Recently, I blogged about some negative comments pertaining to a post on Treehugger. The writer, also a woman, made reference to the benefits of attractive women riding bicycles. I took no offense. Like it or not, by human nature, attractive people do seem lead social trends and if they lead society in the direction of more bike commuting and bike infrastructure, well so be it. Besides, the way I see it our culture also has embrased a wider range of beauty types so some progress has been made.
As a woman though the beauty myth and my participation in it remains an interesting, painful, and at times embarrassing topic of conversation. I read the ctitical comments and could not help a certain amount of self-examination (probably about 4 minutes of self-examination to be quite honest). I write a bike commuting blog with a moderate amount of time devoted to fashion (albeit of a mountain girl variety quite often) and most of my subjects are women. Guilty. I love clothes and am always fascinated by the fashion choices of others, especially those styles and combinations that I am not brave enough to try myself.
The use of the words "girl" versus "woman" created a fair amount of argument in the Treehugger article. Obviously, I am a woman; in fact I am “over a certain age”, so shouldn’t I be insulted by the use of the word “girl”? At my age, shouldn't I bristle at being evaluated on my appearance when my looks are being increasingly the least relevant thing about me, especially given my level of education, my life and career experience, and the self-knowledge I have aquired with age? I certainly have been evaluated on my looks, both positively and negatively, and I can be pretty hard on myself when I don’t feel that I measure up. Why then do I participate in this sexist exercise of worrying looking pretty while riding a bike?
No answers. My sister has tried to raise her two daughters free of the dead weight and negative influence of Barbie and her shallow, penthouse-living, dune buggy driving friends. Nonetheless, Callie and Laura were captured by the World of Barbie, as were my sisters and I. Captured for hours and years despite the fact our mother had no interest in hair and fashion and tried to guide us to books and the outdoors. Callie left the womb and immediately began critiquing her mother’s fashion choices. The child loves nail polish, shopping with Aunt Val, and is allergic to nature (despite natural abilities as an athlete). I am much the same.
If I were referred to as a girl at work, yes, I would cringe but I love being a girl and hanging out with girlfriends, over wine and bruchetta. We’re grown up girls who crave red shoes of the slipper variety. Virtually all of us wear makeup. Most of my beginning and nonbike commuting friends confess a huge amount of anxiety over the idea of helmet hair at work, to which I share that I keep a hair dryer, product, and both a barrel and a paddle brush at my desk for just such monstrosities. Frankly, I only mildly wish that someday I’ll shed my addiction to beauty and hair products but I get too much enjoyment out of them. The results can be gratifying to the ego. I pedaled to work helmetless once last year and applied red Aveda lip gloss before I left home. My day was made when a middle aged gentleman walking down the sidewalk off Butler shouted out “You look great!” Whoo-hoo! A really nice compliment, not vulgar or intimidating. I’ve delivered similar compliments to other women, perfect strangers I just thought looked very fabulous, and every time I can tell they are tremendously flattered. Hey . . . that’s just the way our minds our built.
Because I am a woman though, I try not to limit the pretty and chic look to a narrow type of woman. I wouldn’t want to be evaluated by a standard I could never measure up to. I’ve featured women of every age, shape, and ethnicity (or try too but we humans tend to segregate ourselves a lot). I love featuring older women, especially, who are still so clearly living by their own terms, growing, embracing new experiences, and not abandoning their sexuality because they passed some dreaded number. No matter how old she gets, Lauren Hutton will always be my image of the ultimate beauty and style (and I believe she pedals bikes as well as rides camels). Since I am only 4 years away from 50 I don’t spend one minute wishing I were 25 again. The most exciting times for me have all been since I turned 40.
Soooo . . . when I say that Sunday I spent the day in Phoenix with my cousin and found the most perfectly cute, super high-heeled pumps that I deem suitable for bike commuting, and my husband just deems totally hot, I feel not a shred of shame or remorse. And yes, the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep last night and the first thing that entered my consciousness when I awoke this morning was whether I had anything in my closet that would look really great with my new, kiwi, super high-heeled pumps, higher heeled than anything I have ever dared. I purchased them at My Sister's Closet, a high end consignment store, for only $14.95. They did not appear to have ever been worn. Settling on to my Expedition this morning and testing their road and pedal worthiness, they made me so very glad that I am (heavy sigh) a GIRL!