Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ride Like a Man

There are a lot of things that define a man. Not all of them are accurate or fair, but even some of those things are generally accepted in society’s definition of A MAN. I’m not referring to the anatomical definition of course. That’s easy. Except in the case of Chas Bono. That’s a mind bender. I’m talking about things like the following:

How much money does he make? (inaccurate and unfair).

What kind of music does he like? (inaccurate but possibly fair).

Is he a good husband? Or Father? (accurate and fair).

Can he grow a cool goatee (totally fair).

There are probably hundreds of other things that people take into cursory consideration when they subconsciously decide if a male is A MAN. And, like deciding if Ben Affleck is a quality actor, or French-Canadians are rude and arrogant, or if the ugly girl should marry the vampire or the werewolf, opinions will, invariably, vary (He is, they are, and who cares).

I’m sure there are people out there who don’t think John Mayer is a “real” man. How can I be sure? I’m one of them. On the flip side, I’m sure there people who think John Mayer is the epitome of A MAN. He does have “manly” qualities. He’s apparently a commitment-phobe and he has some slick tattoos. You see? Those two things I just mentioned are stereotypical “man” qualities. You don’t ever hear a chick say “You know Becky is a REAL woman, with all her one night stands and that Grim Reaper tattoo on her chest!”

When I got my motorcycle recently, several people asked me if it made me feel like A MAN. Some mockingly (my guy friends - including the guy who sold it to me), some with genuine curiosity (BOTH of my shrinks), and some because I’d asked them to call me “Spyder”.

As a guy who has struggled with his image of what a man should be, and constantly questioned whether or not he has those qualities, the question “does having a motorcycle make you feel man” intrigued me. The answer is yes.

This ain’t my first motorbike, you see. I’ve had three other motorcycles that I barely rode on the real streets because I was scared. The last one I had, I was determined, would see the open road. Or at least McCarran. I enlisted the help of my pal Trey to teach me to ride. The first time out, I laid the bike down 20 feet out of his driveway. “Well, got that out of the way” I told myself. No major damage, and though I could tell Trey was having second, and probably as many as
26th thoughts, we continued. When I made a left turn and used my right foot to stop myself from side swiping the curb, we pulled over.

“Where are we going next?” I asked Trey, trying to convince him, and myself, that going anywhere else was a good idea. He wasn’t buying it.

“We’re gonna make a right off this street, head back to my house, and put your bike up for sale on craigslist.” He said, more than matter of factly.

I sold the bike, To a chick. That hit me smack in the manhood. If I said she was a lesbian, would that make it better? She was and it doesn’t.

Fast forward to last summer. I was hanging around Jim McClain (I’ll let you decide if this was an upgrade in companions from Trey) and he’s a biker to the core. I got the bug again and I got myself in the Riders Edge Safety Course at Reno Harley. In a nutshell, I learned to feel safe on a motorcycle. I got some good tips and encouragement from the guys at Harley (yeah, even Kerr) and eventually got motorcycle number 4. And yes, as I said, it does make me feel like a man.

Let me explain.

Some of the things that make me feel like a man are: I’m an adequate and sometimes even good husband. I think I’m a pretty good dad. I’ve learned to not apologize for who I am, and I almost always admit when I’m mistaken, and try to make amends. And now, I've overcome my fear of riding a motorcycle. Every time I get on it and go from my house near McQueen High School to the Sparks Marina, or from work to Idlewild Park, I feel like a man. I’m conquering something that I struggled with for years. I assume that when I get the balls to ride it on the freeway and faster than 60 mph, that feeling will grow even more.

See, it’s a good lesson. If I can beat that fear, what other fears might I be able to overcome? Could I get on an airplane and fly to Florida for Spring Training? Could I take a real stab at being a full time comic? Could I put my hand in my daughter’s gecko tank to feed it? The answers are maybe, maybe and not a fucking chance.

You get my point.

And if you don’t, here it is. Overcoming your fear can make you feel like a man. Even if you’re a woman. Or Chas Bono. Tattoos and fistfights and a high pain threshold and an iPod full of Pantera songs don’t make you a man.

I probably wouldn’t tell a guy with tattoos, a high pain threshold and an iPod full of Pantera songs he wasn’t a man. But I did ride my Harley on Sparks Blvd the other day… so someday I might.