February 24, 2020

Can A Mom-Approved Minivan Be A Ride for High Rollers?

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

I didn’t want to do it. After five years of marriage and two children, surely, I argued, there had to be other options.

And yet, there weren’t.

I now drive a minivan.

Most fathers wouldn’t want to drive a minivan. “It’s just not me,” they’d say. “That’s really a more suitable car for my wife.”

Society makes a lot of assumptions about women, including that all women would love to be mothers. Maybe others imagine that all mothers would like to drive a minivan.

Why do we think minivans are so great? Because they’re more convenient?

Letting my eyebrows grow into the original “uni-brow” also would be more convenient but having two looks better.

Two just happens to be the number of doors on my fantasy car, a Corvette Stingray.

I know my maternal blessings are immeasurable, but in this instance, consider me a blessed ingrate.

Yes, many mothers don’t even have a car. But here’s the entitled rub: I worry that the minivan will usurp my identity.

Los Angeles residents spend a lot of time in their cars, and in my minivan I confess I feel a bit defeated. Motherhood is the most important role in my life but with this car, I feel as if my identity as a mother is the only one I’ll ever have.

To be fair, it’s not as if I used to cruise in a Mustang convertible; I had a Honda Accord.

But this is different. This is a minivan.

How can I continue to blast Led Zeppelin from a minivan?

As much as I make fun of minivans, maybe I feel I haven’t “earned” it. Maybe they’re more suited for “religious” women or families with more than two kids, or people who actually care about soccer. 

Want to hear a secret? One Sunday each month, when I had my old Accord, I would leave our sons, ages 2 and 3, at home with my husband and hop in the car, driving above the speed limit, windows open and blaring Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” As the glorious guitar riff started, I would smoke a Marlboro Red from a secret stash of cigarettes I kept in the car, right next to my emergency vegetable peeler, which ensured I’d never have to suffer through an unpeeled cucumber if I felt like stealing one from a grocery bag in the front passenger seat. (We all have our priorities.)

I allowed myself one drive (and cigarette) a month. After my James Dean impersonation, I would air out the car thoroughly and return home to the unrelenting shrieks of toddlers fighting over who wanted to use my anti-wrinkle serum as butt cream.

The joyride was good for my sanity.

And now, I worry I’ll never have it again. 

If Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant heard his voice blasting out of my incredibly practical minivan, he’d roll over in his grave. (I know he’s still alive but have you seen him lately? The man’s a warning label against hard living.)

There’s something else. I recently wrote that I grapple with religious imposter syndrome that leaves me feeling like a heathen amid “real” Orthodox Jews. So picture it: A minivan pulls up to a kosher market on Pico Boulevard. Instead of someone dressed in a long skirt, sweater and head covering, out comes a woman in a T-shirt and skinny jeans, and instead of five or six kids, she has only two, and instead of Shabbat singalongs, she’s blasting “Stairway to Heaven.”

Maybe I feel like an imposter on more than one level.

As much as I make fun of minivans, maybe I feel I haven’t “earned” it. Maybe they’re more suited for “religious” women or families with more than two kids, or people who actually care about soccer. I’m more interested in corn dogs. In truth, so are my uncoordinated kids.

I don’t know if I’ll ever accept my new soccer mom status, but I admit that I do love the extra room. More than anything, the car is taller than every sedan on the road. I’m 5 feet 2, and with my acute Napoleonic complex, being able to see above other cars is very desirable. It nurtures my need for stature (and absolute power). I wonder if Mussolini ever rode around in a minivan.

Maybe one day I’ll take the minivan for a spin, break out the Led Zeppelin and play air guitar with one hand while ridin’ high, or at least, higher than almost every other driver.

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker.