driving ms. shannon

November 29, 2012 | 54 Comments

Cars driving in the early morning in Vancouver

When Emma was three I sat behind the wheel as Steve plunked himself next to me on the passenger side. As I pushed the clutch to the floor and turned my key, I heard a little voice from the back wondering why I was sitting in Daddy’s Seat. 

I can’t tell you why I reject most stereotypes, but readily maintain The Man Drives. Steve hates it. Sometimes he’ll work up the courage and hold out the keys like a white flag, or more infrequently I’ll offer, and his body sinks into its grateful place on my right.

Tonight I brought the car up from the underground parking while Steve and Emma finished shopping. I found them waiting for me in the rain at a mall entrance above ground. On days I drive myself to work, I’m content and sure. A little bit giddy, even, over the independence and adult status it offers. I become an insecure, skittish child with Steve in My Seat. With anyone in My Seat. Most of the mistakes I’ve made driving have been when I have a passenger (Emma doesn’t count). It’s an instant shift in my energy.

I’m not sure if it started with me beginning road trips submissively verifying that my route is acceptable, or if it started with Steve questioning my turns and paying extra attention when I back up or brake or change lanes. It’s a rhythm we fell into without noticing how tense it makes both of us.

We pulled out of the mall parking lot and Steve reflexively voiced he didn’t understand my turn choice. I responded with a sing-songy “oh well” with too-tight vocal chords neither of us noticed. When he did it again, this time jokingly, I snapped back that this is why I don’t like to drive. We had one of our “I fucking hate you, but our child is in earshot, so I shall make it seem like you will live until morning” exchanges, with Emma being no fool and sighing discomfort from behind.

In the quiet that followed, I worked out that I was the creator of my own subordinate driving status. I show up to most events believing I am a fraud. I am incompetent. I am less intelligent. Less capable. I present myself as a broken, incomplete ying. My people respond as helpful yangs. Completing the incomplete. Ready to mend.

I set up the imbalance.

Steve gingerly poked at the silence, asking if I was still mad.

“No. I’m transferring something on to you. I’m not sure what. I’ve taught you how to treat me. It’s not your fault.”

“Well, if your plan was to make driving with you so awful that you never have to do it again, genius pla—hey, why are you taking this route?” Humour during tension. Nicely played, Caterpillar Lip.

I have the Reminder app on my phone set to start each day at 7am reminding me that “I am enough.” It’s gonna change how I drive Ms. Shannon.

Please join the Truthfully Facebook page. I’m funny there. 

Joining up with Yeah Write for BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo. No guilt. Just fun. 

Steve is killing the caterpillar on Saturday. Don’t forget to donate. My face earned it; moustache kissing is scratchy kissing

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Join the conversation

  • Kim

    Just that you can now see that dynamic play out – your awareness that the imbalance exists – is brilliant progress. Wow!

    You ARE waaay smarter than you give yourself credit for and I know you will figure it all out and make adjustments. Great piece of writing, too. I was right there with you.


    • Shannon

      Thanks, Kim. This is a new kind of awareness. It’s pretty great. Still hard, but great.


  • Kim

    Aaand you can take whatever fucking route you please … It will lead you there eventually, won’t it?

    • Shannon

      YES. And I will.

  • http://audrawilliams.livejournal.com Audra

    This totally made me cry. I’m a lot like this, and struggling with how to best work through it, too.

    • Shannon

      I love you, Aud. It’s a hard pattern to shift. Let’s keep working at it. xo

  • Jennie

    Good for you for catching the pattern and naming the acts.

    I don’t drive at all. So I have a few Rules about passenging:

    Rule 1: The Driver is Driving.
    Rule 2: If I’m not comfortable with the Driver’s driving, I can get out of the car.
    Rule 3: The Driver picks the music.
    Rule 4: Don’t hit the driver (I don’t hit anyone, but I had a friend who used to drive me places and it was his rule, and it stuck).

    I will navigate if I’m asked to. Sometimes, if Red appears to be lost in thought and the light has gone green, I’ll mention it to him. Otherwise, I let the driver drive.

    Interestingly, this has started to carry over into other parts of my life: if Red is cooking, I’ll let him cook and not second guess, even if I think he’s using too much pepper or the wrong knife or something. If he asks me to chop something, I’ll chop it, but he’s in charge. He now does the same for me. Dinner tastes better, even when it doesn’t.

    • Shannon

      I like your rules. They’re fun AND helpful. A gift, really.

  • http://murphywritinglife.wordpress.com A. Mary Murphy

    Programming is a powerful thing, and when it’s combined with the impostor syndrome that so many women feel, it’s even more potent. Taking a different route isn’t the same as getting lost, and a helpful suggestion isn’t the same as an attempt to undermine. But Shannon! You’re using critical thinking to sort it out! So much better than violence.

    • Shannon

      Critical thinking… didn’t you touch on this in class? Maybe my husband has you to thank?

  • kristineah

    As an ex missionary cum i.dunno.what.the.fuck.i.believe.now I just wanted to say I love your blog. I abandoned mine a year ago. maybe that was a mistake. maybe not. now that I am freshly laid off I will re-invent myself. thanks for writing.

    • Shannon

      What made you abandon your blog? I’d love to read your words! Thanks for your encouragement about mine. I’m SO happy you’re here, lady!

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