After mediating a debate on whether to accept an insulting low offer on our house, our exhausted real estate agent leaned back in his chair cracked a grin and said “Oh, I get it. You’re the gas and he’s the brakes. “
Flashback: I had just spent two years in a dark post-partum depression and lots of $$$ on counseling. I was trying to figure out who I was. My crisp little labels of “good wife, caring mom, stellar employee” were peeling and soaking wet and the labels were illegible. Not that I had anything to fix them with considering I was in a DEFCON 1 serotonin drought.
A lot of tears. A lot of blame. A lot of confusion. But for some reason those four words were revelatory: you = gas, him = brakes. It helped me put cause and effects into nice tidy piles. You have to understand I was thrashing and there was nothing tidy about me. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t pretty. But this simple visual calmed me down and I began the Everest task of putting labels back on things.
I put this statement up to my eye and turned the kaleidoscope onto all the factions of our lives. In about 90% of roles this was entirely true. I turned it on my friends’ relationships, again, it was true. Someone was always the gas, the other the brakes.
We Gas people are the go-getters, the dreamers, the throw-caution at the wind and spaghetti at the door-ers.
Brakes are pragmatists – thinkers, analyzers, the maybe-you-should-think-about-others and cleaners of the spaghetti walls.
And like your Prius, you need both pedals to get somewhere safely. Without them you end up in the extremes.
Let’s say, for example, I had married Christine’s husband Ben, we’d own a 2 seater plane and have a fierce cocaine habit. We’d have children in whatever pre-schools the Silicon Valley elitists told us to and throw epic parties. We’d have no savings, wild Waldorfy children, and candida.
If Christine and my husband were married they’d be hoarding canned food, watching movies on VCRs and live in a rent control apartment in Twin Peaks.
You get the picture.
Now as I mentioned, the gas/brake roles aren’t always consistent.
In the bedroom these roles can be flipped. I crawl in bed at night and the emergency brake gets set while my husband is revving the gas pedal. Although this bugs the hell out of him, I think what this would be like if he and my friend Erin were married. She’s a horndog and they’d have a frickin litter. And if her husband Bill and I were married, the human race would die out.
We need balance. Why do you think they can charge $18 for a yoga class? Gas people need brake people, if not they’d go careening into the Grand Canyon. Brake people need gas people. If not, they wouldn’t see musicals or try key lime pie. And who doesn’t like pie.