Finding trust in an unlikely place.
So last week I bought a car. I am now the proud owner of the 2013 Mazda I leased 3 years ago from Marin Mazda Subaru. A little anticlimactic, sure, but still cool. When I originally leased the car I was newly separated from my ex-husband, living at a friend’s house and had zero concept of what my future held. All I knew was I needed a car and I was no longer interested in pawning off car purchasing (or spider catching or jar opening) to another presiding male in my life. I was ready to do for ME.
Not knowing anything about leasing, I did a bunch of research, got quotes, leased myself a great car and left feeling like a self-sufficient goddess.
3 years later I took the same approach. I again did my research, got a few interest rates, negotiated one down and drove off the lot happy as a clam.
On the way home across the San Rafael bridge I pondered how surprisingly painless the car leasing and purchasing processes had been. Growing up, car buying was a horrible endeavour that consisted of my mother, siblings and I being forced to eat our mid-morning snack, lunch and sometimes dinner from the dealership vending machine while my father haggled over every fine detail until the salesman was so brow beaten that he’d give my father whatever he wanted as long as he promised to leave.
One particular time my father made the salesman so nuts that when we finally left in our new maroon Dodge Caravan 8 hours later, they announced over the loudspeaker, “HE’S LEAVING.”
There were a number of lessons I learned from my father, whether through watching him negotiate or hearing him spout thoughtful one-liners like, “Men are only interested in one thing” and “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” (He may not have actually said the last one but it was implied.)
The lesson: Fight. Fight because men are untrustworthy and always looking to screw you over.
I began to recall all the times I’d gazed suspiciously at men, wondering if they might harm me. I thought about my knack for keeping men in the “friends-zone” to prevent them from hurting my heart. I remembered all the times I subconsciously wrote all men off as selfish and inept, generalizing the entire gender.
I also realized how my “men are untrustworthy” motto has shifted since my divorce.
I no longer fret the way I used to about men’s motivations. I don’t worry they’re trying to con me, harm me, or get something from me. I also didn’t walk into that dealership, either time, ready to do battle. I looked at the sales guy not as someone to fight, but someone to work with to attain my goal.
All of these ah-has were coming so fast and furious I didn’t notice that the bridge traffic was slowing to a complete stop.
As it turns out, just 20 cars ahead a woman had flipped her vehicle that was now upside down blocking both lanes.
People got out of their cars and headed towards the accident. Someone called an ambulance. Another a tow truck. Once the woman was stable, people came back to their cars and it was then I noticed that all the drivers around me were male.
And so it was, while on a shaking bridge, suspended 100 feet above the bay, I got to practice my new realization and trust a group of male strangers. For the next hour I chatted with a friendly engineer who told me all about his love of martial arts and with a pack of soccer players who quickly opened their trunk to reveal a cooler full of watermelon that they offered to everyone around.
The vibe was convivial. Relaxed even. It was like people had made an unspoken agreement to forgo freaking out and instead get to know their fellow bridge buddies.
In years past I would have stayed in my car, or on my phone, simultaneously ignoring and eyeing these men. That day I chose to be part of their agreement, to be present in the moment and trust.
60 minutes later we were back in our cars, engines on, wheels in motion, heading towards our specific destination. Time began again and we were all sucked back into our own private worlds.
As my tires passed over the connector between bridge and solid road I took a big, deep breath of gratitude. (A theme I regularly work on personally and with my clients.) Gratitude for the ambulance that came quickly and took the injured woman to safety. Gratitude for the bridge not collapsing. Gratitude for the kindness and coolness of male strangers, and gratitude for the opportunity to be reminded again that common humanity does exist.
In a time when women around the world and at home are still being shown that men harm and take and violate, it’s easy to extend this reality to an untruth about all men. It’s easy to wall ourselves off and turn towards suspicion and mistrust. And when we do that, when we make isolation and protectionism our default, we cut ourselves off from our own humanity, from our own capacity for connection and miss the great opportunity we all have to come together, help, serve and know we are not alone.
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