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.