I love my bike.

I retired from work in September and the weather was unseasonably pleasant – so I took great joy in going on a daily bike ride along the Wirral Way.  I was out in the fresh air, it was fun, it was exhilarating and I loved that I could wear leggings and a t-shirt during the week.

But now I feel a bit more self-conscious about riding it.  And that makes me sad.

One afternoon I was cycling home, crossing the railway line and riding along the street when a car, on the wrong side of the road, drove towards me and double-parked outside the Post Office. I swerved, pulled a face at the driver and carried on.  The passenger got out and laughed.  I stopped and turned – she laughed again!   When challenged she admitted she was laughing at me and then asked me (rather threateningly) what I was going to do about it.  What I wasn’t going to do was start an argument in the street – I have some standards and also I was a bit scared.  I shrugged my shoulders and pedalled away.  So far so good.

It hit me as I got home.  I  was crying whilst putting my bike in the shed and I continued to cry for some time after that.  I had just been bullied and very possibly fat-shamed by a complete stranger, in public.

Let’s be straight – this is not the first time this has happened to me.  I was the only fat child in my year at school and was the only fat person amongst my teenage friends.  I was the only fat student on my course.  I was the only fat person at my first job.  I grew up self-conscious about my physicality, worried about standing out, being easy pickings for the bullies and those who like to mock.

Why this incident shocked me like it did was because I  thought that my age protected me.  I felt that as a middle-aged woman I was out of the competitive game, that in my menopausal state I was no longer a threat and of no interest to the wider world.  I thought I would be left alone just to get on with my life.  I felt I had reached a point when I could be comfortable with who I was, what I looked like and what I did.  I  certainly no longer expected to be mocked, name-called or insulted as I went about my daily business.

That woman laughing at me, threatening me,  transported me straight back to the schoolyard and my childhood fears and anxieties.  Things I thought I had left behind.  I now know that they are with me for life.  That for the fat person there is no place to hide.

But.  I am not deterred.  I also know that I have managed to live thus far – and done some fun and amazing things. So it takes more than street mockery to stop me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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