Harriet Walker: Driving and parking on life's journey

Driving ... some people can and some can't. Photo / Thinkstock
Driving ... some people can and some can't. Photo / Thinkstock

I'm convinced driving is not something I'd be any good at and I don't like trying out things I'm no good at, such as tennis or maths.I am a woman who cannot parallel park. Mind you, I am also a woman who can't drive, so maybe that's irrelevant. But I'm not surprised at all that a new and entirely pointless study has found that 25 per cent of women lack the confidence to parallel park, and that many of them change their routes to avoid being backed into a corner, literally and metaphorically.

The fellas, on the other hand, love it - only 11 per cent are anxious about straightening up and fitting in. What a leitmotif for life, eh?

Of the 1.5 million people who take their driving test in Britain every year, 50 per cent of men and 44 per cent of women pass.

Women need 52 hours of tuition on average, while men are ready to put their foot down after 36 hours. I can't decide if this means women are inferior drivers or better learners.

I had a driving lesson once. It lasted five minutes and ended with the male instructor shouting at me, despite having promised that he wouldn't. I have refused to sit in the wrong side of a car ever since.

I'm convinced driving is not something I'd be any good at, and I don't like trying out things I'm no good at, such as tennis or maths.

To those who still argue about which sex makes the better driver, these stats will no doubt serve as conclusive evidence. The daft bints, more interested in checking their lippie in the rear-view mirror than learning the logistics of the road, the Alan Partridges among us will say, nodding sagely and sucking their teeth in smug satisfaction.

But it's a bit of a thing, isn't it, that men will bustle in, take charge and tackle their fears head on, while women will do their research and seek out the more placatory and peaceful solution to a problem. Perhaps that's why men are more likely to die on the road than women.

But by avoiding directly confronting their fears, by shying away from challenges, perhaps women do themselves down. Who's to say a quarter of them who won't parallel park definitely couldn't, if pressed to? They could probably do it without even having to switch off Sade's Greatest Hits.

It's the same story with careers, job interviews and even university exams; the male candidates, content to simply have faith in themselves and their abilities, score more highly and progress more quickly than their female counterparts by being that much more blase about it all.

A lot of it is bluster and the ability to put oneself forward. That isn't to say women should be cut some slack - if anything, perhaps we should cut ourselves some of it and stop assuming there are quite so many things we're bad at.


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