Oh boy. Here we go again.
Driving along the highway in the US recently I was pleasantly cruising along at my usual excessive speed, when a man in a black BMW passed me, pulled in front of me, slowed down forcing me to brake, and then stuck his hand out of his sun roof and flipped me the bird. To make sure I had noticed, he kept his hand that way, driving slowly in front of me for 30 seconds before speeding off.
At first I felt a flash of anger. And then perplexity, and then laughter, and then the old political gears started rolling. What had I done? I had no idea. Maybe I was cruising in the passing lane. I was. I was also daydreaming. But I was also going 10-15 mph above the speed limit, so was hardly driving slow, or dangerously.
Maybe he didn’t like my dress? Who knows.
But what I do know is that it is a symbol of uncontrolled anger. Thankfully I was paying attention so that when he braked in front of me, so did I. But had I really been out to lunch, I might have rear-ended him. What kind of man loses his cool to the extent that he is going to provoke an accident at high speed? Is that rational?
A similar thing happened to me tonight on a highway in Italy. This time, a male driver in a tiny car swung suddenly into the passing lane without using his indicator and forced me to slam the brakes as I was coming along quickly. He had most likely not looked in the mirror to see if anyone was coming. I flashed my lights at him in my own flash of annoyance that he had nearly caused an accident. And I wanted him to get out of the way, as his swerve had nothing to do with passing someone else. It was if he had decided I was driving too fast so he decided to cut me off. Who knows.
But he didn’t get out of the way. He slowed down. In the old days, with testosterone coursing through my body I would most likely have gone into the right lane and then passed him. Now I am able to look at these thoughts of mine as they emerge and observe them with casual indifference. So, I just drove along behind him, and after he tired of the game, he pulled back into the right lane and I drove past.
But it wasn’t over. He pulled right back into the lane behind me, accelerated and flashed his lights at me. Again, toxic anger. What is the matter with such people?
There is a thread. It is testosterone. And while I might be ready to right off men altogether, I know a lot of women and plenty of men are not willing to do that. But my question is this, what kind of work do we need to do the men of our species so that they find more appropriate ways to let out testosterone-provoked aggression.
Either one of these situations could have easily produced a high-speed crash with fatal consequences. How could a rational mind lead one to take such a risk—and yes, we know that testosterone increases risk-taking, but it is surely not evolutionarily sensible for risk to increase chance of fatality. Especially with nothing at stake.
Of course, the flipping the bird part takes it to a kind of sustained aggression. Flipping the bird is a peculiarly American form of self-expression. You might see it occasionally in Britain, but never as much as in the US—where it appears to be an accepted form of highway self-expression. I have yet to see it happen on the Continent. And yet, the normally calm and collected Italians (when it comes to the roads) are clearly just as susceptible to road rage. And clearly, being “effeminate” as many Europeans are perceived to be, has no effect on this angry form of expression.
What’s a girl to do?
I can clearly feel a mental shift has taken place for me. I still feel the flash of anger, but it is a flash now only. It has been replaced by more flexibility. My feelings and interpretations are more subtle and nuanced. I spend more energy trying to understand the person. Why did they do that? Why are they so angry? Did I do something wrong? And then. What a jerk! I can’t believe it! And then, but maybe I did do something wrong. I wonder what it was? You get the picture.
My mind didn’t used to do this before. Well, a little, but not really. I asked my sister about this and she said, “welcome to the sisterhood.”
Something else is going on with my social-spatial awareness. Men, not on a micro level, but on a macro level, are ceasing to exist. Let me explain. I was out to dinner with some delightful women friends in a lively New York restaurant. The dining room was huge, and the place was jammed, it was noisy, and a kind of place to people watch and be seen.
I was wearing a short suede skirt and heels, a silk blouse, and got up to go to the bathroom (I still use the men’s room). But as I walked to the bathroom all of the men in the room blurred. I knew they were there, but it was as if they were smudged out. But all of the women in the room I could see clearly. And I could see it and feel it at the time and was wondering whether it was some kind of defence mechanism. That was the first time it happened, but I find that it seems to be always true now…I do always look at women’s faces, sometimes catch a smile, and that just makes me beam with joy from deep inside. Maybe I am looking for recognition, acceptance, flirting…who knows, but in my new world, men don’t exist.
That’s impractical. Today I work in an industry that is almost completely male. I work in a function which is almost completely male. I have almost no female colleagues. It sucks. At work, I cannot ignore men. And so far, the few who know what’s going on with me, have all been very supportive, very.
Something else. I sat with a dear female friend on her couch recently watching TV. I don’t want ever watch TV, but I just wanted to be with her, so I did what she wanted. And a very attractive topless man came on the TV and we talked about how hot he was. I could see he was hot. And this coming from someone who doesn’t like men. But somehow, oestrogen allowed me to appreciate and express that he was attractive.
My wife said, “I think you’re homosexual.” In a way, that would be super convenient. Certainly easier than being trans. I figure if I were gay, I would have had a voluntary gay experience…but that hasn’t happened in my life—only non-consensual. Maybe that’s why I like gay men even less than men generally. I hate to say this, but I find gay men to be more male than straight men…and it feels too much for me, overwhelming masculinity. And maybe my visceral reaction to men is their predatory behaviour, and with a gay man, that kind of predatory behaviour can extend towards me, towards my autonomy…a kind of alternative road rage. And yet, so many women I know find that gay men are great company because they feel safe around them. Wouldn’t that be an irony if I end up in the same place?