I’ve never been to a training session for a car company, but I assume they have different criteria for how to sell to women versus men. I’ve watched it happen; my straight friends tell me all about it. Talk about the engine with him, talk about the interior and safety with her. Use gruff man voice with him to make him forget he’s buying a minivan because his life consists mostly of pudding packs. Convince her there are at least 26 airbags so her kids are perfectly safe. That type of thing.
But watching salesmen (and they are always men when my wife and I are shopping) try to figure out lesbians is worth the time. First they try to size us up, probably comparing us to whatever lesbian porn they watched the night before and thinking, ‘Damn, that is some false advertising.’ Then the good-looking ones are like, ‘Should I try flirting anyway?’ The older ones seem to revert to “stern father figure” tactics to start with because if there’s one thing gay women respond positively to, it’s men being stern with them.
My wife and I have a knack for the staredown with car salesmen and we ALWAYS get the older ones. So if they try any sort of typical sales pitch, we look at them sort of like this. <stares confusedly> This can go on for minutes if the salesman is stubborn. My wife and I also have the advantage that we really don’t break down into an easily masculine/feminine dichotomy.
The best is when the salesman mistakenly thinks that I’m the one he should talk to who really cares about the intricacies of a vehicle and has knowledge about, say, anything related to cars. No no – I’m the one who once was running out of gas and still had 8 miles to get to a gas station so I thought, “How can I save gas?” and promptly turned off the radio as a solution. Another time, I knew that the back right tire was essentially flat but I didn’t want to admit it so I drove home 45 miles and leaned to the left to see if I could take some pressure off that side of the car. I deluded myself into thinking this was working, too. When I got home, I proudly told my wife that I had tried to be helpful. She did that thing you do when the person you love proves themselves to be somewhat of an idiot.
So I think she brings me along as, like, the dummy decoy or something. But we’ll get to that.
Anyway, the salesman starts with me, and my wife will eventually interrupt him with some sort of question regarding _____ model versus _____ model and there will be a seismic shift in the approach the salesman is taking. Suddenly, I become the feminine one which obviously confuses him because I’m me and I look like this.
And basically I dress like an almost homeless lesbian who has just enough money to be acceptable as a professional. I basically pick my outfits based on what color I’m feeling that day and then my wife looks at me and tells me whether or not it matches. And she knows that if I look at her super hopefully that she is supposed to agree that it looks good no matter what it looks like. And then I march off to my job where other people have to see me and they’re all like, “Hey, Kelly. Um… Nice shoes.”
I work as a therapist so reading people is sort of my living in a way. And let me tell you, we therapists are an interesting bunch. Like, I feel like accountants aren’t necessarily a varied group of people. And maybe that’s not giving accountants enough credit – I’m sure there are some quirky ones out there who don’t do math for fun in their spare time. Therapists, though, by nature are just quirky and weird. We all have our own shit and we spend a lot of time pretending like we don’t have our own shit.
People sometimes wonder what therapists are thinking when they’re talking and most of the time I’m just thinking, “When it’s your turn to talk, try really hard not to say the word boobie.” Because the weirdest shit pops in my head when I’m sitting there listening to someone. “Why on earth are you thinking of leprechauns? Does the laundry room need sweeping? I wonder if I should start wearing mismatched socks just to be that person.”
So this is what the car salesman is faced with on my side. I try to smile knowingly, but I know nothing. I have exactly one criteria for whether or not I will buy a car and that is, “Will my absurd subwoofer fit in it?” Because on top of being a mismatched, awkward therapist, I also bounce around town listening to electronic dance music like everywhere is my own rave. One of our dogs, Slider, actually perks up when I am within a half mile of home because he can hear the boom of my vehicle. This is great since we also live in a neighborhood that doubles as a retirement community where all the men sit on lawn chairs in their garages and, I can only assume, wonder if my unnecessary bass is ubiquitous in the lesbian community.
“Oh yes,” I assume they say when they encounter another gay person, “We know all about lesbians and their thumpa thumpa music.” It is obnoxious enough that I worry I am actually changing stereotypes.
That subwoofer question throws the salesman off, of course, because now he feels the urge to treat me the way he’s been trained to treat a 17-year-old boy but this doesn’t jive with my mid-40s wife who actually does understand cars and is waiting, probably impatiently by this point, to hear about engines and transmissions and warranties.
“This one would be great for a bike rack,” he says trying to remember lesbian stereotypes.
“Do we look like we bike?” I ask because sometimes it’s fun to throw in a fat joke on top of a situation that is already uncomfortable.
“This one is good for off roading,” he will say, “like if you want to camp somewhere off the beaten path.” (I say this as though people camp ON the beaten path, which I assume they don’t but I do not know because I spent one night in my entire life in a tent and felt like I was sleeping in an oven that was hellbent on cooking me. Also I hate nature. I feel like I am coming out all over again by admitting I am a lesbian who does not appreciate the outdoors. Someone start a movement in my honor.)
“We don’t camp,” my wife offers.
The salesman will sigh.
He will think that he does not get paid enough to deal with lesbians. He will look around the lot for any possible lead as to what would be our best option. He will pretend to look something up on his phone and no doubt google, “What do lesbians want in a car?” which is the second thing that Google autofills after “What do lesbians do in bed?” which makes him blush.
Then the moment of eureka arrives. He smiles at us. We smile at him.
“I think you should try a ________,” he says confidently. “It is great if you have rescue dogs.”
My wife and I melt in half. Finally, he has found our language and knows we won’t bother asking what the financing looks like but rather get in our mid-size SUV and imagine our three dogs going for rides in the springtime and everything about us softens.
After we have purchased the car (our 10th in 14 years of marriage) and driven away, I like to think he sends a mass email to everyone in his company that says, “The secret to selling to lesbians is their pets.” To which some dude bro caveman will respond, “Is that a pussy joke?”
And our salesman will unironically respond, “No. They were dog people.”