An acquaintance of mine recently confided she is caught up in a family debate regarding the legitimacy of motorcycling for women. According to the facts at hand, stinging criticism has been leveled at her from a stodgy, well-heeled relative (link provided for genre comparison only), who is under the impression that an inexhaustible supply of $1,800 cashmere sweaters (and deeds to a lot of west coast urban real estate) constitute the basis of propriety. Worse, this social register plague is under the impression that the accumulation of wealth lends credibility to her opinions on anything.
It cannot be denied that a certain percentage of the world’s population perceives motorcycle-riding women, or those precariously perched on pillions, as tattooed, leather-clad, sexual pleasure kittens, eager to bare their breasts for a string of beads or a cold beer. This is largely due to a handful of publications and annual events that elevate this image to “Goddess” levels. I try to hang around at these events for as long as I can -- or until I get my pants pulled down and my ass painted blue for arriving on a BMW.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to these dedicated (but relatively few) women for reminding me that my adolescence is about one thousandth of an inch below my veneer of sophistication.As is typical with the conclusions of conventional wisdom, though, the tattooed, leather clad, sexual pleasure kitten-image of women riders is (and always has been) greatly exaggerated. I have returned from Sturgis and Daytona with tons of undistributed beads and cases of unconsumed beer. My mesh jacket is usually colored with the venom and spittle of Harley women for my efforts.
Despite hundreds of thousands of words written in various publications and newspapers over the years on the respectability of motorcycling for women -- coupled with an endless procession of names of women of merit and unquestionable social standing -- there are those who stand ready to disparage the character of women riders. And it never ceases to amaze me how often this subject arises on various online venues.
The acquaintance I mentioned at the beginning of this piece was hoping to sway her relatives with a list of names of well-established world leaders, economic drivers, entertainers, Catholic nuns, and trendsetting socialites who are women motorcycle riders. This sort of reasoning won’t work. A strategy of this nature can only be effective if all of the people on the list ride up to the offending relative’s house on their bikes and get full media coverage. Some of the names on this list will actually infuriate older relatives. Bringing up Eleanor Roosevelt to an aging Republican matriarch will simply result in an anti-socialist diatribe.Even if my acquaintance was to carry a donor organ 1,200 miles on her bike, through a forest fire and falling snow, to save the life of little Nell, some aging aunt would bring up the fact that the child will probably grow up to be a hooker.
Before attempting to engage aging, wealthy family members in a debate on the legitimacy of motorcycling (regardless of whether you are a woman or a man), you must first ask yourself three qualifying questions:
1) Do you stand to inherit anything in the way of substantial real estate or a large amount of cash?
If the answer to this question is "no," please go to question number "2."
2) Why do you give a shit what these people think? You're a biker. The traditional response to criticism from the cashmere sweater crowd is to extend one's middle finder and offer your ass for them to kiss. They will understand this combination of gestures perfectly, especially if your relatives are "old money" WASPS, who have had occasional correspondence with the Irish labor movement.
If the answer to question number 1 is "yes," then offer to get rid of the bike if the person with the loudest negative opinion will take a short ride on the pillion. Then jump 12 parked cars. Hopefully, these people are old and have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. Collect your bonus on the way back from the cemetery.
3) What could you possibly hope to gain by arguing with people who would spend $1,800 on a sweater as opposed to making a more sensible investment in sex, partying, and the spit-in-the-face-of-death-type of thrills that accompany a typical 36-hour two-wheeled road trip?
The only statement that will be acceptable to them is, “You’re absolutely right.” But if you accept one of their opinions as valid, the price of membership comes with buying them all.
For those who insist on playing with folks like this, I have four suggestions:
a) Ask for or take a good portrait photograph of them. Get it made into a temporary henna tattoo on your ass. Then go to a wild bike week rally someplace, and have your butt made into the focal point of a bike mag picture spread. Send 10 copies of the magazine to the social register.
b) Offer to write a family history. You will soon discover interesting skeletons that concern illegitimate births, affairs with chorus girls, unproved allegations regarding embezzlement, questionable business ethics, and an immigrant history that would do a Barbary Coast pirate proud. Remember to ask the old folks for quotes in the family’s defense. With luck, they'll buy you a new bike just to shut up.
c) Insist that your relative accompany you to a BMW motorcycle rally, where women riders can be observed writing poetry or reading multistep self-improvement books, while the men play chamber music from instruments carried in their panniers. At the last BMW rally I attended, two new vaccines were invented, a new opera was composed, global warming was slowed, and the loudest noise came from philosophical conversations in darkened tents.
d) The fourth suggestion is to ignore them. You’ll save on Christmas presents, holiday cards, and aggravation. Nothing gets on the nerves of these folks faster than you having a good time while doing something they can neither understand nor do themselves.
January 21, 2008
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