I’ve never been fashionable. In fact, I’ve always suspected that the great fashionistas of the world looked to what I was wearing and did the opposite. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (repeating myself seems to be a constant feature of my life, now I’m a dad), for years I thought wearing odd socks was a credible fashion ‘statement’.
You know what? I’m fine with that.
I think that as we get older (I’m 38) our desire to get the approval of others diminishes –
Most of the time I really couldn’t give a toss what other people think.
Now I’m not talking about you – the lovely, smart, attractive people who’ve taken the time to read this. I care what you think.
Yet I must admit that I was annoyed to read about an interview Sir Chris Hoy recently gave to GQ Magazine, where he criticized MAMILs.
For the uninitiated, MAMILs are middle-aged men in Lycra – essentially enthusiastic cyclists who are never going to set any world records.
At 38 whether or not I’m ‘Middle-Aged’ is for others to decide. I am, however, someone who identifies as a MAMIL – in that I enjoy cycling and I wear Lycra during my bike-rides.
‘What has all this got to do with being a dad?’ I hear you cry.
Stick with me.
I’m a big fella. Always have been. At my heaviest I was around 23 stones. That’s a lot. It’s not something I’m proud of, in fact I was quite embarrassed by it. My bulk was the combination of having a big frame – I’m broad and 6 foot 5 – and no interest in sport whatsoever.
From my school days sport was something I actively avoided. I was always the last to be picked for the team, the one the PE teacher screamed at – in an effort to exorcise his sadistic urges. Essentially from being a small child I associated sport with only negative emotions.
As the years went by, I continued to eat like ‘a growing boy’, even after I stopped growing. Exercise was what I needed – yet it the prospect of it terrified me. I saw it as little more than an opportunity to be humiliated – once again. So I just grew outwards.
In my late 30’s as my partner and I discussed having a family, it became apparent to me that losing weight was essential if I were to be an active father. This would mean sport of some variety.
Team sports weren’t an option – I hated football with a passion and had no desire to be involved in any game where others might criticize my performance. So I chose cycling. It would be just me and the bike. That’s it. Together we’d get me fitter.
Some have mockingly labelled the rise of amateur cycling and MAMIL culture as little more than an opportunity for grown men to wear tights. They snigger at these men as they ride past – it’s all very funny. The thing is this, for me the brave part was admitting I needed to change and embracing sport – something that I associated with so much pain and alienation. I couldn’t care less if taking part meant wearing tights or a tutu for that matter. As I said before I don’t care what other people think. Or perhaps I’ve become selectively deaf.
I wear Lycra on my bike for several reasons:
*I have large thighs – they rub together and chaff. Lycra provides a second skin stopping that.
* Day to day clothes have seams, they will quickly agitate your skin on a bike.
* I sweat a lot, cycling clothing is designed to wick away moisture – making me more comfortable.
* My shorts are padded – riding without a pad will leave you walking like John Wayne.
Why should the mocking of others stop me from using the kit I need to take part in the activity that is making me healthy? It’s ridiculous.
Let’s be clear, I’m an adult. If I just wanted to wear the clothes and ditch the bike I would. But that’s not why I ride – I ride to invest in my family’s future.
So back to Sir Chris. His words have taken many people like me back to the playground. Many who discovered cycling to make a positive change in their lives are now being insulted about the way they look by a man who is supposed to be an ambassador for cycling itself!
That makes me angry.
If there’s one thing I’ll teach Sam from all this it’s never criticize someone who’s working hard to change their ways. That’s just cruel.
Taking a broader stance. I hope times have changed and kids don’t feel alienated from sports in the way I did!
To be honest, I suspect things haven’t changed much at all!. I can only hope that when these disenfranchised people make the leap of faith to change their lives for the better that a hero of theirs who has never shared their woes doesn’t just shoot them down for fun.
The Out of Depth Dad