John Gray’s popular book, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” describes behaviors, attitudes and communication styles that generally differentiate men and women. He argues that men tend to seek solutions and that women are more concerned with nurturing and empathy. By extension, men tend to value logic, efficiency, common sense and accomplishment while women tend to favor emotion, sensitivity, communication and relationships.
These generalizations can be argued, but most men and women can probably agree that there is a lot of truth in Gray’s insights. It is undeniable that the sexes are different in significant ways, and the common act of driving provides a glimpse into some of these differences.
If a boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife decide to make a trip in the car, their objectives, attitudes and behaviors will vary markedly. Invariably and without any thought or reservation, the male will assume that he is the correct choice to drive the vehicle. The female may believe or even know that she is the better driver, but in most cases, she will submit to her partner’s primal desire to man the helm. Any suggestion that she drive will be seen as offensive, and besides, her position in the passenger seat offers advantages.
She knows that for the duration of the trip she will have her partner confined a few inches from her body and her mind. He will have no choice but to listen to her without any chance of escape or evasion. An outstanding opportunity for meaningful communication exists with every car ride with her man. To ensure that he listens, she can turn off the radio and dash his hopes of finding a sports broadcast, newscast or talk radio show. She will have ample opportunity to explore the intricacies and significance of their relationship, and the longer the ride the better.
The male, of course, views this car ride very differently. Despite any record of accidents, speeding tickets or moving violations, he is extremely confident in his ability to safely and efficiently deliver his partner and himself to their destination. His quest for autonomy is satisfied as he pilots the vehicle, and no driving advice from his partner will be tolerated or complied with. He knows in his heart that men are superior to women in this arena, and that he is in his rightful place behind the wheel ferrying his fair maiden. Ideally, his vehicle will be very powerful, attractive and expensive. All these attributes mirror and affirm the qualities that he sees in himself, and ample horsepower will allow him to dominate any other driver who might challenge him, regardless of any safety issues associated with racing.
For the simple male, driving is a simple task that satisfies his yearning for competence and leadership. Despite his partner’s earnest and sincere efforts at communication during the jaunt, he will concentrate on his duty to deliver her quickly and safely. Weighty, emotional conversation will be either be ignored, heavily filtered or reluctantly acknowledged by the male. While she sincerely attempts to deepen and broaden their connection with meaningful and enlightening talk, he would rather consider his next meal or ogle the attractive blond in the car beside them. Silence is preferable to psychobabble, and deep relationship conversations may dilute his desire for that next great meal or sexual encounter. If he’s thinking at all, his thoughts will be pragmatic and simple.
Given these stark differences between the sexes, a woman’s car ride with a man will probably not meet her desire to help him, nurture him and improve him. Meaningful conversation and relationship building is probably a futile goal for the loving, thoughtful female despite the couple’s close confinement in the vehicle. While she is talking, he will almost certainly not be listening beyond a cursory level. He’s a male, and he’s doing one of the tasks he was born to do. She’d probably just as well engage the windshield in conversation.
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