My Sexist Father Married A Good Female Driver

My dad is the sort of person that thinks cheerleaders are the croutons in the salad that is the male gaze. He tells me it’s okay if I read science fiction as long as I also study appliance fact. He took real pleasure in intimidating my eighth-grade prom date, who is totally just my friend, and he knew that.

Somehow he married Sheila.

Anytime Mom drove us anywhere, like to the mall or to one of my soccer games or to the community garden she may not have started but basically ran day to day (in addition to working a full-time job), my dad enjoyed demeaning her driving ability. He also tended to change the radio station over and over again until he landed on something by Bob Seger.

But Sheila knows how to drive a stick and Sheila likes funk music and Sheila burns her own CDs. Dad is a much more quiet passenger these days.

I remember the first time I saw Sheila try to parallel park. She succeeded. I remember the next time I saw Dad try to parallel park. That was fun.

Sheila’s father was a mechanic and her mother is a gender studies professor, which means the combined influence of her parents is pretty much my father’s worst nightmare in a woman. He still insists on changing their oil himself but she’s the one who cleans up after.

She’s an environmentalist, too.

The other day my uncle Jerry came over. He drives a Frito-Lay truck, which means he has stale chips and even staler political opinions. He told a story about how his wife, my aunt, got her car stuck in a ditch. Dad laughed but not as much as he would have a year ago and for once he didn’t try to top the story with a story of his own.

Then Jerry said something especially racist. That usually happens. I wound up getting sent to my room. That usually happens after the first thing that usually happens.

This summer we went to a go-kart track in Pigeon Forge. Sheila won the race. Dad took his revenge at bumper cars but only came across as a pretty petty individual. I don’t think they would have had s-e-x that night even if we had enough money to get me a separate hotel room.

I don’t want it to seem like it’s me and Sheila vs. my father. Sheila’s not some StepMary Sue. I know she thinks I’m weird and she calls everything I read silly Star Wars stuff even if it’s very hard sci-fi. She’s a bit of a snob except she reads Clive Cussler novels so she’s also a hypocrite.

And Dad isn’t really a bad person. I think he just tries to fit in with his more caveman friends. They grew up in the ’80s in Southeastern Ohio. Back then, they wore tight jeans and had long hair but were still somehow very homophobic.

I’ve seen the pictures.

My father is capable of change. For example, he really enjoyed Lady Bird. At first, he acted like it was some huge ordeal when I chose it for family movie night, but, by the end, he was looking up Greta Gerwig’s Wikipedia article.

I like Sheila. I like that she isn’t some cliche wicked stepmother. I think Tammy would have been. That’s sort of why I sabotaged their relationship.

I’m not perfect, either.

I hope Sheila and my father stay together and even if she does eventually leave him I hope it’s not for a few more years. Because I really need her to teach me how to drive. Not that I won’t learn otherwise, but because my father won’t.