Growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, I was aware of all the unrest in the world, especially in the arena of feminism. This was a time when women began to protest loudly about lack of equality and lower salaries that were based solely on their gender.
That was the outside world. Inside my home I watched as my mom and dad co-parented without a struggle as to which gender should be considered more prominent. My mom was the one with the regular job and my dad had a seasonal business with downtime in the winter. So, he was the one at home making the meals and driving my brother and I to our activities. During the summer, when my mom was on a break from her teaching job, my dad worked long hours on construction sites. As far as I could see, gender never seemed to affect the decision making process.
Fast forward to my 16th birthday when my parents gave me a car. It was, by then, 14 years old and it was a 4 door, family sedan, but it was what I wanted at the time. My dad had ordered it from the factory and when he got a new car a few years later, he didn’t have the heart to sell it. It sat in the yard for about a year before I asked for it.
Within the year I had moved 1,200 miles away to go to college, leaving the car behind. When he brought the car out to me, he officially transferred the ownership so that it was legally mine. The first order of business was to have an oil change after it had been driven that many miles.
We pulled into a fast lube business with me driving and my dad directing from the passenger seat. One of the two male employees caught my dad’s eye as he got out of the car.
“Would you like us to do an oil change for you today, sir?” he asked, ignoring the fact that I was the one exiting the driver’s seat.
Without a moment’s thought or hesitation, my dad politely replied, “Ask the lady. It is her car.”
Wow! That single statement spoke volumes to me that continue to resonate even decades later. Here was a man who had ordered and spec’d out this very car from the factory. He paid for it completely with no help from me. By the way, the purchase price would be equivalent to $38,000 in today’s currency. At that time, he had already owned it for 14 years. It would have been so easy for him to simply say something like, “go ahead with an oil change” and no one would have thought anything of it, including me.
Both men shifted their gaze toward me. I’m sure I looked as shocked as they were, standing there, not more than 18 years old but probably looking more like 15. I managed to mutter an affirmation that we indeed came for the oil change. Then, without another word, my dad and I made our way to the waiting room to drink coffee with tasteless powdered substances added to it. Less than an hour later, we were once again driving down the road, me behind the wheel of my new old car with a renewed sense of confidence in who I was as a woman.
Later in his life, my dad began to shift responsibility of his affairs preparing for the one day that he would no longer be here. The person he picked to handle them was me. Not because I was his favorite (as my brother so often cites). And of course, the fact that I was female was never a consideration so I was not passed over because of my gender. No, the one and only reason my dad picked me over my brother was because I was his first born. Plain and simple.
To this day, I still conduct family affairs on his behalf, having taken on some of his patriarchal duties with no resistance to the fact that I am female. Although I universally acknowledge the physiological and psychological differences between the sexes, I do not take kindly to being discriminated against because of them. Read my earlier post on genders.
Through one incident, my tall, strong, masculine dad taught me that I was valued as an individual regardless of my gender. Thank you, Dad.