steven, he showed up on my friend’s deck with a paintbrush in one hand and supplies in the other. Guess why? Because my friend was staining her deck, because her good-for-nothing husband wouldn’t do it (just kidding, he’s a great guy, and he was watching the baby—I just wanted an excuse to say “good-for-nothing”). And Steven was her next-door-neighbor and he offered to help. I fell in love instantly. In my flawed, romanticized memory he also had a grilling spatula in one hand and he donned a hefty apron, like he was about to grill the hell out of a bigass piece of bison steak, a tyrannosaurs rex steak, that he hunted himself with his bare caveman hands. I even wrote a poem about it, a poem I found quite hilarious if I do say so myself, though I don’t know if anyone else gets it without me introducing it as a funny poem. Steven showed up with this paintbrush in hand, and then offered to ride his bike all the way up to the hardware store to get some real supplies because Beth only had a few measly small paintbrushes, and what she needed was some rollers. He had a slight beer belly and he was six foot two, and I thought to myself, That looks like someone’s dad. I’ll take him. I couldn’t wait to snuggle up with that belly and sit in that lap.

You could never say that to him though. I could never say it. He doesn’t like the truth if it’s disturbing in any way, and for me to want a daddy is not cool. He already has kids and he doesn’t need or want a third one, thank you very much. But yes, I have daddy issues. There. I said it. So kill me.

But I want a partner and companion too, and I am an independent woman. I’m trying anyway.

As proud as I am of being a badass woman, I don’t want to change my flat, put the window unit in my window, paint my bedroom walls, or put together Ikea furniture if I don’t have to. But sometimes you just do it, and it’s okay. And sometimes friends help—I don’t have to find a husband to do everything for me, and quite honestly, when I did have a husband, they didn’t do any of that shit.

Sometimes I think men do these things for women who aren’t their significant others more so than their actual SOs. (Because why do work when you’re already getting sex? Sorry–that was mean. Jay replaced the brakes for a lesbian friend, so I should not suggest that anything other than kindness was his motive.) And when Jay let slip the other day that he’d replaced the brakes on the cars of four different women, plus one woman’s 21-year-old son (to which my dad would say, That son ought to know how to do that and be doing it, in spite of the fact that my dad probably doesn’t know how and his wife probably does), yet Jay didn’t offer to do mine, suggesting I should just take my car to the mechanic, I felt mildly pissed. We haven’t known each other long so I didn’t show my disapproval, and I felt like maybe I was being a princess for that kind of expectation, which I was, so I let it go.

But the real reason I let it go is because he’d said, “Well I had to do it for so-and-so because she’s poor,” and that was when it occurred to me that Jay must’ve somehow mistaken me for a woman who has her shit together, that I must come across that way, as someone who takes care of herself, and somehow who has money because they pay grocery store workers so much these days. And I did inform him that I’m not exactly living the high life, but I decided that if he wants to think of me that way, that’s a good thing, because maybe I am that way.

Maybe I am that way. Maybe not the has-her-shit-together part, because who really has all their shit together? Everyone always has some problem of some sort they’re working out. And that’s how it is until the day you die.

So no, I don’t need a husband.

But I sure would like to have one some day. Or a partner, companion, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t even know if marriage is a requirement anymore. Probably yes but who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow. All we really have is today anyway.

And in the meantime I have everything I need, and really a hell of a lot of what I want, and I am so grateful for this world and the people in it, especially my friends, and maybe even my dad, as impossible as he is. 😉

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