Eating quiche or pumping gas, what makes you real?

On the way to Wal-Mart last Sunday, the gas light came on in my car so I pulled into the local gas station where the price of 87-octane is only slightly lower than the cost of a pint of AB- negative.

Even though I was driving, my husband offered to pump.

Years ago I remember the book, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche," and its feminist counterpart, "Real Women Don't Pump Gas." I've never been one of those women who go all female at a gas station; it's my car, I can fill the tank. But if my husband offers to pump, in the rain, or snow or gloom of night, I let him feel needed. Even though the weather was beautiful that day I figured I'm driving, he can pump if he wants to.

As we pulled up to one of the wallet-drainers I realized that all the other pumps were occupied by motorcycles with drivers filling tanks the size of my purse. It wasn't a mean looking cadre of Marlon Brando type wild ones; they looked like a bunch of young guys out for some wind in their hair on a beautiful spring afternoon.

Before my husband opened his door I said "I'll pump," and I jumped out.

As I was standing there draining my bank account, the engines on the fancy two wheelers revved and the pack of young men pulled away. When I got back in the car I figured I should explain to my husband why, at that moment, pumping my own gas was so important.

I didn't want a group of strangers to see my husband pump gas for me. I did not want to be considered by anyone, even people I would never see again, as one of those women who won't 'fill-er-up' on my own. For folks who need assistance, that's one thing, but as long as I'm capable, I'll do it, especially if someone else is watching. This was of course assuming someone actually noticed the gray haired matron hopping out of her car so energetically, to expertly operate the gas pump.

My husband and I laughed about my need to prove independence amidst a group of men young enough to be my grandsons. That's when I thought about a few women I know who, though physically capable, refuse to pump gas. Their marriages ended in divorce. I wondered if there was some sort of correlation between female dependence, a couple's perception of self-reliance, and how long a marriage lasts.

I didn't marry until I was past thirty, so even though I've been married more than half my life, I'm used to not being helpless. My husband cooks, because he likes to and I cook when I have to. I don't carry in all the groceries but I am the one who puts them away. I don't always clean the snow off my car but when I do I clean off my husband's pick-up too. I don't mow the lawn, I weed, I don't plow, I vacuum. I know how to check the oil in my car and fill the window washer reservoir with fluid. I've never had to, but I can change a tire, because I can read (I know where the manual is), and if the battery dies I know how to dial AAA. So, as long as I'm wearing my glasses and have a cell phone, regarding my vehicle, I'm pretty self-sufficient.

I'm a real woman who pumps gas and after thirty-four years of marriage, I've never seen my husband eat quiche. What's that make him? Enough said.



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