I'm a 33-year-old single woman who recently made a New Year's resolution to buy myself a new car. The car I'm currently driving, a hand-me-down from my parents, is on its last legs. But one thing I like about it is that it has ample storage space for my musical instruments. I'm a percussionist, and there's a lot of lugging around. I did some research, both on the Web and by talking to friends. And the car I've landed on, after driving three different models, is a Subaru Outback. I like the way it looks. I like the way it handles. And although the price is a little high, its storage capacity is more than ample enough for my needs. But when I told a friend of mine about the car I chose, she nearly shrieked with laughter. 'That's a lesbian's car!' she said.
Though not a lesbian, I don't have a problem with the idea of owning a car associated with lesbians. But I'm a little curious as to the truth of what appears to be a cultural stereotype. None of the friends I consulted with mentioned this. And I don't really pay that much attention to cars, so I haven't ever heard it before. All I wanted is a car that will do what I need it to do. But I wouldn't mind knowing whether I'm buying what my friend called a lesbianmobile. Am I?
Little Drummer Girl
Little Drummer Girl: It saddens me to tell you that not only are you about to purchase a lesbianmobile, you yourself will probably turn into a lesbian somewhere around the first oil change. That's how powerful the car's lesbian cooties are. I have a friend who bought one a few years ago. She now spends most of her time out in the wilderness (they don't call it an Outback for nothing), hugging trees and other hairy-legged women like herself, not that there's anything wrong with that. My only consolation is that she didn't buy a Hummer.
All kidding aside, the Subaru Outback has a documented association with the Daughters of Bilitis. (Look it up, you might learn something.) In an informal poll taken by the Web site cartalk.cars.com, it was voted 'The Ultimate Lesbian Car,' followed by the Subaru Forester. And that makes sense, given that Subaru, a Japanese auto manufacturer trying to secure a niche in the American market, reached out to gays and lesbians. Even those old TV commercials, where Crocodile Dundee steered an Outback over swamp and desert, had a scintillatingly butch vibe.
But if we're going to reduce the Subaru Outback to a cultural stereotype, we should zoom out a bit until we've included the rest of the car's hoped-for demographic ' 'health-care workers, technical professionals, skiers, cyclists, kayakers [and the aforementioned] lesbians,' according to Dan Neil, Pulitzer Prize-winning car critic for the Los Angeles Times. Neil saluted the brand's rugged simplicity, its Bobos in Paradise air of social responsibility. 'Thoreau would have driven a Subaru,' Neil wrote, 'if you could have gotten him to stop playing with the windshield wipers.'
If you ask me, though, the Outback's a little more soccer mom than NASCAR dad, which is why another car critic described it as 'a Maytag washer with a racing stripe.' The idea that you might take it to the, uh, outback is a bit of a joke. Still, if you should encounter snow and ice on the way to your next percussion recital, Subaru's trademark all-wheel-drive will kick in, et voilÃ: The show will (must!) go on. Just be sure to shave your legs first. Or not.
To run your fingers along my plush interior, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.