There's an infamous moment my mother often talked about - when she walked into her divorce lawyer's office incredulous that my father had, in the initial stages of their separation, gone out and bought a new truck. The lawyer asked "And what is the make of his new red truck?"
Apparently it's a thing. In the throes of the separation whirlwind, a newly "single" man will often buy a shiny, new, red vehicle. I'm not quite sure why the colour red is popular. Canadian Living has posted an incredibly scientific list about what the colour of your car says about you.
"Red is a bold, energetic colour. Warm and sensuous, it gives off vibes of high energy and stimulation. People who like red might be, or might like to project the image of themselves as, ambitious and impulsive, courageous high achievers and risk takers." (Source: Canadian Living)
Well...OK then. It's about the image. Sort of a status symbol. An impulse purchase by a courageous man embarking on a new journey. Riiiggghttt.
The internet is rife with reports of men buying new cars after separating. MSN even has a list of "Top Ten New Cars for Divorced Dads" and there is advice galore about ensuring your new ride can't be included in the "proceeds of divorce" and taken by your wicked and vengeful ex wife.
In my ex's case, it wasn't a red car, he picked powder blue. He already had a red sports car when we'd separated. We'd argued consistently about that car after our son was born. The two door model of his sports car made it very difficult to transport our son and the safety record of that particular model was abysmal. But the car was the initial year of the new model and the ex was certain that it was going to be worth something to a collector some day. At the very least, he insisted, it would be our son's first car.
When I finally got the strength to leave the marriage, my son was 2 1/2 and I was six months pregnant with my daughter. I certainly understand that there are a lot of feelings involved in the initial stages of any separation, but my first instinct was to pull my children close and nurture them and make sure that they were safe and healthy.
Apparently my ex's first instinct was to get that new car I'd argued with him over. He'd rub my nose in the fact that he could afford a new car and was enjoying his newly single life. The new car apparently showed that he was still marketable as a single man.
He purchased his new car within two weeks of our separation! He got a car seat for our son (and eventually for our daughter) but as a symbol of his newly single status the car seat could only be in the car when he had the kids. I guess the car seat ruined the image of his newly single and unburdened status and was an uncomfortable reminder of his emotional baggage.
I worried for my children. Car seats for children that small are meant to be installed properly, one time. If they're installed and removed regularly there's even more chance that they won't be installed properly and will fail in the event of an accident. And the haphazard, emotional way he would put it in the car as he arrived to pick up my son was very frightening.
I worried more for the children's emotional health. What would it mean for them if they realized that their existence, symbolized by their car seats, had to be "erased" in order for their father to feel "marketable"? What does it mean that he has three family members but only two doors? And what kind of woman was he trying to attract anyway? Clearly, not anyone with any type of maternal instinct.
While he was worried about his material image, I worked on rebuilding my life. I took my time, making sure that the emotional health of the children and myself was in order before I started dating. And then, just over three years ago, started dating a man who owned a jeep. I knew he was the man I wanted when I discovered his jeep, muddy on the outside, had that nice "wet dog" smell on the inside. Although it doesn't get the best mileage it's safe as a tank and the rear wheel drive eats snow for breakfast and (knock on wood) has had very few engine issues because he is always right on top of maintenance. The kids car seats were permanently installed in his jeep when he moved in. There are also finger prints, paw prints and a lot of other symbols of life in that jeep.
As for my ex, six years down the line, he's now bought out the lease. The engine is quite loud and there's only a booster for my daughter in his trunk. The tires are bald, and unless my ears are wrong, there's some problem with the engine. It's scratched and usually dusty looking. The shiny new symbol of his independence has taken on the same sheen as the rest of his life. He's still single.
So, if any of you newly single ladies are looking for a trade up, I'd suggest keeping your eyes out for a gently loved jeep instead of a new sports car. You wouldn't know it from the outside, but the sports car has way more baggage in the trunk.