I am a 42 year-old American man who drives a mini-van. I don’t feel weird about it. I like my mini-van. I would like it a lot more if it had better gas mileage, but hey, we are who we are. My mini-van happens to be a large, red, gas-guzzling vehicle that transports my children and IKEA flat-packed furniture with equal aplomb.
I’ve discovered, however, that most men don’t like to drive mini-vans. This was based on anecdotal evidence (i.e. pretty much every man I’ve asked about it) until I bothered to Google it. Then I found a study that announced “Men Who Drive Mini-Vans are Less Attractive than the UPS Guy.” Only “mail truck drivers” fared worse in the survey’s attractiveness scale than “men who drive mini-vans.”
What the heck? First of all, my UPS guy is awesome! Second, my mailman is a mailwoman. Deal with that, Kiplinger-research-associate-with-an-agenda!
My concern isn’t that the mini-van is some kind of vehicular pariah. I would simply like to know why I don’t feel the same way.
The research, backed up by dude-bros
My conversations with other men have borne this trend out. My brother has sworn that he would never buy a mini-van, and only drove one at work out of sheer necessity. Some men must be threatened with unemployment before they will drive one.
I asked my co-worker, a responsible young man and adamant mini-van opponent, what circumstances it would require to get him in a mini-van. “If someone gave one to me, I would totally drive it.”
Ah! Makes sense.
“Until I sold it, of course,” he continued. “I would sell it right away. But I would be okay driving it until then. But I wouldn’t tell anybody I was driving it.”
The root of my masculine tone-deafness
Perhaps one’s opinion of mini-vans is a function of gear-headedness or lack-thereof. When it comes to mechanical or automotive matters, I know nothing. My aptitude is nil. I first became aware of this fact in 1988, when I was a freshman in high school.
My father, a barrel-chested manly man who used to fashion engine parts out of scrap metal, drove a 1970 Ford Mustang fastback at the time. A very sporty car. A very manly car. Once, after my dad dropped me off at school in the Mustang, a huge athletic boy happened to be walking by.
“Your dad’s car is sweet!” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, I guess” I said. “He likes it.”
“What size is the engine?” asked the young man.
My mind raced. “Ummm, V-4?” I offered, mashing facts together in my brain for an answer that I hoped would impress him.
The boy snorted (literally) and went on his way. I told my dad about the encounter later. He shook his head gently.
“Scott,” he said, “There are no V-4s, at least not in America.” He opened the hood and showed me the eight cylinders lined up in a V-shape, and gently explained that four-cylinder engines usually align the cylinders in a straight line, not a V. I then asked him what a cylinder was.
This is my automotive background, for what it’s worth.
The Prince of Ignorance or the King of Not-Caring?
When it comes to the mini-van’s reputation as the less-than-manly-mobile, I can’t decide if I’ve missed the pulse of masculine taste (again), or if I have known it all along and I just don’t care. I would like to believe it’s the latter.
Because dammit, I like what I like. I enjoy seeing over the little cars as I’m driving along, and not having to drive a mega-pickup truck to do it. Honestly, what would I do with a mega-pickup truck? Drive around a construction site until someone hoisted a pallet of cement blocks into it?
No, give me the non-threatening mini-van any day. I enjoy roominess. I enjoy pulling up next to sports cars at stoplights and not engendering a drag race. And if that puts me in the same category as UPS drivers and United States Postal Service mailwomen, then so be it. We’ll be out in our vans, getting stuff done.