Recently, like most women my age who are somewhat unemployed but can cobble together a coherent sentence, I’ve entertained the idea of trying my hand at writing a romance novel [or ten]. This may be part of my continued counterintelligence operations against the parental institution, like how I am currently refusing to even linger on the idea of having children, getting married, or otherwise leading a stable life with steady income of my own. But it may also have something to do with the fact that I have a pen name picked out, a plot that can too easily turn into a series, and a willingness to watch enough porn/read enough romance novels to be able to write a sex scene in my sleep. Not that kind of sleep.
In my mental databank, I have a slew of plotlines involving sexy, alpha-male neo-pros, a few beta-male mechanics, the Spring Classics, sweaty bib shorts and chamois cream [because, of course, my novels would involve cyclists]. There are dramas involving embrocation and bad boy messengers, spectacular crashes and consequent rescues, and possiby a three-way with bi-curious podium girls. But at the end of the day, everyone would get either a diamond ring, a future spouse, endless phenomenal sex, or a similar form of guaranteed happiness.
Like J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series, these future best-selling ideas came to me randomly, between soft-pedaling to the grocery store and sipping my usual Americano at Cafe Fixe as I blankly stared out the window. The latter may have been the subtle impetus, as every Tuesday night [back then], from 5.30 in the evening, clusters of Lycra-ed cyclists would spin their way up Beacon to the Cassidy Field parking lot for the Landry’s Tavern Ride. As a modern-day damsel - but one that was not yet capable of distress on a bicycle - I sighed wistfully as I watched them, realization of speed and power still a vague concept confined in my fantasies.
Over two years later, I had a road bike, but remained the vigilent stalker of the Landry’s Tuesday night rides [which had by then turned into the Greenline Velo Wednesday night rides]. I watched the procession up Beacon Street on those Wednesday evenings, my IF safely tucked away in my apartment. Like a deeply self-conscious cross-dresser, I chose to pull out the tools of my fetishized hobby only in towns that were a safe distance from the one in which I lived. I happily rode to Lexington to get my legs ripped off early Sunday mornings but when Wednesday evenings came around, I could be found in yoga pants and a t-shirt, concealing revealing tan lines. And, you know, casually watching the group ride gather in a totally non-creepy way.
But every stalker has his/her breaking point. Though this usually manifests itself in some violent act against the stalkee, I chose to tamely come out of hiding. I slapped on some chamois cream, bibbed and zippered up and headed out toward Cassidy Field a few Wednesdays ago. If worst came to worst, I told myself, I had a cell phone, enough friends that could probaby pick up/tell me how to get home, and if need be, an excuse to sputter out between retching up my afternoon snack. In this worst case scenario, where a ride leader might be stuck caring for me, I’d explain between heaves that I was a “writer,” and hope that the implication of being mostly deskbound would relieve me of any obligation to be “athletic,” or otherwise capable of hanging onto a medium pace ride. If Bill Strickland came up, I figured splattering a little vomit on the mentioner’s shoes should be enough of a distraction.
Yes, me of so little faith and so many excuses. All over a sub-two hour ride that, to be honest, wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I’d imagined.
The ride is a 24-ish mile loop with a few fun climbs and a crap ton of descending. Everyone separated into smaller groups by speed with 3-4 Greenline Velo team members leading each group [it’s a no-drop ride in the sense that you’ll get picked up by the group behind you if you get completely dropped]. With a morning ride already under my belt that day, I stuck to the 16-19mph medium pace group and expected to just barely hang on. To, in fairy tale speak, play the role of the helplessly persecuted princess who needed saving [mostly from herself].
I didn’t realize the irony of my mostly-white IF stallion, or that I was riding it, as opposed to being captured somewhere and crying. I believed - and still do - that my legs are generally ineffectual. But when we hit our first climb, I felt a surge of uncharacteristic faith; some sort of hope that maybe not all my friends were lying to me when they said I wasn’t such a terrible climber.
Besides, when you’re on a bike and the road suddenly turns upwards, there’s not much to do but clip in and dig in. I got to the top, didn’t fall over and immediately die, require resuscitation, or otherwise embarrass myself. My lungs were in a bit of distress but not to the point of princely rescues and/or swooning. And just knowing that I could haul my weight around with a group of strangers who were probably less forgiving than my friends was pretty awesome.
No longer the classic damsel in distress, I tried not to wheel suck too much and closed gaps without someone else leading the way. Because while being helpless can be fun in that it absolves you of responsibility, it will never teach you how to exist outside fantasies of royal co-dependence. Or how to hang on to a group ride.
This realization saturated hopes of a career as a romance novelist as it slowly dawned on me: I’m not sure I will ever understand the desire to mold relationships into the ideal where happiness comes in the form of a diamond ring and offspring. Which, in romance novel terms, means my future books may not be bestselling successes.
...but hey, who said that I couldn’t do research every Wednesday night?