Ride Of Ones

Given this situation, it is hardly surprising that many young adults initiate an entirely new set of negotiations that revolve around getting their own car. Mena, the same young woman who had to wait an additional year before getting her license, was eventually given a Honda Civic during her junior year in college. She remarked, "I remember I started telling my parents I want a new car, I want a new car, I totally initiated it." But again, these young adults exercise very little power in these negotiations. Allison explains:

My parents bought me a car. I used my dad's car for a good year and a half and then my parents bought me a car and um, we went and looked at cars together and I was trying to pick the right color and the right style because I wanted to look good. And then um, then they just decided to get a car and show up with it one morning and um they just showed up with it. . . they ended up getting me a Mazda Protégé, four-door sedan, you know, beige, nice and neutral. ... I was all excited and just the idea that I had my own car. . . . But um, after a while of driving it I was kind of bummed out, I would see my friends get cars and they got cars they wanted and cars that were cooler. ... I didn't get what I wanted.

While aware that being given a car by her parents is a privilege, Allison had little say in the process since her parents' preferences won out over her own. Pam, a junior in high school, describes a similar scenario during one of the focus groups:

PAM: My mom's buying me my own [car] right now. AB: What's she buying you?

AB: Do you have a say in it, like what you get?

PAM: No. Whatever she picks that's what I get. I don't care if both of the bumpers is falling off she's gonna get it for me.

In another focus group, Lenore, a sophomore, noted:

AB: He's gonna give a car for your birthday?

LENORE: No [not for my birthday but], just because I asked him to.

JEANIE: Can I borrow your dad?

PATTI: Spoiled.

LENORE: I am not 'cause I have to beg him before he lets me get one. AB: Anyone else, get a car? PATTI: I wish ...

Patti and Jeannie look upon Lenore's position with envy. She is, after all, getting a car while they must continue to wait, experiencing life without their own wheels. Yet, Lenore quickly points out that the car was promised only after considerable work on her part. "Begging," a word teens routinely use to describe their negotiations with parents, suggests making appeals in the context of unequal power. In the end, it's a parents' prerogative to give a car to a child as a gift.

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