What did I do?

I’m rounding a turn on a road in a residential neighborhood in the Oakland hills, alone on my bike, when suddenly, I spy a Mini-Cooper pulling out in front of me. I’m not going too fast, so it’s easy to stop right before the Mini. The Mini stops moving… and a few awkward seconds pass in which I don’t know what to do… I guess she’s going to wait for me? Well, she isn’t going to finish backing out at any rate. So, I ride around her.

Her male accompaniment (whom I in fact couldn’t see from behind the Mini) is apparently sitting by his van in their (multi-million dollar home) driveway.

“It’s not like ya didn’t see her there, ya red-headed FREAK!” he hollers at me as I ride by.

“Hey, it was OK, I stopped!” I yell back over my shoulder, but he probably didn’t hear me.

Now, as a woman who spends a good deal of time in spandex on a bike in very public places (roads), occasional harassment is nothing new (A cheerful greeting from a bro in the passenger seat of a sedan just outside of Danville a few weeks ago: “F*** you, you slut!!!” ). Nor am I unfamiliar with being publicly harassed by complete strangers for being a ginger (A cheerful greeting from a bro in the passenger seat of a suburban in Berkeley: “Hey red, you’re a fox!”). But there’s something particularly upsetting about this one. First of all, I really try to be a good cyclist. It’s mostly because I don’t want to die, but I actually stop at stop signs and stop lights and try to play nicely with cars. I really try, you guys. And second: Red-headed freak? That insult felt far more personal than any number of meaningless obscenities that could’ve been flung in that moment. It landed me back in sixth-ish grade, at the time in all of our lives when the other girls are the most vicious about how fat and how ugly and how much of a FREAK they think you are. God I hate that time in all of our lives.

Uncharacteristically, I can’t stop pouting about it for the rest of the ride. Hmph. Dis never ‘appened to moi en SwitzaFrance or Sveeeeden. Jamais.

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One Response to “What did I do?”

  1. michael9murray Says:

    Great sympathy.

    Options: build up a repository of cutting responses for all general situations.
    Ride different routes.
    Develop occasional deafness.
    Develop a ‘thick skin’.
    Relish the art of the resounding slap ( no car plates to worry about being traced/reprisals etc).

    But have you really got time/ the effort/ the spirit for any of these?
    What a load of time-wasting it would take!

    There are no answers. Try and stay yourself no matter what – do not let it change the you part of you.

    Good luck.

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