Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'Men will stop and marvel at a parked car. Am I missing something? Does it cook? Can it speak six languages?'

Sunday 23 October 2011 01:31

So, a woman just passed her driving test. No big whoop, right? She reversed around a corner when she was told to, and then assured the examiner sitting next to her holding a clipboard that she knew where the indicator was. What's the hullabaloo? Well, this story is slightly different, because she passed the test 27 years after her first driving lesson. True. Not making it up. She'd failed 12 tests and had cancelled 35. Teresa Clarke from Norfolk can, at the age of 62, finally hit the road.

When asked what made her most recent attempt so different from all the others, she said: "This time I concentrated." And that, by the way, makes Teresa my new hero. She could have made all kinds of things up: the road was clearer, she feels better in a Corsa (this is, I agree, highly unlikely, but work with me here), she was in a better mood and had just finished a nice lunch, or maybe she could have said it was all about her brand-new instructor. She could have said any of these things but basically she nailed it – when it comes to women and driving and interest in cars, we just don't care that much.

I can hear scary women who invest in driving gloves and travel sweets (if they're dusty and in a circular tin then we can be friends) shouting: "That's a generalisation, you muppet. I LOVE driving. I LOVE gears. I LOVE the open road. I'm always in my car on DRIVING HOLIDAYS!" But sorry, girls – there may be a few of you, but you're just not loud enough.

Thing is with women and learning to drive, we've just got other stuff to do. You know – develop friendships for life, get a degree, make sure our siblings are happy, make our parents proud of us, read a book. That kind of thing. Unlike our male counterparts at 18 who only want to furiously masturbate 98 times a day and occasionally stop to roll a joint, driving isn't THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL. It is not the way we measure ourselves. I know, a lot of capital letters – but I'm making a point.

The pride those spotty little smelly heaps take in passing their driving test is infuriating and slightly embarrassing. It's hardly reciting the whole of the first act of King Lear, is it? It's not like they sold a painting at a student art exhibition. It's not climbing K2. It's DRIVING. Yes, they can sit in the right-hand front seat of a moving vehicle and make it go forward. AND?

As time goes on, the boys lose their spots (please, God), they start to change their socks more often (one hopes), they put down Razzle (in some cases) and they pretend to be all grown-up. But it never leaves them, the growing sense that men are better drivers than women and that they are somehow "special" for passing early and without much effort.

These men might be fathers, they might be the CEOs of big companies, they might be really great company at dinner – but they will also want to look at a stationary car in the street. Seriously. They will stop and marvel at a parked car. It's a car, right? Am I missing something? Does it cook? Does it get a discount at Prada? Can it speak six languages? Nope. Didn't think so. It gets you from A to B. You know, like a bike.

These men also drive with care and thought. I mean, Jesus, we're going to Lucy's house and we've done it a million times before. What's with the "Just trying a new route to see how the car likes it" or "Let's drive via the flower shop so we can listen to music and hear this baby hum"? OK, now I'm getting carried away. If a man (or indeed anyone I know) actually said that to me, I'd have jumped out the car after calling him a LOSER. Ahem.

But men park slowly and they get grumpy when someone bumps (I call it kisses) their car. They watch Top Gear (which takes the place of Razzle) with a wide-eyed fascination. "Jeremy and Richard and the other one are racing each other across Finland in cars that can also be used as ovens." Wow. Really? Well, excuse me while I hack my head off with a spoon. Did you say a documentary was on about 14th-century sewing?

They think of excuses to get in the car – shall I take the toddler in the car to the park so she can see a tree? (Uh, that's what books are for.) Do you need me to get some shopping? (Uh, that's what Ocado is for.) Or do you think I should pop into the office to see how my new PA is getting on? (Yes, you guessed it, that's what Razzle is for.) So, boys, better to come straight out with it. You've got a car you like and you want to put petrol in it, you want to take it for a "spin", you want to listen to Magic with the wind in your hair.

Well, don't worry about it – we'll let you do all of that, but just remember this. Women aren't less good at driving because we're not skilful, we're less good at driving because we DON'T CARE. Like Teresa Clarke – most of the time we're just not concentrating.

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