Here I am. Sitting in a small, hot (the sweaty kind), heavily tinted car at a notoriously long red light in the middle of town. I hate this car, but I’m driving it out to meet someone who might buy it. I’m sitting at the light. My eyes wander past signage and pedestrians and along the busy street, alighting on garish window displays and the alarmingly long lunch line at Taco Bell. I’m revving my engine. Not because I think I’m cool (I’m not cool) but because this little red car has a bad habit of dying while it’s idling, leading to fun memories of running out of the vehicle at intersections, hooking up my portable jump starter and turning the car back on in what seems to me, in the moment, like a bad Chinese Fire Drill. I’ve been working on shaving my time down. The whole act is mildly impressive now, and I know the other motorists are silently cheering me on in the seats of their reliable, safe cars. So now I rev. I’m revving when I see it.
“KEEP SCREAMING UNTIL YOUR HUSBAND STOPS THE CAR!!!”
The light turns green and I let out the clutch. The words blink by on a black digital signboard and I’m turning, so I don’t catch what comes next. I don’t know what business can claim that wonderful piece of copywriting gold. I would say I’ll never know, but in reality I’ll probably compulsively return to the scene of the crime tomorrow to investigate. As I make my turn, heading onto a small, curving street that connects two main thoroughfares in town I think about the enthusiastically blinking sign. I’m not surprised, because I live in a small, conservative, behind-the-times city in southern Oregon and I have come to expect these things, but I am annoyed. I know it’s most likely a small, family-run business (please let it be a small, family-run business) but it irks me. I drive along the narrow, 25mph road toward my destination and wonder if I’m overreacting. Some of you reading this will probably think YES YOU ARE OVERREACTING it’s just a funny sign! Some of you will be in the middle (don’t know, don’t care) and some of you are right there with me, seeing the sign and then red. I read this sign as a joke with an underlying social truth. Women are seen as irresponsible, immature, material, annoying people for reasonable men to humor. The sign reinforces this deeply ingrained stereotype. Beg your man for something. Pester, nag and whine until you get your way. Happy wife, happy life, amirite? Oh, and of course your husband drives.
I allow myself one more little head shake and then I move on. Past the bright lettering that’s flashing the world’s perception of me and everyone like me over the busiest street in town. Like I said, it didn’t surprise me. Every day I run face first into something just like it. I move on.
I’m a woman and I’m used to moving on.