Monday, January 21, 2008

When Old Society Dogs Bark

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.

Jack Riepe
January 21, 2008
© Copyright 2008 -- All rights reserved.


BMW-Dick said...

Dear Mr. Riepe:
Do you pronounce your name Rye-Pay or does it rhyme with creepy? IMWTK.

I saw where the riding nun passed away. Do you know if there are any other nuns on motorcycles? I would really like to trade in my grizzly, ill-mannered riding partner for a demure, well mannered nun. I'd eve settle for a Hooters girl in a nun costume. That would sure beat the clod I ride with.

mtlcowgirl said...


Society? We have our own society. As far as I'm concerned, we are the ones with class. She should hold her head high, smile sweetly and walk away. That always pisses people off when I do it.

Karen Kennedy Harrell

P.S. I'll take those brewskies if they're still available.

Unknown said...

Jack - what's with the price of your book on Amazon? I know it's a classic - but $92? $92 is at least 4 lap dances plus a nice $12 tip for the young lady to do with what she wants.

I can think of better ways to spend $92...

Now if the book was say $8, or even something like $25 with your autograph like Ted Simon does - that might be tempting.. but $92?

Your admiring reader.. Don from the shore (in NJ - you know, where you went last weekend.)

Unknown said...

BMW (bring more women) is better here in Georgia. Ahhhh the longer riding time, hills with 13 1/2 mph speed limits, and piped in dreams of far-a-way places. Your book is good and the unsaid book is better.
If you ass does get painted blue, wear it with pride, and show it often. Light up and smile, lift up and down a scotch whisky made in 1984. I shall.

John said...

Another classic Jack. I know that my poor ass family has tons of skeletons in our closet, try both grandparents having shotgun weddings! Ha, just imagine the stuff that rich folks just want to get forgotten. That should get one a new bike for sure.

wolfe said...

If Jack's book is seling for $92 dollars I, for one, am pleasasntly surprised. If I remeber correctly Jack gave me my copy for free, from the cases of unsold overstock he'd reclaimed from the thrift store just outside his publishers office.

Jack, if you die a fiery death will the book be worth more money?

d, I have jack's autograph on several cheques that have, so far, prooved to be of very little value.

MackBeemer said...


It occurs to me that demeaning others is the best sign of true trash.


ADK said...

This defense of female bikers, while eloquently presented and full of wholesome tuths, smack of yet another desperate and vain attempt to ingratiate yourself with the female biker cadre.

All this talk of wooly sweaters, nuns and ass erlates, perhaps a bit too much, to a conversation or two we shared not that long ago.

Err Jack, could you please email me Sister recrimination's phone number?

I'm sure mackbeemer is referring to the cashmere wielding socialite. :-)

Leslie said...

It was so cool of you to include the photo of me and the lunch girls in this post. We're looking forward to drinking your blue ass under the table this weekend.

MackBeemer said...

I thought I'd seek professional advice on the net. I had my own take on the problem and expletives were not easily deleted. Here's what the professional had to say:

Thank you for using to seek advice. The Elder's
reply is below.

TITLE: Blue Nosed Relatives


YOUR ORIGINAL QUESTION: A woman I know is an avid motorcyclist. Some
of her wealthy relatives have said she should give up riding because
'it cheapens you.' How should she respond?

ELDER RESPONSE: I smiled as I read your letter, Mack, as I am a
former motorcyclist who gave it up after a rather serious accident.
However there is a HD shop near where I live that calls out to me
every time I pass you never know!

These are the days of equal opportunity and I see a lot of lovely
ladies on bikes....many more in front than in the rear as that seems to be the way it was in the past. 'Blue nosed' relatives will always be 'blue nosed' relatives and have a set of standards that they expect others to live up to....but not always themselves. Funny how that works. It's sometimes the old 'do what I say, not what I do' mentality or just another form of control. It's time for them to come into the 21st century. Many folks enjoy biking today, professionals,
business executives, etc. It's no longer 'Hell's Angels' and bad
boys.....or girls. Look at the movie, "Wild Hogs"....which I thought was a lot of fun. My 83 year old cousin, a former WWII fighter pilot and retired AF Colonel, still owns three and rides all of them. I also met 3 retired ladies several years ago who were riding their Honda Gold Wings from Kansas to Niagara Falls at a highway rest stop. They were having a great time and a great trip and obviously meeting a lot of new people.

Your friend sounds like a free spirit and a lot of fun. Why should she even think she needs to respond to those folks? What she chooses as activities and how she spends her time is her business not theirs.

She sounds pretty classy to me. In fact I would suggest the next time
they bring it up that she say nothing but rather smile, rev her
engine, lay some rubber and leave them gasping in the dust!! VROOM!!
Happy cycling!

The Elder is right. Some opinions are worthy of a response. Some are not.

The "need" to respond to blue nosed relatives ought itself to come under scrutiny.

Kerensa said...

Jack writes without pretension, with humour and clarity and with a natural rhythm of prose not unlike that of Natalya Baranskaya. He tells a story in such a way as to make it interesting. He is fastidious in his choice of words, which he uses consciously for sound. His writing has focus, development, unity, coherence and correctness.