Monday, March 16, 2015

Out with the Old, In with the New

I have been making fun of Sean's car since approximately 46 seconds after he first picked me up in it. It wasn't horrible. It wasn't falling apart. It was paid for. But it also looked they way a child of four draws a car: a box, with wheels.

And over the years, we've laughed about how his car kind of suited him, the way mine suits me. I drive a Beetle (I'm on my 3rd Beetle since I met Sean 5 years ago, in fact). My car is fun, cute, curvy, and full of zip. I like to think it says something about me. It's not super practical. It's a two door with nearly no trunk. It's also a convertible, though this fact is irrelevant for 9 Canadian months out of 12. I love it to pieces.

Sean's car is more like Sean himself. It's big and comfortable and practical in every sense. He got a good deal on his Nissan Altima, paid it off quickly, and has driven it reliably for 8 years. But it's gray. And boxy. And what I would call "nondescript" meaning sometimes when I'm waiting for Sean to pick me up, I accidentally get into other, similar cars.

I get it. A car's a car. If it gets you from A to B, then who cares, right?
I think I used to believe that, but that was before.
Before I used to have a significant commute, for one thing.
And before I used to own a car, or even a driver's licence, which is probably telling.
Now that I have all of those things, I realize a car is not just a car.

It's a place where I'll be spending lots of time. There are some days I spend more time with Ruby (my car) than with Sean, or my dogs. So it needs to be comfortable. But it also needs to be something I feel proud about driving - this has helped turn a dreaded commute into something more enjoyable. I like driving my car. I like being able to scoot in and out of spots before other drivers can even get their signals on. I feel safe in her. I love how quickly she warms up in the winter, and I love how summer drives in to work can be repurposed into time in the sunshine. I love matching my lipstick to my car, letting my hair tangle in the wind, turning the volume up to 11 and taking a slightly longer route so I can drive by the water and feel the spray on my skin.

And I wanted the same for Sean. Not the exact same, maybe, but I wanted him to drive something worthy. And fun. And sexy, goddamnit. No more nondescript.

Because that's not my Sean. Yes, he's changed. And maybe some of that's because of me. But I think he's learned that there's more to life than being practical. We deserve to treat ourselves!
So I finally got him into a new car. A lovely new car. Which means his old one, which, defying family tradition, he did not drive literally into the ground, or have it gasp its last breath just as it chugs into the scrap yard, was up for grabs.

There are a couple of good options for donating your old vehicle. You've probably heard of Kidney Car - they will come to your home, tow away your car, and leave you with a tax receipt and a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that proceeds go directly to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, helping to fund research for kidney disease and bring awareness to organ donation.

Another good option is your local fire department. Fire department trainees use your old car to practice using the jaws of life. I had a serious car accident a couple of years ago, and I had to be cut out of my car. It's kind of a nice feeling to be able to give back to that - obviously, you hope you'll never need those services, but just in case, isn't it good to know they're prepared?

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Hidden Cost of Being a Woman

A curious thing happened in Paris - in the fanciest of places, I was presented with a menu. A menu I did not suspect was any different than the one being held by my husband but was, in a very important way.
Mine had no prices mentioned whatsoever; his did.

I didn't always notice this occurring, and perhaps sometimes it did not (my stomach doesn't vote by price, so I don't usually bother to check). But once I cottoned on to what was happening, I was intrigued.

What piece of tradition is this?

They're called blind menus or "Ladies' Menus" and operate under the assumption that since dinner is obviously the gentleman's treat, the lady need not worry her pretty little head over the vulgarity of price. This is a little silly since there are in fact prices listed on the man's menu, since presumably he may worry, but if his dinner companion doesn't know and goes ahead and orders the astronomically priced item, what is he to do about it except break out his credit card, pray that payment goes through, and order a salad for himself?

This sparked a little debate amongst my friends. Some felt it was a nice send up to chivalry. After all, you would remove the price tag from a gift that you give. Why not treat your special lady to dinner while doing the same? Of course, this places stress upon the woman too, because generally we'd like to be able to estimate the value of the gift so we know whether or not to accept it. We might, considering our companion's status and our own values, prefer to be able to make a choice in full knowledge of what it will mean to the bottom line, and not just at the bottom of our bellies.

And what happens if I've decided to treat him? What if we're splitting the bill? What if we're friends, or colleagues? How do you explain to HR a meal that goes way over budget -"Oh sorry, I'm just a girl and I didn't know!" And in the age of dual incomes and joint bank accounts, what does it even matter?

I suppose there are some people who couldn't enjoy a meal knowing its true cost, so maybe there's value in having one handy upon request. But when you're given one automatically, because you're a woman, what does that assume? What judgements are inherent? Obviously that I'm not paying. Maybe that I can't pay? That I'm not the head of household? That I don't have access to our financial statements? That I don't participate in budget making or breaking? That high prices would intimidate me?  What is the line between chivalry and chauvinism?

Have you seen these menus? Do they insult you at all?