Monday, October 5, 2009

Playing Against Type

You may remember that Tom got a motorcycle for Father's Day this year. It's not our first bike. A couple few years ago we got bitten by the Harley bug HARD. He first bought a Dyna-Glide for himself. It is not an exaggeration to say that that bike became our life. We formed our social life around it. We formed our lifestyle around it. God knows we formed our wardrobe around it. We were bikers, dammit. Shortly after, he bought a Sportster for me. It was beautiful and I loved having a bike. Unfortunately I never really learned to ride it. I dumped it once in a parking lot during a riding lesson. I didn't get badly hurt, just sort of 'stoved', but it made me swear off riding for good. I had two young kids, for Pete's sake. I took my rightful place on the back. A seat we will NOT, by the way, be referring to as the bitch seat.

We quickly and eagerly tried to fit into every stereotype. We dressed the part (and whatever you're imagining, you're probably right). Tom grew a beard. Not a little well-groomed hipster beard, a full-on Grizzly Adams beard. We went to Bike Nights and Rallies and on Poker Runs. We hung out at biker bars. We spent a small fortune on Harley paraphenelia. (We weren't just bikers, we were that elite subset of bikers, Harley owners.) We wanted people to know, even when we weren't physically on the bike, that we were bikers. We were suburban biker hard-core. Everyone at our local Harley dealership knew our kids by name.

Eventually playing that part wore old - first for me, then for Tom. It didn't suit me - it wasn't me. The day he shaved that beard was one of the happiest of my life.

Those months (Years? It must have been years.) were very eye-opening, though. As we tried to fit into the stereotype, it didn't take long at all to figure out how much of it was superficial. There are folks who are frightened and intimidated by the biker image. There are just as many folks who will tell you that when you look through the tough facade, bikers are the salt of the earth - best people around. I'm here to tell you that neither of those things are entirely true. As it is with every stereotyped group of people, there are folks of every sort living a life within that group. Did I meet a few bikers who scared me? HELL YES! Did I meet a few who were kind and generous and sweet? OF COURSE! Because BIKERS aren't one of those things or the other, PEOPLE are.

I guarantee you that the same is true of any other stereotype you may hold near and dear as a way to feel like you know someone without really knowing them. Every. Single. One.

This time around, by the way, we are people who have a bike. More accurately, Tom is a person who has a bike. He rides to work when the weather is pleasant. He takes the kids to lessons on it (allowing them to feel like rock stars). Every now and then we'll go for a ride. I remember when we were in the height of our obsession, Tom would say that he liked it because bikers didn't give a damn what other people thought. It was a discussion we had more than once. I told him they - we - sure as heck DID care, or the physical part of the stereotype wouldn't exist. I challenged him to wear a pink T-shirt instead of a black one. (This was before the days when the entire NFL was wearing pink.) Heck, wear a green one if pink is a threat to your masculinity. He laughed me off. We were all about projecting an image. This time around we really DON'T care what people think. We wear what we normally wear (then add protective gear, of course...). We go where we'd normally go. It's a form of transportation (and a fun one, to be sure!), not a way of life.

I will always appreciate my 'Biker Days' as a time when I learned one of many valuable lessons on the dangerous pitfalls of judging a book by it's cover.

Keep the shiny side up, ya'll.

29 comments:

M said...

This is such a great post, and you're TOTALLY right on about stereotypes! Before I had my son I was working on a Ph.D. and you see the exact same thing in academia. Many people are "intimidated" by "doctors" and such, or think they're all jerks or, just like you said, the "salt of the earth", once you get through the facade. It's so so true that people are people, no matter where you go or which subculture you belong to. I'm so happy to see that others realize that, too! Thanks for sharing!
M :)
http://Mandthe2Henrys.blogspot.com
http://HomemakerPhD.blogspot.com

Tsquared417 said...

So true Tammy! Interesting post...good perspective.

Stesha said...

Well said! Bikers and people with tattoos get a bad rap all the time. You should never judge a person by what the wear, drive, or the amount of "ink" they have. Wait a see what their character shows you.

Hugs and Mocha,
Stesha

Anita said...

I love this post. I know so many people from all walks of life, and the truth is, there are great ones in all places, wearing their "skin" in any different ways.
In my advanced years, I care to please myself much more than others.

kyslp said...

Interesting perspective. It's easy to lose ourselves when we get too wrapped up in things, isn't it? I bet you were a smokin' biker babe.

6p00e5524922de8833 said...

liked your comment over at zen mama, so i popped over. great post on stereotypes. i fight it myself, living as one or judging someone as one. i guess we all do.

(openID is being crazy...this is me: www.peacoatpapers.com)

MiMi said...

Great post, AGAIN! Hey, are there any pics of you in your Biker Day Glory? Cuz I wanna see em... ;)

Brandy said...

Hmmmm, well I own plenty of HD garb. Lots and lots of stuff actually. From flags to jewelry and everything in between. But I'm just me & if I feel like wearing something else on the bike, then I do. Trust me it's nothing unusual to catch me on the back with whatever I wore to work - capris, jeans - I even wore a skirt once or twice. (Don't ask.)

Stereotypes are just bad in general. I definitely don't fit any mold. And I'm pretty certain you don't either.

JennyMac said...

