Yesterday morning I went biking with my friend E, who, along with a former colleague coming in all the way from DC, has convinced me to train for a 100 mile ride in May. (I am writing this, by the way, in hopes of minimizing the likelihood that I will flake out.)
E and her boyfriend are native New Mexicans, and hence take their outdoor sports very seriously: they ski, they ride horses, they cycle. I’m sure they have more gear in one square foot of their garage than is owned by all of Upper Manhattan.
Fortunately, their temperament is also classic New Mexican: easygoing and patient. So when, yesterday, I went careening into E’s bike after she unexpectedly slowed down and caused both of us to topple over rather dramatically, she didn’t give away a whiff of frustration.
In fact, the first thing she said–the two of us still inspecting ourselves for skinned hands, knees and elbows–was: “At least you can probably make this into a good metaphor for dating!”
Preoccuppied with an aching quadricep, a miniscule patch of ripped skin on my right thumb and the realization that I didn’t, actually, know how to use my brakes, I dismissed her idea.
“If you can come up with one, I’m open!” I told her as we regained our breath and slowly remounted.
At the time it seemed preposterous: what romantic insight could there possibly be in my hapless bike-riding skills? Besides, my butt hurt.
Now, of course, the metaphor seems so obvious that I wonder whether the true matter for introspection shouldn’t be how long it took me to recognize it.
The thing about me and biking (and driving, and basically any other form of locomotion involving things besides legs or train tracks) is that I got a late start. My Dad, and several other Dads, made sincere efforts to teach me starting at around eight all through sixteen. They failed. It took a stern (if also slightly goofy) Austrian–my host father during a Viennese semester abroad in high school–forcing me to circle a three-foot roundabout for an entire afternoon to finally make me competent on two wheels.
Later one of my brothers bought me a hybrid and I fell in love with biking: especially one summer in college, when it meant wearing vintage dresses and riding with my two girlfriends to the local dive bar where we’d sip gin and tonics and flirt with bass players.
But I’ve never felt as comfortable on a bike as I imagine other, earlier bloomers do. Even when I’ve got my balance, I often worry that I don’t. I feel amateurish: unsteady and slightly reckless. Occasionally, I get up good momentum, start going pretty fast and don’t know how to stop: this can result in panicked and ill-fated crashes with another person.
Anybody see where I’m going here?
I’m not sure all would agree that I got an abnormally late start in dating, but by some standards probably: I didn’t have a serious relationship, certainly, until nineteen. And though that one lasted two and a half years, I’ve never been with anyone else for longer than a few months.
I can see my friends’ eyes beginning to circle back in their heads as they read this: I know, I’ve dated quite a few people. But most things haven’t gone very far, and because of that I still feel an insecurity and unsteadiness with relationships that often makes me too eager to get going. When things do start up, I am prone to move too fast and have a hard time slowing them down. Disaster, frequently, ensues.
It would be nice to think that my new commitment to better my road bike skills–I did, post-crash, figure out those brakes–could somehow translate to my dating life.
I’m not sure how, exactly, but I’ve heard that recognizing a pattern is the first step to changing one.