Why Women Won't Read Maps

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Humorous, scientifically supported explanations for why many women struggle to read maps. This single essay could save your next vacation (or current marriage).

Submitted: October 10, 2016

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Submitted: October 10, 2016



Often women depend on men to provide driving directions, though I can't imagine why. Girls are not born equipped with "you are here" indicators. However, I admit this would be advantageous during certain interactions with the opposite sex.

From what I can tell, there are only two kinds of female navigators: those who can't read a map, and those who can but would prefer not to.

One explanation for why women balk at roadmaps can be found by looking at an automobile's structural design. The front passenger seat area offers the implied freedom of mindless travel. Otherwise, this section would include a second brake pedal rather than a glove compartment and lighted visor mirror.

Despite my reputation for misguidance, my husband steers the car while I stare at a map and pretend to know exactly where we are when we're on vacation.

Helpfully, my man will call out streets as he notices them. "That was Church Street we just passed," he'll say. And I'll place a finger squarely on Conch Street and mumble something affirmative.

"Are we on North or South Ocean Drive," he'll ask. And I'll answer that we are most definitely on one or the other.

Reading a map is actually quite easy--once I've found my eyeglasses. It's the comprehension part that gives me trouble.

Cartographers seldom note critical landmarks, such as malls, supermarkets, and ATM kiosks. Furthermore, mapmakers provide something called a directional key and a mileage scale that I find useless. Such tools could be beneficial only to someone who travels with a compass and a ruler.

To make things even more difficult, map producers sell ad space to businesses. So I typically end up directing us to someplace like Island Gemstones instead of the botanical gardens. Hey, flowers are temporary. Tanzanite is forever.

While touring Grand Cayman Island, I managed to get us turned around several times. "Now what?" asked my demanding chauffeur. He'd just encountered a forced turn. "Do I go left or right?'

"I don't know. Just drive towards the coastline," I instructed.

Hubby looked at me straight-faced and replied, "We're on an island. There's a coastline in every direction."

Some people will go to any length to "one up" you.

The roundabouts had confused me. Signage at these traffic circles is posted only a few feet before the entry points. By the time I'd realized we were approaching a roundabout, it was too late to check which way to go.

Fortunately, these vehicular intersections have an inside lane. If you don't know where you're heading, you can circle around until you either make your best guess or run out of gas. This, I presume, is why most island vacationers rent a Daihatsu.

Part of my problem was that I was using the rental car agency's map. There's a pretty ingenious reason why these freebies are so impossible to decipher. As long as you can't find your way back to the rental return area, you have to keep paying for the use of the car.

Supposedly, my hands are to blame for my poor map reading skills. My index digits are longer than my ring fingers. This, according to a study conducted by German scientists, indicates that I'm less proficient at tasks requiring spatial skills than those who possess the more masculine finger length (ring finger longer than index finger). Testosterone levels are thought to be responsible for this--as well as for most everything else that's researched primarily by men.

So guys, it appears that you can have either a gal who reads maps well or a lady without a mustache. But you can't have both. Don't argue with me about this because I'm not a German scientist. Quite possibly it's your fault that we've evolved this way. You see, women wouldn't need such long index fingers if men didn't always rely on us to point them in the right direction.


This essay was excerpted from the book, Deedee Divine's Totally Skewed Guide to Life (Corncob Press), by Diana Estill.

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