Meet me in my beater.

Lately I’ve been munching my way through interesting conversations with straight men calling about my 1980 Datsun 210 wagon for sale. Sometimes the questions about the car become questions about me. “I’m assuming that your husband has a car, too?” “You sound cute. I didn’t realize that you were so young.” Today’s conversation ends with his vadude magnetgue whispery words telling me to call him if I feel like it. It feels like this isn’t even about the car anymore. He’s not even that into my car. My car that looks to me like a Birkenstock and Carhart wearing dykemobile. The sort of thing that one would pack with smelly lesbos and drive to clothing-optional hot springs and women’s music festivals. It is decorated with bumperstickers that say “keep Portland weird” “No on 8” and “well-behaved women rarely make history” for goshsakes. I might as well have a bumpersticker that says “smash patriarchy with me and my hella hella gay friends.”

There’s something about a girl with a broken old beater that makes the hearts of straight men go pitter patter. And I’ll admit that it does makes me feel a little warm on the inside when my car dies in the middle of the Albertson’s parking lot and within minutes, I am swarmed by a group of concerned, weathered car guys. If only I had the capacity to swoon for them, too.

It would be nice to date someone who could “dial up” my car ala Pimp My Ride.

When I drove it from Portland to Berkeley without a battery and with an engine that killed whenever I took my foot off ofbeater the gas, I push-started my car—a lot. I was driving with a lovely boy named Nick. Sometimes he would drive and I would push. This was always the most effective arrangement. I couldn’t push it very far, so within an instant, we had helpers. Sometimes five or six men, all at once. We went from zero-sixty in a matter of minutes. A couple of more men and we would have been in the clouds. These men are mostly just concerned and eager to help. But there is I think a degree of their assistance that stems from the “damsel in distress” narrative. And this is what I enjoy most about my car. It breaks down. I know very little about cars. A lot of men do. The men are always there, eager to help. If it comes down to it, I’ll tell them that my husband is out right now, but he’ll be back later.

Yet sometimes, when I leave beer bottles and Allen wrenches, paint splattered tarps, buckets and rollers in my car, I feel like my car is a prop for a butcher persona. All of these objects are mine, but in the context, they seem almost like a costume. A costume that I’m thrilled to wear.

It is because of this costume that, I too see my car as a vehicle for swooning. Thanks to my beater, I have more cred than I know what to with. So, theoretically, I should have a cache of cheesy pick-up lines, a pair of aviator glasses, and a swagger more defined than Patrick Swazy.

I often drive with a bike rack, because you never know when the sky will open up and someone cute and ill-prepared will need a ride. Even when I forget my bike rack, I still find a way to make room for a bicycle. And yet, when I see someone cute riding a bicycle in the rain, I freeze up. When my words return to me, the girl is usually gone and I am left with the luring voicemails of strange men asking me about the intimate details of my vehicle. I have cred, but in truth I don’t know what to do with it. Roll down my windows and blast Team Dresch out my singular speaker? Drive really slow around cute bicyclists? Buy a “smash patriarchy” bumpersticker?

My car has no transmission, so regardless of the cred, its going nowhere. Soon I will sell it, no doubt to a gruff, bearded man with a penchant for project cars. And when I do, I will have to figure out a new costume, a new way to make myself useful to attractive women. Ideas?

6 comments to Meet me in my beater.

  • is that a really big menorah in the background in the second picture??

  • why yes it is! It’s made out of PVC pipes and wood. During Hanukkah my family fills beer bottles with gasoline and makes Molotov cocktail style candles. Welcome to my parents’ house.

  • awwwwwww the men love you! they want to save you and your car.
    i don’t think your car got you any dates before it died (no offense) so i don’t see why you will have to rethink your lady-grabbing ways. Instead, you will just have to address them by bicycle. and what better way to snag a hot biker than to be on a bike yourself? honestly, i’d be scared if someone (guy or girl) hit on me from their car window. i’d be afraid they’d try to smoosh me if I didn’t comply to their catcalls!
    just act cool.

  • Ok, you got me there. I was being verbose. I would never hit on someone while passing them. It would be a little bit scary. Especially because that’s one word away from “hit someone.” The car didn’t get me any dates either, but it did get me to dates. Thanks to the car, I got a romantic walk down the Berkeley pier with M. After it was over, she bought me flowers and chocolate.

  • Elliot

    Obnoxious speculation follows.

    My guess is that a girl in a beater signals something like a cool retro aesthetic or just a “I don’t care what other people think” attitude, assuming caring what other people think = driving a Lexus or some crap. In any case, both of those possible signals are kind of hawt. Also, I have zero evidence of this, but I get the impression that vintage manual cars are a sort of guy-identified symbol, which (complete speculation) might attract guys because everybody likes commonalities of taste.

    So I was trying to think of a analogous situation, and all I could think of was the aforementioned Nick’s dresses/skirts (aesthetics, counter-“mainstream”, counter-gender-identified), which seem to have a similar effect on girls. So…interesting stuff.

    I feel like costume/cred has suddenly become this big thing post-college. If you have a long time to get to know people, you can gradually build up a sense of a person. But if you just have a short encounter to interact with a stranger, then all of a sudden all the impression management / cred signals have to be in play right away or there may never be a second encounter.

    Weirdness. =/

  • alleyhector

    I think that menorah can definitely get you dates…