So you take the less comfortable, less practical, and less economical vehicle because it’s not a minivan? Come on guys!
I drive a minivan. There, I said it. My wife drives a minivan. There are no other cars in the family. We are, and have been, a two minivan family for a long time. We have a newer one, named Roxy, and an older one, named The Duchess. Whomever is carrying more kids or travelling farther gets to drive the newer one that day. I like the newer one, it has satellite radio and I can crank macho 70’s rock as I tool down the highway in my minivan taking my daughter to ballet lessons.
There is a stigma about minivans amongst men. It’s a vast anti minivan conspiracy. A guy down at the gym told me, “I’d rather have prostate cancer then drive a minivan.” “Why?” I asked. “Because minivans are for wimps,” he replied. I came back with, “But I can run farther than you, lift more than you, and you’d never climb in the boxing ring with me.” “That’s all true,” he replied, “but they’re still for soccer moms.”
I was riding to a Cub Scout camping event with another father riding shotgun with our kids in the back watching the minivan’s drop down movie screen in a contemplative coma. We were on a five hour trip and had decided to take the minivan because it gets better gas mileage, is more comfortable, and has more interior volume than his SUV. “This is comfortable and I can’t believe all our stuff fits in here,” he said. “Why don’t you get one?” I asked. “I’d never drive a minivan.” “Would you drive your wife’s?” I asked. “I only drive it when I absolutely have to,” he said. “So you take the less comfortable, less practical, and less economical vehicle because it’s not a minivan?” I asked. “Always,” was his petulant answer. And so it goes. Minivans kill masculinity.
I think minivans are masculine the way taking your kids to the park, changing diapers, buying your little girl an outfit, or comforting your agitated infant with little cooing noises is masculine. It says you’re all in. It says you have sold out to being a husband and father. It says you don’t care what other men think of you as you load up your kids through that big sliding door while the anti-minivaners are painfully contorting themselves trying to get their kids into the car seats in the back of their sports sedan.
Now rolling with anything other than a minivan when you have one or two children is excusable. But once you have three or more it is time to put away childish notions of masculinity and get a minivan. I can pack suitcases, blown up inflatable pool toys, my teenage son’s hiking boots, diapers, pack n plays, high chairs, boogie boards, tricycles, tents, coolers, bikes, crated dogs, crated cats, crated pygmy goats (my wife likes animals), fish tanks, small fruit trees, furniture, and just about anything I set my mind to, into my minivan(s). Oh, and also my wife and three children and sometimes a friend or two.
Now here is where it gets really masculine. My minivan is a truck. You see, the back two rows of seats fold into the floor creating a flat area and it becomes a minitruck? Truckvan? Mommytruck? I don’t care what you call it. In my mind it becomes a truck. This is good because I can’t afford a truck. Now the next thing I’m about to tell you is important if you own power tools. I can shove four by eight sheet good materials in there with the seats folded down. For those of you that don’t build anything (and you’re still masculine if you don’t), this is important.
All drywall, plywood, and other sheet materials come in four by eight foot sheets. So if you are going to build just about anything (like a closet for your wife or house for her goats), you will need to get the four by eight material home. If you don’t have a minivan with seats that fold into the floor, you will have to use your truck. If you don’t have a truck, you will have to ask one of your friends to borrow their truck. This will reveal you do not own a truck. In some areas of the country, especially the south where I live, not owning a truck is not masculine. Asking to borrow one is worse.
Now here is one of my favorite things to do with my mommytruck. I fold down the back seats and head down to the big box building supply store with The Duchess (the older van, I’m not allowed to carry construction materials in the newer one) and go to the contractor’s section in the store. This is the section where all the real builders go. It isn’t lamps, or mops and brooms, or washers and dryers, or switches and lightbulbs. It’s wood, sheet rock, concrete, and stuff you build with. I feel manly just walking through there.
I get to walk around this area with the real builders, plumbers, bricklayers, and roofers. I wear old boots, worn jeans, and, if I’m in an especially childish mood, a tool belt I rarely use (most real builders leave their real tool belt in their real truck when they go in the store, but sometimes I like to wear mine). I can almost pull it off, except I’m usually with one of my children. Whenever I run errands I always grab a child; it seems to help my marriage.
Then I get one of those big orange carts with the large tires and the steel racking tubes. Not the grocery store style cart with the plastic basket, but the big, orange, tough, heavy, steel cart. Then I load it up with all the wood, plywood, and concrete I need to build the shed, closet, or goat house my wife desires. Sometimes I need two carts. I get one of my children to push the second cart. It’s especially amusing when I’m with my thirteen year old daughter.
Then I get in the “Contractor Line”. In some stores it is also called the “Pro Line”. It’s for builders, roofers, and sheet rock guys. People who don’t have time to wait in line for the cash register behind guys buying lightbulbs. You would look funny and out of place if you stood in the Pro Line with just lightbulbs. But my daughter and I get to stand in this line because we have the two big steel orange carts loaded down with two by fours, plywood, and roofing material.
We check out and push the carts to the Contractor Loading Area (there’s a sign that says so) where all the men with large pickup trucks, box trucks, and big trailers are loading. The diesel motors idle loudly and men call back and forth as they strap down building materials. My daughter stays with the carts and I get The Duchess and pull into the loading area. Then the stares start. Men look at the van and back to the carts, the van and then the carts. Sometimes the van, me, and the carts. Usually the guy that supervises the loading area comes over and offers to help load. But me and my girl got it.
We start throwing stuff into the minivan. I’ve crammed that thing so many times I have it down to an art form. The Duchess keeps taking what we throw in. It’s kind of like a circus clown car in reverse. Men keep staring. With a groan she settles down a bit at the rear, but we keep loading. Then we jump in, maneuver our way through the lumbering trucks, and pull away with a giggle under disbelieving stares. It’s fun.
A minivan is tough and sure footed. It’s front wheel drive so the weight of the engine is over the drive wheels. Once, when coming home from an anti bullying assembly I conducted in Massachusetts, the Duchess and got caught in a blizzard. The snow kept piling up. We kept on pushing through Connecticut, New York and the George Washington Bridge, and the New Jersey turnpike. At one point it was just us and the plows. The snow let up just before the Baltimore Tunnel. The Duchess eventually got me home to North Carolina. On that trip we passed a lot of masculine looking rear wheel drive sports cars in the ditch.
I used to think that being a man meant jumping out of planes with the Army Airborne, fighting in the Tough Man Contest, being physically strong, running large power tools, and driving a Mustang Cobra. Now I believe that part of being a man is loving my family unconditionally as well as loading up the minivan at 3:00 a.m. with sleepy children and an incredible amount of luggage and making the fourteen hour trip to Grandma’s house without fighting with my wife, killing the kids, leaving one at a rest area, or hitting the fetal position and sucking my thumb.
Sometimes I pile in all the kids and the mountain bikes and disappear for the day. My wife helps load the coolers and picnic lunch and then stands in the driveway with a wistful and appreciative look as we pull away. I’ve even caught her glancing at me lovingly and with a hint of promise as I back out. This may not have happened, but I believe it did. Maybe minivans are even … sexy.
You can have your lifted four wheel drives, your Mustangs and Camaros, your four door dually and your diesel long beds, your sports sedan, your Suburban, as well as your Harley. As long as I’m married and have children, I’ll stick with my masculine minivan.
Photo: Author’s own