I’ve always been painfully shy, insecure, and deeply afraid of rejection. So naturally I started a blog to share my most personal and embarrassing stories with the world. Luckily, “the world” is typically composed of all 7 of my regular readers, plus my in-laws. (Hi Pops! Thanks for stopping by!) So nothing I say here is usually very shocking to most of the people that read it. In fact, I think one of life’s great truisms is that we tend to view the events of our lives as being far more important than other’s do. I doubt that anything I have revealed during the course of the last year has shocked anyone. Let’s face it. I am about as average, normal, and boring as a mentally unbalanced person can be.
That’s why the internet blog is the quintessential outlet for navel gazing. We can blab on at length about mundane, unimportant details that no one else cares about, and still get the thrill of being “edgy” like Lenny Bruce for “laying it all out there.” It is hard to believe that I have been blogging for over a year, but as the good and patient Mrs. 20 Prospect can attest, I never do anything halfway. No, when I decide to learn how to swim I jump into the deep end. So naturally, starting a blog quickly went from being a hobby to being a time consuming obsession, much like my foray into the world of cycling.
My cycling obsession began in the mid 90’s. One of my good friends had gotten big into cycling after college. He moved to Connecticut where he started riding, and then racing mountain bikes. Soon, he had moved into road biking and joined a cycling club where he began road racing. During a visit to Connecticut in 1993, I bought my first mountain bike after renting one for the weekend, and riding with him in the woods around Torrington. I mailed the bike back out west, and it became one of my prize possessions, along with my backpack and my skis, as I travelled around the country. Once I settled in Minnesota, I began searching out the local trails, and soon convinced my good friends Dan’l and Chris to drive up to the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin to camp and ride the trails there. Before long I was riding weekly with a group of guys from work.
Riding the same ten miles of trail week after week, got old pretty fast. That’s when I decided I needed a focus, so I set my sights on racing. I did a few local mountain bike races in the Twin Cities and got my butt handed to me by several 90 lb. women. My manhood and self esteem was hurt, but I was determined to improve. So I joined a local cycling club, and started training hard. Over the winter I bought a road bike, and subscribed to Cyclesport, and the next spring I began logging some intense miles. In cold, 40 degree weather I would head out clad in lycra from head to toe, as the March winds tore at my exposed flesh. By summer, I was putting in 50 mile rides. That’s when I decided to stop mountain biking, and instead get focused on road biking. So I switched clubs, and enrolled in a racing class with the SPBRC.
There I was, a 30 something guy in a class with a bunch of guys in their 20’s, learning the finer points of riding etiquette. Road biking is full of subtle little details that distinguish the serious cyclist from the “Fred”. Sunglass frames are always worn over the outside of your helmet straps. The labels on your tires always face the drive chain, and are aligned with the presta valve. There are all sorts of does and don’t when riding in a paceline with others, but the biggest distinguisher between the recreational cyclist and the diehard, is their legs.
Real cyclists shave their legs.
The reasons for this are sketchy, with obscure claims about sanitation when cleaning out road rash, but the real reason can be summed up this way. All the cool kids do it. In Europe, the center of the cycling world, the true professionals all shave their legs. For this reason, cyclists the world over lather up in the shower, and break out the Lady Bics.
Riding with the club on Saturday mornings, we’d head out in a group of 40-50, all clad in matching jerseys, riding in perfect sync as we pedaled past the hipsters hanging out in the coffee shops, and headed out of town. Smooth legs glistened with beads of sweat as we climbed the hills of St. Paul in the slanting morning sun. Then there was me, looking, and feeling like Magilla Gorilla. No one said a word. They didn’t have to. I could see it in their eyes.
Now I’m a fairly competitive person. It wasn’t enough that I could hang with them on the climbs, or take my pulls at the front. I wanted them to respect me, and view me as one of their own. So with my first race approaching, and Mrs. 20 Prospect visiting her cousin in Sheboygan, I sat down on the edge of the bathtub one Friday night, with soap, shaving cream, and a new blade on my razor.
OK, I confess, I’d had a few beers before hand, to steady my nerves.
Then tentatively, I place the blade against the front of my thigh, and drew it back across my rippling quad muscles.
Then I screamed like a schoolgirl.
Keep in mind that my swarthy, Central and Eastern European ancestors were endowed with thick, curly, black hair. This genetic trait served them well as they hunted Stags in the Black Forest, and across the snowy Carpathian mountains. But here in the 20th century, it doesn’t really serve much purpose as I sit behind a desk. Except to keep my legs warm on those cold winter mornings. (It’s kinda like having built in leg warmers.)
Once the initial shock and pain subsided, I looked down, and there across my hirsute legs, was a stripe of bright white flesh. “WTF do I do now?” I wondered. I couldn’t exactly walk around with a big stripe shaved into the front of my legs. After the pain of the first stroke, I was having serious second thoughts about this.
So I took another swig of my beer, and soldiered on. An hour later our bathtub was covered in black, curly hair, and my legs were shiny pink and tingly. I must say, underneath that thick coat of fur was one sexy set of gams. Each and every muscle of my legs was defined, and ripped like some cover model in Men’s Health magazine. Not that I read Men’s Health magazine.
What? Stop looking at me like that!
OK, so there I was, all pink and tingly, marveling at the strange sensation of having skin rubbing skin as I lay in bed. But I knew that when the sun rose, I would be hanging out in front of Grand Performance, trading stories and opinions about the merits of Campy vs. Shimano, looking the part of a real cyclist.
Except that nobody seemed to notice. Oh well, at the very least I didn’t feel so self conscious about my legs when I was riding with the club. However, that’s when I discovered that I now felt self conscious the other 99% of the time. Standing in line at the grocery store, I felt like everyone was staring at my legs. If only I were bald, I could at least make them think I was a cancer patient.
When Mrs. 20 Prospect came home on Sunday night she shed tears like Jujubes.
Now I not only felt stupid, I felt guilty too. Damn Catholicism.
My race came, and went, summer quickly faded into fall, and slowly things got better. Little black itchy stubble at first, then fat, bristly whiskers like porcupine quills. Finally, by autumn my legs were once more covered with curly, luxurious, hair like a mink coat. Just in time for winter.
So what did I learn from this experience? Did it make me a better cyclist? Did I garner praise, adoration, or respect from a group of malnourished waifs on two wheels? Not exactly. What I learned is that women go through entirely too much trouble on behalf of men. Really ladies, if this is just a small part of what you endure to look lovely in the eyes of men, let me make a confession.
We’re not worth it.
No, seriously. If you all stopped shaving tomorrow, we’d get used to it. Sure, it might gross us out for a few days, but what alternative would we really have? It’s not like sheep are any less wooly.
What? Stop looking at me like that!
Eventually, we’d all just shrug, ask what was for dinner, and life would continue.
So ladies, on behalf of all men let me say, “Thank you”, for this grand gesture. But honestly, we really aren’t worth all that trouble. Evolution may have transformed the cave woman into today’s sexy cover models, but as for men, we’re still living in the cave.