July 28, 2005

Are Minivans Emasculating?

The time may come some day when the 1988 Volvo, the first car I ever owned, will cease being useful. Or the time may come when it shudders itself into a heap or when there is more broken about it than there is worth fixing. As much as I have loved that car, it has reached the point where we don't care for it like we once did. That day may come when we don't want to care for it at all, and in the meantime, my husband is rattling around in it and hoping none of his clients ever see what he drives.

So now and again we talk about what kind of car we might like to get next. We want something that can, in a pinch, hold the whole family, and more frequently can haul lumber, mulch, and other diry, messy or big stuff. Justin misses our Subaru Outback, but compared to the 240 wagon, the Subaru could carry very little. He's drawn to the thought of a pickup truck, but ones we could afford could probably not carry the entire family.

I suggest perhaps a second minivan would be the most practical option. My husband, however, recoils at the thought. He's willing to drive ours around when the family is in it, but to be by himself in a minivan -- he claims that's more embarrassing than driving a 17 year old station wagon that's lost a few pieces of trim and one of the door handles. He's thinking perhaps we need a newer Volvo wagon when the time comes and since he won't consider a minivan, I think that's what we'll look for.

And so I ask all you men, is a minivan really more humilitating and emasculating than a station wagon?


What y'all need is a '77 LTD Country Squire station wagon. With a 460. My brother drools at the mention of such cars. Then you need a LOT of gas money. But the headlight covers are worth it.

Posted by: Lenise at July 28, 2005 02:54 PM

I do not know if minivans are emasculating. In general, I think most minivans border on the craptacular both in design and safety. I know. I know. The new minivans are reportedly "really safe", that is, the brand new ones are really safe; there's no real market for retesting older vehicles.

My vote doesn't count but, BUT, I think you should embrace you natural side and buy the family bicycles (or maybe tricycles). It's good for the body. It's good for the environment. Win/Win.

Posted by: DR at July 28, 2005 03:06 PM

I think Birkenstocks, a baby sling and hippie German school are as far as I'm going to go down the Earth Mama route. A minivan is hardly the automotive love of my life, but it is one of the few vehicles in which 3 carseats easily fit and since the kids have to ride in carseats until age 8 by law, we've got a few years to go in the oversized vehicle.

As far as using bikes all the time -- well, I've never tried hauling three children and 500 lbs of mulch on a bike but I can pretty much say with authority that I not only wouldn't, but couldn't. Biking and walking are both lovely options, but not terribly practical. We live relatively close to most places we go regularly, but not so close that bike riding would be easy or safe.

And besides, I can't even get places on time driving a car.

Posted by: Jordana at July 28, 2005 03:20 PM

I like the fact that we can get the lawn tracter inside our minivan, but I think my hubby would not be up for a second one. So we just stick with one minivan and one sedan. Not much help, but that's what we do with our household of 6.

Posted by: Sarah G. at July 28, 2005 03:53 PM

We aren't really needing help choosing. We'll almost certainly get another old, but not quite as old Volvo wagon when the time comes. I just don't see how a minivan is more embarrassing to drive than an ancient station wagon.

Posted by: Jordana at July 28, 2005 04:15 PM

The ancient station wagon has an air of obstinant individualism about it - a very manly quality.

On the other hand, a guy driving around by himself in a minivan may as well have the words, "I am WHUPPED" tattooed on his forehead. He can get away with being seen in a minivan with the wife and kids - there, he can just pass it off as the "family car". But by himself, uh-uh.

'Course, I say this as someone who wouldn't drive a minivan under any circs, so perhaps I'm a wee bit biased.

Posted by: Robert the Llama Butcher at July 28, 2005 04:28 PM

Ha! I agree with Robert. My husband drives HIS old Volvo wagon with a feeling of smug superiority. However, I keep finding pages of crew cab trucks bookmarked on the computer. Hmmmm.

Posted by: Meredith at July 28, 2005 04:42 PM

Get a cheap car (large enough to seat 5....try finding vehicles that seat 8! I drive a Suburban)
and a smallish trailer.
We bought a trailer that was my father's because I didn't like using the large one my husband uses for his business.
I LOVE it.
It hooks up easily (have to have a trailer hitch) and you don't even know it is there!
You can get one for a few hundred dollars and you can haul all those great yard sale/antique store finds!

My kids laugh at me because I tell them I am counting down until I can get my dream car.
A red Volvo Station Wagon Turbo.
A fellow teacher at the preschool I used to work at had one and during a field trip out of town one day, she pulled out and passed me. She was a blur of red.
She had MANY speeding tickets to show for it but man was I impressed!
(I was driving our first Minivan...Mazda MPV.

