Not since I moved to Durango – and forever before that – has anyone said something mean to my face. This except for one small area of my life: my bike.
I’m a bike commuter and ride a seven-speed townie. It has a basket on the back, fenders, front and back lights, a bell and curved, raised handlebars. And for some reason, this bike has made a handful of people here rather agitated, so much so that they need to communicate it to my startled face.
There was the young woman in a large group who said as I unlocked my bike outside The Ranch, “Are you actually going to ride that?” and was all like “ehh” when she said it.
Again unlocking my bike, this time outside Moe’s, there was the group of sleepy-eyed drunken young roustabouts who all reeked of trouble and the one who couldn’t resist saying, “I bet you get a lot of fat chicks on that bike.” If I wanted to fight, I absolutely could have. But I haven’t thrown a punch since ninth grade, and I’m cool with keeping that streak intact. I was more confused about his reasoning and could only think, “I don’t even know what that means!”
There was the guy at a friend’s party who just kept making digs at me in front everyone. The last one he made was about my bike as I stood outside chatting with folks. (“What, you gotta warm up your bike before you ride it?”) I happened to have my lights fired up chatting with friends before I rode home. Touché.
Then there was the pickup truck that buzzed me as I rode home on Florida Road with the bumper sticker that said “mean people kick ass.” I assumed the 3 feet of space he gave me as he whizzed by was him “kicking ass” and that some of it had to do with my bike. I’m a bit sensitive these days, you understand.
When telling these stories to a table of friends, three of whom were gay men, it was determined that the reason I might be getting such flack is that my bike is – how should we say it – not very masculine. They suggested, in fact, that my bike just might be attracted to other bikes of the same sex. Good, I thought. If someone vandalizes my bike for being too effeminate, it could qualify as a hate crime.
It was good-natured ribbing from my friends, and I’m not sure if it explains all of the contempt I’ve received about my bike, but I’ll entertain it for a moment.
What all these people were trying to do in my estimation was to take me down a notch. And what is the go-to way to insult a man? You insult his masculinity; you imply that he lacks toughness or, to use a gender-stereotyping word in this context, manliness.
My bike is not one you can hop boulders on. It wouldn’t do well on anything rougher that a dirt road. Its seven speeds and small, effeminate tires allow it to go only so fast. It’s not a thrill-seeker’s bike. And how delicate must I be if I do not seek thrills every time I ride a bike?
The question, even if it were true, is that somehow I lack masculinity and ride a bike that reflects this. So what? Why is that threatening? Perhaps we need to redefine the word “manly” to encompass something beyond brawn and boring jockishness.
Of course, this doesn’t have anything to do with me or my bike. As if addressing bullying at school, one friend said the comments I’ve received say more about the people saying them than about me or my bike. I’ll go with that.
It was also suggested that if I’m going to ride such a non-manly bike, perhaps I should commit and really glam it up.
Maybe I’ll get some long pink streamers and douse the whole thing in glitter. That’ll show ’em.