I remember being a little girl with a trendy bowl cut and boy’s sweatpants running around my dad’s garage. I didn’t know then that I was breaking a gender code. As I got older, I started to feel it: men looking at me sideways if I tried to join their conversations about cars. If not for my plucky naivete I might have been afraid to join in the conversations at all, but luckily my ignorance was in full force. That, and my dad might be the biggest feminist of all.
Although he’s a man’s man, he never made me feel like the garage or tools were anything I was exempt from. If anything, he fed my interest as I observed him working on his ‘31 Chevy: an 11-year process that resulted in him selling it when I was away at school.
I studied the way he held tools, the way he talked to other men in the garage, the way they would all move around a garage, jockeying to be heard. I watched as he stood back from the Chevy and observed it like a painter figuring out which brush stroke was next. Because of him I can change my own oil, I can swing a mean hammer, I can ask a mechanic enough questions for him to know I can’t be taken advantage of. Because of him, I feel like this is my world too.
The label of “feminism” implies that you explore the female gender, but in order to find that answer I found myself continually drawn to the question: What does it take to be a man?
This play is a result of my fixation with that question and with this “man’s world”. Although tough, handy men often have a bad reputation for being close-minded or uneducated, as a tomboy and later a lesbian, I have found more acceptance and equal treatment from these men than many others that I have encountered in my life. They don’t lower their expectations for me. If something is heavy, they still make me carry it. In return, they give me their respect.
Equality, like these men, can sometimes be tough. But rest assured, they also have a strong, albeit understated, ability to love, even if it is mostly directed towards their cars. This love story is for them.