Rant: Valentine’s Cards and Men and Directions

This post is going to be little more than a rant. If you don’t like rants, please read some of my other work. I appreciate good rants. If they’re well written, they can be highly entertaining and they can make a point. Maddox is a master of the rant. I enjoy reading his rants.

Last night, my wife and I were at Wal-mart. I broke away to look at Valentine’s Day cards. The first thing I noticed is that a bunch of women were blocking the small section devoted to cards for wives. I don’t know why. I’m not aware of a high lesbian population in Deptford, NJ. I finally got an opening and went in to see what I could find. I like to go for the slightly humorous cards when I can find them. The first card I picked up sounded cool, except of course it had to make mention of "I get lost because I won’t ask directions." I’m a geek. I love humor, but I also love accuracy. I have a phone with a GPS and Google Maps, so seriously, there is no need to ask anyone but Google for directions. I put the card away. I picked up another one. Same thing: it had some decent self-depreciating humor but also had to bring up the "men always get lost because we’re too stubborn and stupid to waste precious time by stopping the car and getting out and waiting for some clueless gas station attendant who can’t speak English to give us directions". I editorialized that line a little bit. I put that card away and picked up another one. Same thing: 3 good points, but the direction thing. By this point, I was getting frustrated and decided that now my ultimate goal was to find a Valentine’s Day card that had nothing to do with men, driving, and directions.

I finally found one and ran to the cash register to pay for it. It came up to $3.09. At Wal-mart. I’m starting to hate the card industry. There has to be a better way to show my love for my wife than blowing $3 on a card that she’s just going to throw away right after she looks at it. (I try to save my cards, but that presents a clutter problem and my wife throws them away as soon as she comes across them).

This post is two rants for the price of one.

First, seriously, why do we have to buy cards for everything? My wife expects cards for just about every holiday, and of course I never remember to buy one. When I was growing up, we got my mom a card for Mother’s Day, but that was about it. Actually, it was more like we got up on Sunday morning, my dad asked if we had cards, and my brother and I would run back to our rooms and scribble off "Happy Mother’s Day" on a piece of paper and call it a card. We never got cards for other things except for birthdays. Cards were things that we gave to people outside of our house. And so, after 8 years of marriage, every Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc, I get up to find a card for me on the table and say "Aw, crap, I forgot to get my wife a card again!" But then again, she always throws them away anyway, so I blow between $1-$5 on a card and it gets tossed. There has to be a better way. Cards are stupid.

Second, as I said, I’m all for self-depreciating humor, but that "men get lost because they don’t ask for directions" is getting old. It was funny for a few years in the 90’s, but please, let’s stop. I know some women get all insecure because they often don’t have the same sense of direction, but please, leave it alone. Most men have GPSs now anyway.  I’ll let you in on a secret: sometimes we get lost because you’re making us go somewhere that we don’t want to go, and we don’t care if we ever get there or not, and your nagging us to stop and ask for directions and putting us down is distracting us from figuring out where we’re trying to go. My wife admits that she has no sense of direction. Whenever she sells something on Craig’s List, she puts down my number because she’s terrified to give anybody directions to our house. Of course, she grew up in New Jersey. I’ve only been here 10 years, but she trusts my ability to give directions more. If only she shared the same trust in my ability to find directions.

Here’s a true story: on our wedding day, after the reception we headed out for our honeymoon at a resort in the Poconos. I was following the directions that we had, and I had to change highways a few times. One exit was poorly labeled (no, in Pennsylvania, the well-labeled highway exit state), and I ended up on some network of side streets trying to get back on the highway. I just about had it figured out when my bride started insisting that I ask somebody for directions. I already knew where to go by that point, but I decided fighting about it on our wedding night was a bad idea. So, I wasted some time stopping at a gas station, going in, waiting in line for several minutes, and when the attendant finally acknowledged me, I asked "I turn right up here to get back on the highway, right?" Sure enough, I was right but it took 5 minutes to prove it.

I’ll say this as nicely as I can. Women, if your husband, boyfriend, brother, nice-guy-friend, or stranger giving you a ride seems lost, here is the secret: just shut up and give him time to figure it out. Men’s brains are better suited for single tasking, and we can’t work out navigational plans while we’re being nagged and put down and trying to reassure you that we know what we’re doing. Just shut up. Just because you’re lost doesn’t mean that he is.

Seriously, I’m getting sick of hearing about men, getting lost, and directions. I wish we could give it a rest and move on to a new bit of self-depreciating humor that is actually funny. Seriously, ladies, if you added up all the times a man successfully found something and compared them to the times he missed a turn, you would have a very high success to failure ratio. Stop focusing on the few negatives. How would you like it if we blew your one failure out of a thousand out of proportion?

Obviously, men should be sensitive to women’s differences in navigating ability. Here’s another true story. In 2003, my wife and I went to a Family Life “Rekindling the Romance” conference in Baltimore. I printed out some directions from Map Quest or Expedia or whatever service I was using before Google Maps became the de facto king of navigation. I got a crazy idea that somehow it might be romantic to let my wife be the navigator. Normally when I take a trip, I will spend some time studying the directions. I don’t try to memorize them, but I try to at least get a feel for highways, exits, roads, and directions in case I find a spot where I can’t look down at the directions and drive at the same time. That time I didn’t because I figured my wife would navigate. We got to Baltimore, and had to make an exit, but we had to turn a certain direction after our exit. I asked what exit, she told me, then I asked which way. I asked again, “Which way do I go?” She didn’t respond. There were other cars, and I had to know RIGHT AWAY which lane to be in. She locked up. I yelled “which way do I turn!” She broke down and said I had to give her time to read the directions. I was incredulous “You’ve had 100 miles to read the directions! Which way do I turn?” So here we were, on our way to a “romantic” weekend in Baltimore at a Christian marriage conference, having a fight in the car. Great way to get started. I ended up turning the wrong way, but my wife was too mad at me to talk, so I was able to figure out which way I needed to get turned back around in relative peace. I finally got us back to where we needed to go thanks to my superior road navigation capability and we found the hotel. I also apologized to her. By the time we got turned around, the argument was over and we were back on track.

I’ve since learned that my wife and I are not the same. We don’t think the same, we don’t drive the same, and we don’t read directions the same. I handle all of the navigating when we go somewhere now. I feel it’s my job. I rarely get lost, and I always get us there safely. And of course I love having GPS now, although I always did just fine before I had it.



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