I am a new to bike commuting in DC, well bike commuting in general, and I usually try to follow the rules, especially when it’s slightly after 5 p.m. and I am zipping through Gallery Place. I stop at the lights, use cross walks for turns and make turning signals with my arms.
But, it was after 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and I let the rules slide a touch. I was coming from an event and decided it was probably safer to lug my bike on to the metro rather than ride it the three miles home, which I did. There is a small stint from the station to my house so I climbed on and road the few blocks.
I wasn’t wearing my helmet (I know, I know) and I was dressed in a cardigan and bright pink skirt. But the ride was short and it was a nice night. Traffic was light so I moved through a few lanes to end up in the left-hand turning lane going to my street, which I normally do because of the heavy bus traffic in the outer lanes.
An SUV pulled up to me with two male occupants, both seemingly in their late 40s.
“You look pretty awesome slipping in and out of traffic,” the driver said.
My face shot up in temperature. I must have cut him off, angered one of the drivers who isn’t fond of the increase in bikers on their precious roads. I’ve been expecting someone to yell at me for riding too slowly in the street or not wearing a helmet. I knew I wasn’t doing this right and someone was just waiting to tell me so.
“I am sorry,” I said quietly, not sure what else to do or say.
“Oh, no, I really meant that you looked awesome on your bike.”
“She thinks you were being sarcastic,” said the passenger.
We laughed for a minute and he commented that that was the oddest response he’s ever received, as in I am sorry that I look so awesome. He told me the road was as just as much mine as his and I wished him a good evening.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on how I go into every situation thinking I am not good enough or how I will fail. Every blog post I write will fuel the passive aggressive and judgmental type. Every man is certainly not interested in me or will eventually break my heart anyway. Every dress will be unflattering. Every attempt I make will prove futile.
But, what if I didn’t expect heartbreak, failure and criticism at every turn? Wouldn’t that make life much more enjoyable? What if I decided that I am worthy of a compliment about how graceful and free-spirited I look? What if I actually believed I looked graceful and free-spirited?
Maybe. Probably. I can’t expect myself to undo years of self doubt but I can start to pick out pieces that may give me a fighting chance at confidence.
I think I will start with not expecting the worse. That way, when strange men say how awesome I look, I can actually enjoy the compliment.