Real Men Drive Minivans

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real_men_drive_minivansBy Adrienne Gruben

Back in 1981, when the Talking Heads sang about the “large automobile” in their class-angst anthem “Once in a Lifetime,” and its spirit-shriveling effect on the song’s anti-hero dad, no one had a clue that just two years later, something called a “minivan” would debut, and proceed to enchant, confound, comfort and embarrass scores of dads to come–especially because it all started innocently enough.

With the van no longer the stuff of Beach Boys songs, portals between virginity and crabs, and false memories of family vacay singalongs (instead of the real version where dad swerved the van onto the shoulder, slammed it into park and threw everyone’s luggage out before threatening to take off alone),–the family decided it wanted to actually be able to park their lugging mechanism in the garage, and get more efficiency out of the deal.

And so, the modern incarnation of the minivan was born, and its ob-gyn was Chrysler who, in 1983, delivered the landscape-changing Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. It was probably on their Voyager’s car stereo that families heard Ronald Reagan say, “It’s morning in America.”

how to feel manly in a minivanIt was certainly morning for the minivan, and throughout the 80′s, it was smooth sailing-image wise for a certain type of American dad. You could sit up high, and not only was Mom suddenly King of the Road during the day, after work, dad was King of Home Depot–able to buy plywood, load it in the car, and have it out to work on in time for Hardcastle and McCormick, Knight Rider, or the A-Team. But then he started to get a little itchy.

Minivans got a little nicer — and the more mom looked at home in her Toyota Previa or Honda Odyssey, the more dad started to feel like the guy in “Once in a Lifetime” when he says, “You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife. You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” And so he got the hell out of there and started driving a Sports Utility Vehicle, and he started to feel like himself again–until SUVs started to look a little too bulky, seem a little too pricey, and according to the cute eco-girl serving his mocha at the Starbuck’s, it made the air a little too dirty.

And so, not just based on the realization that he had become the guy who drinks mochas, again, he started to get itchy. And then again with the Talking Heads song, he thought, “Where does that highway lead to?” For the answer, all he had to do was go to the part of the song that says, “After the money’s gone,” because that highway led to a big, fat recession. It also revealed a distinct philosophical schism between dads of two distinct eras.

family-on-a-minivanGen X and some Gen Y dads struggle with what the minivan meant when they were coming of age in the 1980s. For some of them, driving one is like raising a hand in the hair and saying, “Hey sad clown of life, do you need a sidekick?” And so dads of that generation with some means (and some “I’m totally over the minivan!” mommies) have forsaken their minivans for the crossover. But for Gen X and Y dads on a budget, or Echo Boomer Dads, the currently in-first-place Chrysler Town and Country; the desperately-in-need-of-a-style-makeover Odyssey; the image-challenged dark horse Toyota Sienna, and the work-horse Dodge Caravan, make all kinds of safety, cargo carrying, price-point sense.

Plus, the Echo Boomer Dads have never even heard that Talking Heads song, but on their way to play softball with the guys, followed by a Red Dead Redemption video-game marathon, they need to drop their kids off at School-of-Rock class, and they need to do it all in the “I couldn’t care less”, bang-for-the-buck minivan. Mommy agreed to cosign the video game marathon AND pick up the kids after class as long as she gets to take her prayer-group girls to a spa/Rascal Flatts Concert weekend in Tucson. So to the guy in the Talking Heads song I say, “THAT’S where that highway leads.”

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  • MrNeutron says:

    One Old Marine’s Perspective: Real men drive minivans

    • They’re expensive so it means he’s got a good job and money

    • He’s got a wife and the statistical reality is that he gets more action than dudes who aren’t married

    • The main reason a man buys one is because he’s got a bunch of kids—again kids are the result of action at home

    • Because he has a good job, a wife and kids, everyone knows it takes a real man to hold on to all three—any loser can work McJob and go into debt spending all his money on himself like an overgrown 13 year old. The reality is that one day when he really grows up, he’ll realize that getting a good job, finding a woman who will love him, stay with him and have children by him—and then stepping up to the plate to raise those kids to adulthood, he’ll be A REAL MAN—and he’ll probably be driving A MINIVAN.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    People that drive Mini Vans in the passing lane in non HOV time slots are a nuisance.I always run into these jerks with a car full of kids driving 80?Especially with the winds we have in the bay area.They are buffeted by the wind and it’s dangerous .Especially those driving Honda Odyssey’s who think the can aerodynamically keep up with a sedan.Lights from the DVD’s illumination the whole mess.Add in them texting as they drive and it’s just a side show.This not a rare example but a regular occurrences on highway 101 coming or going from San Francisco .This subculture is really a indictment on our society.

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