Chivalry or Sexism?

I’ve just returned from the most glorious wedding in Devon. It really was like something out of a fairytale. The venue was a wonderful sprawling country estate, with quirky furniture and rambling grounds. I had planned on renting a camper van for us to sleep in, when the bride and groom offered us the use of the Split Screen VW they had rented to be their prosseco van. Who in their right mind would turn that down?

We had 2 great nights in ‘Barbarella’ but something that happened at the reception has been playing on my mind. Once the afternoon festivities were finished, I need to move the van back to the other side of the estate, away from the party.

If you’ve owned an older/classic car, you know that keys and locks can be a bit of a hurdle. Over the years there’s wear and tear on both and so opening doors and starting engines tend to be about hitting the sweet spot with the key.

So here I was sat in the camper van, with a small bunch of keys, all of which had different teeth on both sides, trying to work out which one starts the engine. As I’m sat there systematically working my way through the variables and trying to find the potential sweet spot one each. Man number 1. rocks up.”Having trouble?” “No” I reply, it’s just finding the right key, waving said bunch at him. “do you want me to have a go?” I thank him and say “No it’s fine, I used to own an old VW Camper, it all about getting the key in just the right spot”. He’s nods in agreement and wanders off.

Not a minute passes, Man number 2. (who is a little on the drunk side) “Can’t start it?” I take a deep breath at this point and recap my previous conversation. Pacified that I did in fact know what I was doing he too wanders off to find more alcohol.

I don’t think he’d even made it up the stairs to the bar when Man 3. Sways up towards me. “Get out, I used to do these up”. By this point, the only reason I will be getting out of this van is because I can’t reach to make a knockout punch. I smile and grit my teeth at the same time and again point out that I know what I’m doing, I used to own one and that I really don’t need help (from someone who is obviously way over the drink drive limit) Then Glory Be! I finally locate the correct spot of the correct key, start the van and drive off before I can say to him exactly what is on my mind.

I know they were trying to be helpful. I know that they thought they were rescuing a damsel in distress. But I also know that had I been male, they’d have leaned in through the window, said something to the effect of “Ehh, those camper vans, paff, always a bit tricky with the keys” They’d have sympathised with the problem, not tried to take charge. I bet there would have been a bit of banter and suggestions, but never a “Get out” or questioning my ability to do the job.

I’d like to think it was just a bit of over enthusiastic, alcohol induced attempt at chivalry. Maybe the events in America have made me hypersensitive to female inequality. Maybe they just wanted a chance to drive the cool van. I’d say only they know, but I suspect they didn’t even know they were doing it.



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