HOT CAR ENVY

Does a car determine who we really are? More specifically, does it measure our attractiveness to the opposite sex?

Ponder this thought -- If a woman, dressed in a mini-skirt and a tight sweater gets out of a Honda Civic, does a guy look twice? But if the same woman, dressed in the same outfit, steps out of a Honda S2000 convertible, does she get the second look and even a “Hello, Gorgeous, I dig your ride?”

Same thing with a man. Does a guy get better looking as he upgrades from tattered pickup to Porche Boxter?

So are we defined by what we drive? This is America, after all, home of the media driven stereotype and ‘burn fat while you sleep’ pill. What else could the answer possibly be?

Well, I just can’t get this one episode from a 70’s sitcom out of my head. It’s a scene from “One Day at a Time”, staring Bonnie Franklin as a single mother, Valerie Van Halen, MacKenzie Wilson Phillips, yadda, yadda, yadda. You know the show. The particular episode which keeps running on repeat in my brain is the one where the mother realizes she’s middle aged--at 36! I saw that episode in my early teens and knew I’d never, ever be 36. Back then we had the cold war and the USSR was certainly going to see to it that I didn’t have a mid-life crisis during the peak of the millennium celebration.

But here I am, folks, now 42, single, husbandless, and even childless! Oh, the horror! The seventies upbringing in me makes me feel guilty for not being married with kids and a Suburban. But the Betty Friedan driven Cosmo Girl in me says, “Way to go, Sister. Be independent. Be a real woman. Have your cake, eat it all, and don’t worry about those damn calories ‘cause they’ve got fat burnin’ sleeping pills for that!” This whole middle-age frenzy has definitely put me into an all out dizzying shame spiral.

All of my single girlfriends are in my same boat. We are unmarried or divorced, some of us childless, some of us not. But the common denominator holding us together is that we are all independent and standing firmly on our own two feet or in other words, we are not desperately seeking heated seats in a Ford Excursion with a bumper sticker on it that reads, ‘My child is an honor student at C.E. Byrd High.’ No, we are not casting our noses down on Suburbans or other SUVs by any means. That’s not what we are about. Despite our lack of mini-van envy, I suppose, for whatever reasons, we have simply gone down different paths than becoming typical carpooling moms. I have one girlfriend, however, who caved and bought a Tahoe despite being completely single and childless. She just wanted some sort of sudo-maternal, semi-matrimonial, quasi-yuppie experience before she turned 50, when she would then succumb to Cadillac envy instead.

So to celebrate the affirmation that I can’t possibly be washed up at 42 despite what my mother says, I purchased the perfect mid-life crisis car -- a Honda S2000, black on black convertible, six speed, 240 horse power of sheer eye-popping, mind-blowing, what was I thinking, testosterone envy. And, despite being somewhat of a feminist, I am loving every cat-call, wink, stare, wolf call, lustful leer, and drool wipe. Even when I let my guy friends drive, and they pull up next to some blonde bombshell who gives him a look, I simply look over at her, and scream, “Hey, Sister, I’m paying the note on this baby!”

I’m the same person I was before, aren’t I? Has owning a hot sports car made me a snob? Or does it simply get me to Victoria Secret’s that much quicker? Perhaps I am a little more assertive since the mid-life purchase. I know I’m using less Oil of Olay because the car seems to have shaved ten more years off my life. So yes, I guess it is true. The car definitely defines, or at least accentuates who we really are, whether we want to admit it or not. We’re Americans, after all. We’re in love with our cars.

So I’m the S-Girl as my friends call me. My email address is even topdowns2k! And I’m not crazy for wanting a little excitement in my so-called mid-life, am I? But just in case you haven’t noticed, “One Day at a Time” got canceled. I’m just getting revved up.

Copyright © 2007 Tracy L. Carnes

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