Posted by: Mary at July 28, 2005 05:18 PM

Mary, the trailer would be a thought, but for the lack of driveway, large yard or garage in an old home built when people were commuting to work on street cars.

And yes, Justin could ride the bus, but it isn't going to happen. When we eventually replace the lumbering tank we'll almost certainly just a newer Swedish tank.

Posted by: Jordana at July 28, 2005 05:39 PM

Mr. Possum was driving a minivan for a while and it didn’t seem to hurt his masculinity. However he’s just a character in a blog and not a real person.
He went in reverse and traded his minivan for an old Volvo.

Posted by: jim at July 28, 2005 07:01 PM

It's hard to beat a minivan for hauling large quantities of junk and people while not drinking that much gas. They generally haul more and seat more than all but the biggest SUVs.

Having said that, it was quite a chore for Reba to make the move to driving one. And me too, which explains why our now-departed '94 Plymouth was special ordered with the handling package and alloy wheels and guage package and towing package. It was about as butch as I could make it. It served us well, and I never felt particularly unmasculine driving it. Then again, I always had a backup masculine vehicle should I ever start getting too dainty.

It got old and became the backup to the '01 Honda, which is a fine vehicle and I don't mind driving it at all. But it is definitely less macho than the Plymouth was.

After I sold the old pickup and started driving the old van, I really felt the urge to have something again that was really mine, thus the switch from the 10 year old van to the 20 year old Volvo. But, it's fun to play with, mainly because I know I have a backup vehicle.

AS FOR THE ADAMS FAMILY--three kids makes it hard to find something large enough to hold them all and their stuff, yet find something small enough to not be a gas hog, AND boy enough so that Mr. Adams doesn't feel too swishy whilst driving it without the family on board.

Dodge Magnum?

Mercedes E320?

Jag X-Type shooting brake?

Volvo XC-70?

I recommend a Navistar CXT.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 29, 2005 10:33 AM

Mercedes? Jaguar? Terry, he may be a lawyer, but he has three kids and a wife to support, debts to pay and all that. We have to park on the street and besides Justin hasn't won any big class action suits, so no fancy, super expensive cars here.

Posted by: Jordana at July 29, 2005 11:08 AM

Well, then--I vote for the Magnum--not too pricey, and muy macho!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 29, 2005 01:13 PM

A minivan and a pickup truck. Nothing handles kids like a minivan but no guy can survive without a truck.

Minivans are only emasculating if you're still trying to pick up chick. On dads, they look hot...

Posted by: Kevin at July 29, 2005 03:06 PM

I would think a Volvo wagon is far more threatening to one's masculinity than a minivan, but real men don't care what they drive as long as it runs. We have an Odyssey and an old Buick for family of 5 (3 car seats) and it works out fine. Note: the minivan is far more agile and has a tighter turning circle.

And there's only one station wagon: the '72 Vista Cruiser with 455 V8 and moon roof.

Posted by: hbeal at July 29, 2005 04:53 PM

I had an old Volvo once; it sucked so massively that I haven't bought a foreign car since. The tank-like nature of Volvos is an investment on the order of buying lottery tickets. The people who get killed in car accidents are the sort who buy Camaros.

A truck-based minivan - Chevy Astro or Ford Anystar - are perfectly ok for a man to drive alone. Especially if you swap a V8 into it. For that matter, there are turbo-converted Dodge Horizons running 12 second quartermiles.

Posted by: triticale at July 29, 2005 07:38 PM

I drive the family minivan on the weekend because my two year and a half old twins' car seats are in there. I like it almost as much as my '99 Grand Prix that has muchas poweras.

The minivan has a nice steady ride, lots of ac, and a good stereo. Who cares what the pumk in the the rice rocket thinks of me when I pull up to the light. My ride doesn't sound like a crow's mating call.

I drive a Dodge Grand Caravan SXT and I'm no puss.

Posted by: Jeff at July 29, 2005 11:20 PM

It's a pity that vehicles are viewed as 'necessities' rather than 'luxuries'. If only our ((great)*X) grandparents could see us now. We're doomed. ;)

The words Otto (inventor of gas engine) and Benz (inventor of (practical) gasoline powered automobile) should be curse words. Instead of, '$...', we'd have, 'Otto' or, 'Benz'. :)

Posted by: DR at July 30, 2005 01:05 PM

I'm not a car guy, so I shouldn't contribute. But a Honda minivan is not emasculating as far as I can tell. No more so than the Civic I drive regularly.

Since I managed to get entire sheets of plywood in the back and close the door on them, I would say there's plenty of haulability, which makes up for the lack of machismo.

Posted by: skinnydan at August 1, 2005 09:17 AM