What a great post Mommakin....

And it is ever important to remind ourselves of this stance on life..you simply can't judge someone off aesthetics alone...

Pam said...

Another awesome post full of wit and wisdom from Mommakin! Judging people by their "covers" is never a good idea, but I will readily admit that I'm guilty of this fairly often. Thanks for reminding me that there are good and bad people of all types. And hurray for you and Tom for just enjoying the bike - as Tammy and Tom. I always feel more comfortable when I'm just being me and not trying to fit into a mold. I do think this gets easier the older I get. What's that expression about youth being wasted on the young?

blueviolet said...

That was fantastic! I love bustin' up stereotypes and that did a good job of it.

Hubby always wanted a Harley but it's just not in the financial cards to get a bike.

The Grown-Up Child said...

Tammy, I really loved this post. My neighbors across the street are Harley lovers like you were. They have their biker friends over and hang out in the garage drinking until they all roar out late in the night. I've joked about their suburban clubhouse. I've cursed under my breath as they've screamed out while my baby is (trying) to take a nap. I've wondered what they are trying to *prove*?

Thanks for making me think about my own stereotypes. I shouldn't be judging (except when his Harley wakes me up every morning at 5:50am when he races out to work - then I'll judge all I want :D). Because darn it, bikers are people too.

Thanks again, Tammy.

Unknown Mami said...

This is why I love you, because you are wise and play against type and a damn good writer.

Maricris Zen Mama said...

I adore "bikers" especially the lady bikers. I think riding a bike and actually driving it takes skill and talent. I couldn't even drive a scooter. Last time I did I fell on a ditch! So, You go girl! Btw, thanks for visiting my blog today. I appreciated your comment.

Gibby said...

This is so true. My uncle is a biker and dresses the part, leather, fringes, all of it. Yet he and his buddies spend their days volunteering for charities. But I know that not all bikers do that, nor do all SAHMs volunteer, not all BMW drivers are snobs. You just never know about anything.

I try to teach my girls never to judge a book by its cover in all aspects of life. Thanks for the reminder.

MaryRC said...

ummm i lurve luurrrve harley's, but theyre so noisy. i drooled, literally drooled once when doing a shoot at Kount's Kustom's (motley crue, ozzy, etc.) i fantasize being a tough rocker biker chick with platnium records a hot actor husband rockin the guitar in front of thousands. but alas... none of the above.

i agree with you 100% judging a book by its cover will get you no where with people. best to at least peek into the book first.

carma said...

Hope you are feeling well this week. I was pondering the whole biker lifestyle a few weeks ago because one of the girls in my dance class also rides a bike. I was fascinated by the two sides to her personality. If you look at her she seems rough and tough but then she also has a girly side the becomes apparent when she dances and gets into assembling her costume. If I was to see her on the street I would have never guessed the second side.

Housewife Savant said...

I LOVE this post.
You're Spot ON about projecting an image, and most of the time when we're working at it we're trying hardest to pretend that we're NOT.

Irony is a cruel mistress even when she's kind.

Every woman on a bitch seat isn't a bitch.

I don't know what I'm saying.
My super-skinny concert jeans are cutting off circulation.
Image, you know.

SparkleFarkle said...

Playing "dress-up" is so much more fun when you have an enthusiastic partner! Sounds like your Biker Days were a hoot!

WhisperingWriter said...

Nice!

Tom is aching for a bike. Maybe one day...

mama-face said...

I totally see the biker chick in you. Not that I really have any idea what that means. I think it means you're cool...
I also never knew about the 'bitch seat'. hmmm.

I DO know about stereotypes; from both sides. And I will NEVER be able to blog about it. sigh. What the world needs now is love, sweet love...

!!The Obnoxious SAHM!! said...

i appreciate anyone who get actually RIDE a motorcycle... considering that I crashed a scooter. (like the dork that I am)

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

What a GREAT post....Just have an hour or so to blog hop tonight....I enjoyed my visit to your blog...Hope you will visit my Christmas blog...http://grammyababychangeseverything.blogspot.com
A great giveaway is on for the entire month of OCT...and all it takes is a comment...

Sandy said...

Another great story/post! And Been There, Done That to a certain extent. It's an interesting club, the Biker World and you describe it well. My ex-husband built a world around his bike, one of the reasons he's my ex, btw.

And, as for being yourself, I've have said many times that one of the very few benefits of growing old (older?) is caring less and less about what others think of me! It's what I think of me that really matters.

Ride safe, friends.

vixensden said...

Very well said. I believe people so often judge others just by their appearance, or even worse by where they live/what they drive/etc.

We are all people. Good and bad. No matter what subset people think we belong to.

Becky said...

This is an awesome post, and I love it. (I especially love the bitch seat part, Lol!)

We have all had those periods of trying to fit in somewhere. It's so great that you walked away from yours with such great lessons 9and that you did yours on the back of a bike for that matter)

It kindof of like my post I just put up...we all change and evolve but have to be true to ourselves.

Becky said...

And am I reading your profile right that you are from Ohio too??

Swine said...

Nice, T. Very nice. I get tired of all the stereotyping of me. You know, nothing but a pretty face...

Hit 40 said...

Several teachers ride their harleys to work parking them in the back away from the kids.