Saturday, September 14, 2013
Riding with girls
Today I rode in a charity bicycle ride for a local domestic violence prevention organization. The only time I ask my Facebook friends to donate money is for this ride. The work of the organization is dear to my heart for a couple of reasons.
First, because Elvira did her Girl Scout bronze award project for them. And second because I have a personal connection to the work they do.
Years ago I worked as a counselor for a women's resource center in an undisclosed location in Oklahoma. Among other things, we were the umbrella organization for the local batter women's shelter, and I remember too well the women who came through our doors carrying children still in their pajamas, faces and bodies battered black and blue, bleeding, the babies scared and crying.
You can't imagine the damage a man's fists or a baseball bat can do to a woman's face ... to her body unless you've seen it. I hate to admit it, but it's hard not to look away. And yet to look away is to tell that woman you can't even bear to look at the result of what she had to endure.
These women are lodged deep in my heart.
So today, in spite of my stupid sore foot in its unfashionable navy blue boot and in spite of the pain in my shoulder from the tetanus shot (I had no idea a tetanus shot would leave such muscle soreness and stupid flu-like symptoms), I showed up at 8:30 AfuckingM at the appointed parking lot and rode with my girls, the Butt Crack Bike Gang.
Almost 250 women registered to ride today. I'm not sure how many of us actually rode. I do know when I hit the left turn lane for the parking lot, I was behind a line of women with bicycles racked on their cars, and I don't give a shit how sappy it sounds, I got a little teary knowing every penny we raised would go toward helping women, and their children, who are victims of domestic violence. I got a little teary knowing how powerful women can be when we join together to make something happen.
Domestic violence crosses all borders: age, race, income, education. I hate that we need organizations like the one we rode to support today, but the fact is, we do need them. Every minute of every day a woman is being beaten in this country, and without those 24-hour hotlines and shelters, many of them would die. Many do anyway.
I'm off my soapbox. I didn't even get started on the fucking assholes who beat women and children .... and I won't. I wouldn't know where to stop if I got started on that.
Instead I remember the bleeding and swollen and bruised faces of those women. And I remember the fear I felt when a crazed husband came into our offices looking for the woman he hadn't quite killed .... usually so he could finish the job. And the times we went on lock-down because one of them was outside pounding on our doors and windows and threatening to kill all of us. And he meant it ....
But the bike ride! The bike ride was fantastic. We rode in cool, clear weather along the river -- talking and laughing, greeting riders from other groups. Passing and being passed. (Yeah, I hate being passed. Who would have guessed?)
We stopped for belly dancing and chocolate and butterscotch fountains; hand massages; purple hair extensions, yoga, and cookies. It was fucking awesome. And when we got back to the starting point, there was a food truck to feed us quesadillas and swag bags and vendors and a photo booth.
BCBG was signed up to ride 22 miles, but we were so jazzed by the girl power and the gorgeous end-of-summer weather, we pushed on and rode the longest ride, 29.37 miles total by my computer.
It was fan-fucking-tastic. The energy and connection with all those women empowered and energized us.
My only regret is that I didn't make my donation goal. But I am grateful for the friends who donated in my name. I felt them riding with me today.
I also carried with me another friend who rode with us last year, but couldn't this year because she's been battling cancer. She finished the chemo last month, and on Thursday she underwent a mastectomy. I carried her in my heart, and I know next year she'll be riding with the BCBG again.
One more story. I was unloading my bike from my van when a 9- or 10-year-old kid who was being pulled by a big pit bull with white eyes let himself be tugged across the street behind my van. He said, "Hey, were in you in some kind of big bike race or something?"
I still had a paper with a number on it pinned to the back of my shirt. I said, "No, I was in a charity bike ride. We raised money for Artemis Center."
"How far did you ride," he asked, pulling back hard on his dog so he could watch me unload my bike.
"Almost 30 miles," I said.
"Dang! I can't even imagine riding a bike that far! You really rode 30 miles?" The dog was dragging him up over the curb.
"I did ride that far," I said, standing my bike on the ground.
"Man, I could never ride a bike that far. You strong," he said.
I smiled at him as his dog pulled him on down the sidewalk. "Yes," I said. "Yes, I am."
Women. How can anyone not love us?