Relinquishing Manhood

Ever since the car crash we’ve been driving around a rental car and trying to figure out what kind of car to buy.  Oh, I know, First World Problems, but we hadn’t been planning on buying a car and haven’t come up with a budget for it.  Here’s the point where I admit I still think of myself as a somewhat hip adult with taste and a modicum of concern about appearance.  Even though we have two kids, my wife and I have made a blood pact, Bowie-knife-and-bloody-handshake-style, to never ever own a minivan.  It’s reasonable to have a five-seater car when your family is four people.  It is reasonable to want a vehicle that is capable, stylish, and doesn’t look like a beached manatee.  It is unreasonable to think you can find said vehicle then start adding conflicting and non-negotiable qualifiers:  it must have a third row of seats but be easy to parallel park, those seats must be accessible and split-folding, it must be high up for visibility but easy to get into, it must get good gas mileage but also have plenty of power when loaded with people and cargo and climbing up the side of a mountain, it must have quality build and be inexpensive, and must have a nice exterior color.  Based on our criteria, my wife and I want an aqua blue $1000 electric bus that can change shape like the double-decker in Harry Potter.

In the last week our wish list has rammed up against the wall of reality like a rocket sled fired into a concrete abutment.  We’ve looked at the Volvo XC90, the Kia Sorrento, the Honda Pilot, the Mazda CX-9, the Toyota Highlander, and even what my wife thought was a Toyota Rav4 with third-row seating at a local dealer which turned out to be a Honda CR-V with an aftermarket seat bolted in the back which was actually at a dealership a hundred miles away.  It’s like fishing by standing in a pond and slapping your arms around hoping to stun the exact fish you want.

Add in the delusion that you can go car shopping with a five-year old and a toddler, both of whom want to leave dirty footprints all over the inside of a brand new car with cream-colored calfskin seating before bursting into tears because they are moved from one carseat to the next without ANY snack, and you can see why we’re considering going native and walking everywhere like pilgrims.

Enter the minivan.  It’s like the practical friend that waits in the wings as you go through one horrible girlfriend after another.  Sure, it’s not flashy, it disappears in a crowd, and it confronts you with the reality that you’re not as hip as you thought.  But it carefully knocks down every objection with the patience of a Tibetan monk.  Ease of getting in and out?  It’s like stepping onto a Swiss train.  Third-row seating?  Three husky adults can sit side-by-side without their sweaty arms touching.  Features?  How about electric doors and more storage than a container ship.  Flexibility?  The seats fold up like eager-to-please contortionists.  Every argument against the minivan sounds vain and childish when given voice, then withers under the bright glare of practicality.  Cost, safety, reliability, convenience, these things matter.  Coolness?  How much is that really worth?

[sigh]  So why do I expect to feel like a deferential eunuch when I’m sitting at a stoplight in this thing and some cool guy pulls up and…see, I can’t even finish the sentence.  Coolness just doesn’t matter that much.  Fine, minivan, YOU WIN!  Now the Manhood Alliance can come claim my membership card.

No men sign


  1. mud4fun said:

    LOL, I went through this same dilemma a few years back when our third daughter arrived and we realised we could only fit two kids on child restraints on the back seat of our pickup truck (UK sized so equivalent to a mini truck over there), thankfully our eldest daughter left home to go to university shortly after that and from there moved in with her boyfriend so we never actually had to sell our pickup although top of the short list for its replacement was a mid sized ‘people carrier’ as they are known over in the UK. It ticked all the practicality boxes but it was as boring as hell to look at. 🙂

  2. I’m finding that a car is not boring to look at once you’re inside it. But that doesn’t change the fact I’ll feel like a pseudo-man driving a minivan. But I’ll be a hero to my kids and that’s more important. And I won’t throw out my back trying to wedge them into the backseat of a two-door car. If I could fit carseats in a Land Rover Forward Control 101 I think I might solve all my problems.

    • mud4fun said:

      That made me chuckle, a 101 is on my shortlist for the next project and yes you can fit lots of forward facing seats in them!!! 😉

      The funny thing is (and I’ve just read your latest post with the star trek shuttle) despite finding the people carrier the perfect practical family transport and relatively fuel efficient too, when my wife needed a new vehicle two years ago we bought a 30 year old THREE seat Land Rover 109″ pickup truck……..sort of one extreme to another.

      The Land Rover seats fewer people, in less comfort, in less safety, in more noise and travels much slower and uses more fuel but it had one thing that no people carrier had and that was character.

      We sacrificed everything else for that one thing, well actually two things, the other being ease of DIY maintenance. My wife loves the truck and so do the kids. Sometimes common sense and logic have to get overruled – in our case this was a 2nd vehicle so we didn’t absolutely have to have the most practical vehicle as we still had/have the four seater Mazda pickup (quad/double cab).

      I do agree though that there doesn’t seem to be much thought or effort going into the styling of these mini vans. It is as though the designers thought ‘poor sod has loads of kids and will have to buy our 7 seater as he has no choice so why put any effort into the styling?’ 😉

      • Actually I think a Series Land Rover has the BENEFIT of easy DIY maintenance. Having owned an 88″ and 109″ Land Rover I can say they have much more room and simplicity for the DIY mechanic. Replacing the battery and ABS module in my modern Volkswagen had me cursing German mechanics and their Tetris-like fit of everything in the engine compartment. If you like Rovers, check out my writing page for the Border to Border excerpt. Soon to be released is my Border to Border book about driving to Canada to Mexico off-road in a 1972 Land Rover in 1998 to celebrate Land Rover’s 50th anniversary. So I know about noise, speed, and comfort in Solihull’s finest!

  3. mud4fun said:

    PS. My nine year old daughter points out that it was a Star Wars shuttle not a Star Trek shuttle in my reply above, I assure you that it was a typo as I knew it was Star Wars, quite how I managed to get that wrong I’ll never know but my kids aren’t going to let me live that down.

    • Understood. There’s nothing worse than knowing something, making a mistake, and having your children cannonize this for life. I am guilty of doing this do my parents.

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