My husband’s been saving for a motorcycle, and I was excited about riding on the back hanging on to him – sexy and fun! But then he came home with a Vespa, the little Italian scooter. It just seems so girly. The tiny wheels make it look like a toy, and he’s a big guy so it looks like he’s borrowed a little kid’s bike. How can I get him to take it back? –Disappointed
If you aren’t European or a hipster married to another hipster, it’s a little dismaying when your husband’s new ride looks like it came in a pink package marked “Barbie doll sold separately.”
Men who ride Vespas and other scooters will tell you that they are secure enough in their masculinity that they don’t need their transportation to be all hairy-chested and gladiating. But the reality is, image matters, especially a wife’s image of her husband. And motorcycles are iconically manly and badass, while Vespas are … well, it’s the imagery of Hells Angels, Easy Rider and The Wild Bunch versus the My Little Pony of ground transportation.
Your husband wasn’t wrong to want a Vespa. But he isn’t a bachelor anymore, so he shouldn’t be making major financial decisions like a guy who’s still eating cold cereal over a toilet. Not even when he’s spending his own money. It isn’t that he should ask your permission. (You’re his wife, not his mommy.) He just needs to remember that he’s in a partnership and act like it – consult you on major purchases and decisions and make sure you fully understand what he is (and, by extension, you are) getting into. Sometimes, you may not agree with some course of action, and he may still decide to go through with it. But asking for your feedback will at least make you feel respected and part of the process. And it’s essential in heading off problems – like being a big bruiser of a guy spending thousands on a vehicle sized for Italian slicksters who subsist on olive oil and cigarette smoke.
As “not his mommy,” you don’t get to tell him to trade in the horsiepower for horsepower. Instead, tell him there’s a problem and lay it on the table for the two of you to take apart and solve together. This requires making compromise your collective goal (though this may be more successful in spirit than in practice). Can you, for example, think a little more, uh, expansively about masculinity? Realistically, maybe not. Would he consider returning the bike, or would that be too huge of a financial haircut? Or … is there some solution that works a bit for both of you, like his renting a bike on some weekends – the kind that looks like it runs on gas, not rainbows and unicorn farts?
At the very least, L’affaire Vespa could serve as a reminder to take a more partnered approach to both conflict resolution and impending major purchases – before you get all excited about his new sports car and he drives up with the sport package … in the mom jeans of motor vehicles, the minivan.
© 2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014).