The Fairytale of My Life.
I’m going to tell you a modern fairytale.
Once upon a time I went to parties and stayed up all night and watched the sun rise and smoked cigarettes and drank cocktails. Once upon a time I wore vintage dresses and high heels and people told me I looked really beautiful and fashionable. Once upon a time I wore foundation and lipstick and eyeliner and blush. Once upon a time I’d go to clubs and dance until my feet hurt and flirt with guys who bought me drinks and offered me rides home.
Once upon a time I religiously restricted my calories. Once upon a time I worked out compulsively at the gym, running on the treadmill for multiple hours until someone kicked me off. Once upon a time I bought magazines like Women’s Health and Prevention so that I could read up on their fad diets and summer workout routines and try and copy them. Once upon a time I flipped through Cosmo and read up on “the sex tip that will make him flip– tonight.”
This is the part of the story where I am a damsel in distress. I am hungry and insecure and constantly tired. I am convinced that if I just lost 5 more pounds, if I just found the right dress and wore the the right shoes with it and bought the right color lipstick Prince Charming would waltz through the door and pick me out of the crowd. I am happiest when I am at a club and attractive guys trying to dance with me or engage me in conversation. I am happiest when men pay attention to me. I am a failure when they don’t.
And this is the part where, in stories like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and Cindarella, we are introduced to the handsome Prince that keeps us believing, as women, that if we are dainty and pretty enough we will be rescued from our difficult existences and live happily ever after.
This does not happen.
In my despair over my inadequacy in attracting the perfect guy and the failures of my relationships, I explore different methods in working out to lose more weight, because the fact that I weigh a whole 125 lbs must be the problem. I start riding a bike. I start riding a bike often, and fast. I start feeling really good about riding a bike because I’m saving tons of money on gas and it’s exhilarating zipping down the road past other people on bikes.
I stop riding my bicycle because I want to lose weight and start riding my bicycle because it feels fucking awesome.
I start meeting other people who ride bikes and riding with them. I get faster and stronger. I ride with the guys at their pace and I’m faster than some of them. I feel good because I’m good at something. I keep riding. I tuck the short skirts and painful high heels in the back of the closet and trade them for the freedom of cutoffs and tennis shoes. I stop wasting an hour my time every morning on using makeup to hide the parts of me that are most human– my flaws. I start eating, really eating, and stop when I’m full.
And then I start racing. I meet a bunch of talented, powerful women who are just like me. I meet women who are celebrated because they can ride a bike really fast, who eat to fuel their bodies instead of working out so they can eat. I meet people who don’t really care about how pretty I am and I stop worrying so damn much about the perfect dress and being a size 0 because, fuck it, I’m racing bikes and my self esteem doesn’t hinge on whether some guy thinks I’m beautiful or not.
There is no happily ever after in this fairytale because this is real life. I’m still here, riding my bicycle, in a loving, sensitive relationship with another person who races bikes and cares more that we share the same passion than the size of my waist or the smoothness of my skin or whether or not I read the Women’s Health article on “10 Ways to Get Him to Orgasm.” I am not always happy, but I’m a lot more satisfied because I define my own self worth.
If the moral you get from this is that bikes changed my life, look deeper. It didn’t have to be cycling; it could have been running or swimming or rock climbing or white water rafting or even playing the tuba. The point is that I am not a woman that lets fashion magazines tell her she is too big or too plain to be happy anymore. I am not a woman that looks for value in the gazes of men anymore, or subjugates her opinion of herself to theirs. I am in love with myself first.