17 July 2007

On bikes and boyfriends

If I wanted to annoy my ex-boyfriend, all I had to do was, well, actually, any number of things, since in cynical hindsight it now seems that our relationship was based on his amusement at all the things I did that annoyed the shit out of him, but the one thing that did it every time was when I tried to talk him into riding a bike. Then either he'd try to argue with me point by condescending point in the manner of an amused tenured college professor dressing-down a cocky freshman who clearly didn't do last night's reading assignment, or he'd revert to the same blank glassy-eyed stare that men usually get when their girlfriends drone on about, say, feminine products.

What still annoys me most about him is that he didn't seem to respect me. I think was just a kid with a toy to him, a toy that most kids outgrow after they graduate and get a real job, a toy that I was a bit too fond of for some unknowable reason. And in that regard, he didn't really take me seriously. He didn't try to understand how a bike could be something more than just a novel way to get around Hyde Park. He talked behind my back about how overly obsessed I was with mine. He complained to high heaven about how long it took me to go anywhere because I always insisted on disassembling it when I parked it anywhere. (Hey, you have the back wheel stolen off your scum bike in broad daylight once and you'll hobble your bike every time you park it, too.) He told me he thought it was holding me back. He just shook his head sadly when I tried to explain why I'd rather bike than walk given that locking and unlocking it wastes more time than just walking a mile and a half.

Well, I personally think that buying your own small plane seems like a frivolous waste of money, taking flying lessons are pointless when there are better things to do on the ground, and flying out to the middle of nowhere just to eat a hamburger is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard of, but I never insisted that he was crazy for trying. Why should wings be more noble than wheels? One interesting hobby isn't inferior to another simply because it's dirt cheap and doesn't require special training. But that's the vibe I got, especially when we went rounds over Northerly Island--any shmuck can ride a bike, but planes are privileged.

He accused me of trying to "convert" him to bicycling. I did, but not for the reasons he thought. He thinks that it's merely a characteristic of all bicycle enthusiasts, that we're just another cult of fanatics out to recruit more members for our cause. No, the truth is that it already worked once before. I figured that if a former car-happy suburban couch potato could use his CBF map to figure out a 12-mile bike route to work while wearing his BLT t-shirt before my tenure as girlfriend was up, then coaxing a city dweller in a college neighborhood who hardly ever drives into getting a bike would be a piece of cake.

Of course, in the previous case he'd been a more serious rider than I was back in the day, and he'd been talking forever about taking it up again if only he could afford it, etc. It also helped that I happened to have a spare bike already sitting on his balcony, and it was actually much easier to just give it to him and tell him to quit whining already than to drag it home and try to sell it. So he got it fixed up, and we took rides together all over the western suburbs that summer and fall and the following spring. Not many, but enough for some really nagging happy memories. It's something I've missed, riding around not by myself but also not amid a huge anonymous crowd.

Somewhere in that huge anonymous crowd are other people who were talked into it by someone else. I didn't think it was so outrageous to hope that it could happen again. But no, he thought I was crazy. He probably still does. I'd say I really don't care anymore, except it does still bother me for some reason. I guess I'm just angry that in a world where "college students" are the ones riding bikes, I'll never be taken seriously as an adult. It was a hard lesson to learn from someone I trusted.

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