Monday, January 05, 2009

My Wife Just Sent Me an E-mail

She wiped out on her bike, but wanted me to know she's fine. My heart went cold and I thought, "How fine?" though grateful she was intact enough to get the rest of the way to work and type on a keyboard, because when she says "bike" she means almost six hundred pounds of motorcycle.

She's been using her motorcycle for commuting these days, and I try not to think about the danger aspect, blocking it out successfully. Now I'll have to work at it all over again. I know she's a good defensive driver, I know she's geared up adequately (and according to her e-mail, especially glad for her gloves and face guard today, EEEEK!), but oh god.

She got her motorcycle endorsement back about ten years ago, and bought her Honda Aero 1100 shortly after. I wasn't too happy about it, but wanted her to have fun, and wrote all about it. I've talked to her since the e-mail, and she's A-OK.

September 1998

My Very Own Motorcycle Mama

The specter of motorcycledom has suddenly re-entered our lives. And I’m none too pleased.

There was a time when I loved the thrill of riding with my woman. When I wallowed in the trust, the risk, the sweet, sultry image-consciousness of it all (sort of an S/M experience for featherweights).

But that was before having children. Which is sweet, risky, thrilling though completely without any boost to one’s self-image (at least for the baby-maker, stud-mothers can look pretty smug). And amazingly, it seems to wipe away virtually all of those thrill-seeking urges from the moment of conception to well into middle age.

At least it did for me.

My wife, however, feels differently. She’s a motorcycle rider from way back. Not the Harley drivin’, leather wearin’ kind o’ dyke, just your basic athletically-inclined, tomboy style motorcycle lesbian that drove dirt bikes as a teen and graduated upwards. And since I was a back-of-the-bike kind of gal when we met, she was all the more alluring for this skill.

However, as I remind her when she gets the urge from time to time, that was two children and a house ago. Which might not be such a great constraint was it not for our clearly delineated division of duties. She works and brings home the bucks. I devote my every waking hour to getting our offspring through childhood unscathed. In light of this, the idea of being plunged into widowhood, single-parenthood and a job market I have virtually no skills for, is enough to keep me awake for a year. I am very simply afraid. Naturally she’s not happy with my squelching of her good clean fun, with my urgently painted images of quadriplegia and single-parenthood, but since, after all, she was bikeless (her brother having wrecked it some years ago), it was not something that was easy to get back into.

All that has changed.

Her best guy friend has made her an offer she has no intention of refusing. He recently returned from overseas with his wife and newborn son. And when he wanted to reclaim his motorcycle from storage, his wife expressed some of the deepest fears that I have detailed above and was eager for the bike to go. Permanently. However, our friend came up with a plan. Instead of selling the bike and losing it forever, he could lend it to my wife (who taught him how to ride after all). Then, after spending a couple of years (or months) breaking down his wife’s resolve, in good time he could be a roaring Harley dude again.

To give him credit, he did talk to me first before making the offer. It’s well known that I am a force to be reckoned with and he was eager to avoid my wrath. And since I have been watching my spouse sigh over motorcycles for the last ten years, in a weak moment I relented and said yes (because to give her credit, she wasn’t going to do it without my OK).

Since then I’ve spoken to many people about this issue. And though some agree with an old flame of mine (who was no help at all!) that since my wife was bringing home the bacon she deserved her toys and wasn’t she “insured up the whazoo” anyway, many share my basic unease. Some of the moms I told threw their arms around me and cried, “poor baby, how are you handling it?” And I heard more than one, “my husband has been hounding me for years to get one.” And everyone has an accident story to tell, some story where someone died, was paralyzed, lost a limb, got amnesia or a brutal case of acne. This has done nothing to brighten my spirits so I may stop asking for the opinion of others.

And my “Safety Queen” concerns expand far beyond motorcycles and mamas. I feel this way about parents that take drugs, drink too much, engage in casual sexual encounters, have glass-topped tables, or run for President. All very bad ideas where children are involved.

My poor wife is naturally disappointed that having agreed to her riding this dang thing I can’t muster up a little more enthusiasm. It is clear that her heart is into it. As compared to, say, any little old home project that has laid around half-finished for months, her preparedness for the bike has gone like clockwork. She got enrolled in and passed with flying colors a motorcycle endorsement course within days. She is making arrangements to pick it up, has found out about insurance and is basically hyped to the sky. Though I have vowed never to ride it with her, she probably intends to break me down gently over the years and get me on it within the decade, since I’m sure a bike of her own is inevitable.

And that being what it is, we have worked out one little compromise. Should she get a bike of her own someday (complete with sissy bar), every Pride day I’ll ride with her in the Dykes on Bikes. ‘Cause even though I’m a guilt obsessed mom, in my heart of hearts, there’s still a back of the bike kind of gal screaming to get out.

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