Friday, April 30, 2010

Put The Funny Between Your Legs

Last night, I went to a cycling event, again, because this time of year, cycling events are basically continuous. The warm weather hits and people freak out: they haul out their rusty, wobbly claptrap rust emporiums and go tooling around the streets of Toronto the Good. I love seeing those folks, who are the real winners in the ongoing feud between Toronto's street users. They get to stay warm and toasty in their Mazdas in the winter, and then take the kids down to the lake in May. Who doesn't love that?

While it's true that it's the hard-core, scary cyclists who are the true generals in the war for more bike accessibility, it's Ma and Pa fin-de-semaine, that swing vote, who make the biggest difference in actually getting bike infrastructure installed. The good of the many outweigh the needs of the few. If there were only, like, fifteen cyclists in the city, there would be less interest in creating a viable and usable bike network. But since there's all levels of user rates and interested parties, it becomes harder to ignore.

Although, going to events like the Dandyhorse release party, it sometimes seems like there are only a handful of riders, and many of us seem to be insufferably hip. Don't get me wrong: I love me some hipster effrontery. My bike crush, a mechanic at one of the local shops, was in attendance, all tattoo-bedecked and punch-dancing to Lady Gaga. Cute, hilarious dirtbags are basically the Toronto bike scene's standard-issue participant, and they show up en masse for events like the Dandyhorse launch.

But there's also that complicating factor when it comes to bike hipsters, which is that something that should be for everyone, regardless of taste in music or interest in carbon, has been co-opted. Anyone who's read that David Foster Wallace essay about the State Fair knows what I'm talking about: the urge to turn an idea/event/item into some talismanic thing that is “for us.” Not that people in “the scene” - and here, I'm not talking about the Toronto cycling scene in particular, but any unifying cause, be it American Apparel employees, internet message board users, or fans of the Sweet Valley High series – aren't open to people getting involved with their interests..but they're fiercely protective of their community. That protectiveness can sometimes read as aggression.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. I play mama bear to a lot of ideas – co-op housing, or my right to wear unflattering sweatpants in public – but being so immersed in something can strip folks of the ability to see the absurd side of their interest. Even though the bike community in Toronto is frothing with hipsters, their ability to poke fun at stuff they hold dear is not well documented. (And I have to interject here, because I'm not sure if I'm a hipster [if only there was some sort of quiz I could take!], so my use of of “they” and “their” might well include me, unflattering sweatpants notwithstanding.) Other stuff, sure: Lady Gaga is totally fair game, but mock their top tube cozies and you'll be rewarded with a withering snit and epic eye rolling.

I think that, in order to become a legitimate driving force in cities, especially Toronto, the bike scene would do well to hone its sense of humour. Anyone who's slogged through an August rainstorm on two wheels knows that bikes aren't exactly the most dignified way of getting around (although they're practically stately compared to Rollerblades, which are just awful). And we can be so snippy and self-righteous, which are two states of being that are so easy to mock. Recognizing that being funny makes you likeable, while being shouty (as is often our way) only endears you the Rachel Berrys of the world.

In short, we need to get over ourselves. The cycling community needs to open ourselves up to being laughed at, to taking ourselves less seriously. Because you know what? That ultimately gives us power. Folks want to help out people they like, and becoming likable is the first step in making the streets for people of all stripes and types.

Monday, April 26, 2010

She's A Heel

I guess if we were going to go by typical woman's magazine standards, I fall woefully short in a number of categories. For example, I've never been in a tanning salon. I've been to dance clubs only a handful of times, and each time, I spent more time complaining about the $7.50 drinks and trying to avoid the greased-up men with their shirts unbuttoned to their sternums than I did actually, like, dancing. I consistently forget to wear deodorant, which, combined with my already hairy pits, can lead to some, um, authentic smells. Hell, I can barely bring myself to brush my hair most days, leaving it a bed-headed mess that is decidedly not artfully composed like a fashion shoot. My bed head is 100% legitimate, complete with little baby dreadlocks and, like, pencils. I am basically a feral child.

But I feel like, if we're going solely by woman's magazine standards, the most egregious crime I'm committing is that of Not Honouring The Shoe.

Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Elle and all those other glossy peans to feminine fashion are constantly displaying footwear that just makes me freak. Not in a good way; not in the way I'm supposed to. I dislike high heels, and I sort of hate shoes in general. I know, as the owner of a vagina, I'm supposed to be all breathless and impressed when it comes to high heels, but I am just so not.

Along with the glossies, I blame stupid Carrie Bradshaw and her posse of fashionable whores. If that stupid show hadn't built a shrine to stilettos, many of the young women who have fallen for the romance of the high heel would be wearing flats today. I understand the allure: heels lengthen the leg and tighten up muscles that would, apparently, would otherwise be sagging and repulsive. And they come in fancy, fancy styles. So I understand. They make things nice. But they don't speak my language, you know?

Look, here's the thing. I'm five foot one on a good day, and I'm probably breaking some law that says short girls need to buck up and wear heels. But I don't really find them all that appealing. When it comes to aesthetics, I'm not really interested in the high-gloss side of things. I like things a little dirtier, a little rusty, and actually, like, practical. The men I like are generally not cut from a slick, European cloth. They wear toques. They wear work boots. I find that sexy, because it's not a lot of maintenance. I give what I get, and like I said, I never brush my hair. I am draft beer. I am Sorel boots. And I like that.

It's not like I have zero interest in footwear. One of my ex-boyfriends was always droning on about his Vans high-tops, and I still sort of have a little crush on Vans because of it. I myself love Campers, because they're interesting without being insane. I'll also admit, in my dark, oily heart, to loving stripper shoes: they're like Barbie shoes for grownups, which is always sort of fun! And, like my mom, I'm sort of a sucker for boots. Winter boots, rain boots, motorcycle boots...yeah, I'm interested.

I just don't run with a high-heeled crowd. ("Not that they're running anywhere," she said snidely.) The men I like are probably interested in heels - many men are, and it's sort of a biological no-brainer - but they can also see past a pretty pair of pumps into a different kind of sexy. Sexy ain't about a five-inch heel; it's about a smile and a swagger.