Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why Does a Boy Want a Woman's Bicycle?

Philadelphia has distinct neighborhoods.  I live in a primarily Polish, Italian, Lithuanian neighborhood with an influx of educated out-of-towners. Yesterday I rode my bike through a middle class African American to a less-well-off neighborhood with a well-stocked hardware store.  To get to the hardware store, it is necessary to go through several blocks of poverty.  My own house is two blocks from poverty, as well.


I locked my bike to a parking hours sign pole.  The hardware store had the upholstery twist pins I was seeking for a client who wanted my help putting a slipcover on her couch. I was the only white person in the store.  The staff, who were mostly less than half my age called me “Miss.” The salesman who helped me remembered twist pins from his youth, “They have little pig tails.” I paid for my purchase, and returned to my bike just as a school bus stopped at the light.  A voice from the bus called out, “Give me that bike!”


I looked up.  The shouting child was a boy.  Prepuberty voices of both genders tend to sound about the same to me, so I had to check.  I bent down to unlock my bike.  The boy kept shouting, “Give me that bike!”  All I could think was “why would a boy want a woman’s bike?”  My bike clearly has a step through, which was invented for women’s skirts and I find it useful because of the arthritis in my hips.  I thought aggressive boys wanted very much to be like men. Riding a woman’s bike would not fit that image. He shouted again, “Give me that bike!”


I had a momentary flash of fear – was he going to get off that bus and attack me to get the bike? If he did, I’d have to walk home through unfriendly neighborhoods. I am no match for a healthy 9-year-old boy. I don’t know how to fight. But the boy stayed at the window on the bus, continuing to shout.  Even if I wanted to give him my bike, it would not fit through the bus window.  What was he thinking?  Does he have classmates who can be impressed that he has a loud voice? That he demands weird things?


What would have happened if I shouted back, “Why would a boy want a woman’s bike?”

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