Backseat Driving or Shotgun Seat Critique?

Get-well-soon fresh cut flowers have decorated our house since Steve’s surgery (see previous blogs). This is a nice little benefit to having surgery; it did make Steve (and me) feel better to have flowers around. Yes, it’s nice that there are a few benefits to the whole process, because drawbacks keep popping up.

The difficulty of one drawback was overlooked. You see, Steve couldn’t drive for three weeks. I was alone in hauling our two kids and Steve from place to place and thing to thing (hats off to single parents out there who do this all the time). This I anticipated.

The overlooked part to this situation is that this has given Steve ample opportunity to back-seat drive. Before I go any further, I would like to rename “back seat driver” to “shotgun seat critique” (from now on SSC). The term “back seat driver” just doesn’t capture the essence of what’s going on. Anyway, hauling the kids I can deal with, but the SSC was driving me nuts!

I need to back up a bit to explain. Thankfully, Steve and I have a terrific marriage. We rarely argue, but when we do, we are pretty dang good at resolving the problem, and letting the anger/hurt/frustration go. I mean we really let it go, as in not stuffing-it-to-bring-up-later-in-another-argument sort of letting go. (This is definitely a subject for another blog.) My point here is that “normally”, we get along great. However, put us in a car with me as pilot, things can become, uh…..“abnormal” (i.e. tensions flair) compared to any other part of our relationship.

Steve is very nice in his SSC’ing of my driving – he doesn’t yell or swear or grab the wheel. He says things like: “Are you sure you want to turn here?” or “Why are you going this way?” or “ How fast are you going, honey?” (this is because I sometimes go too slow) or “Don’t you think that you should pull into the right lane if you aren’t going to pass?” (on the freeway) or “Use your blinker.” (when not a car is in sight) You get the idea.

However, no matter how nice he is, I do not need his input, and I certainly do not need to be SSC’ed! I do just fine driving on my own. I am an 80 mile-a-day commuter. So please, honey, just let me do it my way…..Unfortunately, it seems like it is impossible for them (men) to not direct the driving. It’s against their nature.

Or is it? Is a man’s need to be in the driver’s seat, no matter if his butt is actually in the seat, nature or nurture?

Historically, driving was the man’s job. They drove the buggies, they were captains of ships, they have been the train engineers, and they were the drivers of the family car since cars have been around. I know that when I was young, my dad was always the driver, and he still is. In fact, I think ours is the first generation in which one spouse routinely says the other, “Do you want to drive or should I?”

Our husbands saw their fathers take this role. Boys witness the brilliance of their father’s plan to always be the family driver. “Honey, could you please get the kids to stop hitting and screaming at each other? I’m trying to drive!” Enough said?
Watching commercials for family cars, and TV shows, the man/father is always the driver. If you suspect that this is what is behind it all, then you might support the nurture position.

My pet theory, however, is that most CCS’ing is instinctive for men. Ludicrous, you say? I speculate that the need to be driver is directly linked to the need for control in a seemingly dangerous situation. Traveling by car can be risky. So this just may have something to do with the man being protector.

My theory here then suggests that primal urge, supporting the nature option, is the culprit. Protection of his family is deeply part of a man’s psyche.

O.K., so this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, perspective and understanding are always helpful. If I can convince myself that Steve’s comments are primitively driven or just learned behavior from another generation, then maybe I wouldn’t start to get hot under the collar as soon as he makes a driving suggestion. And if I don’t react, there’s nothing for him to defend, and (lo and behold) we avoid a really inane argument. I would love to laugh it off and think to myself, “Oh, Steve, you’re so primitive! You’ve sure got a long way to go, baby, to catch up to women in the evolution department.”

Well….maybe I haven’t evolved so far, either. If I am dressed up for a night on the town with my lover, I expect (and want) him to drive. What’s that all about?

This concludes another view from my married life.

p.s. I referred at the end here to Steve as my lover….I strongly recommend you start to refer to your husband as your lover….it just feels good. When Steve calls me his lover or refers to me as his “bride”, I just love it. Was Shakespeare too dismissive when addressing the power of a name?