Sunday, October 23, 2016

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. (Mark Twain)

I have never considered myself an athlete, just someone who enjoys being active. So I was retired before I joined my first sport club. Naturally, it was a bicycle club.

Teams and clubs, I learned, have uniforms. In sports these are referred to as kits. I don't know much about sports, but I love clothes. What could be better, I thought: Sports let you play dress-up.

I really wanted the kit of my first cycling club. But when I went to buy it, I discovered that women were expected to buy the smallest men's kit. I was skeptical. I am barely 5'2", which is to say way shorter than even the shortest man in the club. I went to a local bike shop in the little rural community near our home, and I tried on the jersey. It was just so funny. The jersey was so long I could have belted it and worn it as a tunic! Needless to say, I skipped buying that particular club jersey.

Not all clubs and teams made this fundamental sizing mistake. In the years that followed, our jersey collection grew. And grew. We've belonged to several clubs, often more than one at the same time. And there were groups that came together just for an event or tour, using an event jersey in place of a club or team jersey. We soon needed rules to keep the number of cycling tops we owned under control:

  • If there was a date on them, they had to be retired in a couple of years. 
  • Immediate retirement for white ones that got dull and dingy. 
  • Ditto sun-faded or raggedy ones. 
  • Absolutely no magenta or brown ones.

It is tremendous fun to run around with friends who are all wearing special jerseys. Some folks get pretty emotional and territorial about their team or club kits. But I think most of us understand that kits are an adult dress-up game that should be enjoyed for what it is. Particularly in very large clubs, it is inevitable that common interest sub-groups will coalesce and want their own special kits. Fine. The more the merrier. After all, it is all about friends, riding bicycles, and memories. Life is too short for childish bickering over minor matters.

Wearing a team or club kit gives you a sense of belonging. It also communicates our shared understanding that we have the responsibility to ride safely and take care of each other. Each time I peer into my drawer of cycling jerseys, each different jersey reminds me of fun rides where I wore each one. It is a collection of treasured memories of riding with special friends.

Back to that club that didn't have women's size jerseys for women members. I decided not to argue with the guys. From their decidedly sexist point of view, most of the women fit into the men's jerseys so there wasn't a problem. Life being too short to bicker, I decided to go out and buy a tacky, cheap garage sale rhinestone cocktail necklace. I paired it with my usual tank jerseys, and it became my bike club outfit. I enjoyed the comments about the necklace but never explained it to anyone.

We moved before another woman my height joined the club so we both could wear tacky, cheap rhinestone necklaces.  It would have been a lot of fun.