Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Like "Sex and the City" but with out the Sex. Or the City.

Papa Bear is pretty drunk. I don't really blame him. Since 8am, he's been the sole rooster in a pack of gossiping, kvetching, chattering hens on bikes. One hundred miles of that would drive even a puritan to drink.

And drinking is exactly what we're doing, having gone straight to Hopworks from River City. Do not pass Go, do not change out of the sweaty Lycra monkeysuit that you've been wearing for eight hours. Go directly to beer.

We sit there, Papa Bear and three single ladies: the Rough Cuddler, the Blond Ball of Hate ("BBoH") and the yet un-nicknamed nickname generator. With each round, the volume is raised two-fold. Same for the adult content rating of our conversations. We bitch about sex, being single and having saddle sores.

Papa Bear is laughing so hard that there are tears in his eyes. "You two are great...I just don't understand why you two don't have boyfriends." This question is addressed to BBoH and I, as Rough Cuddler's current romantic entanglement does not lend itself to that question.

BBoH hems and haws for a minute. Having given up drinking two rounds ago, I feel like the answer to the question is self-evident.

"I can tell you what my problem is...I spend all of my time with you assholes."


I don't have sisters, at least I didn't have sisters before I started taking cycling seriously.

I have a younger brother, a hysterically funny man that is much smarter that I ever hope to be. When I see him, we enjoy our time together, but we never have been particularly close. As a result, the feeling of sibling-hood that I've felt with my misfit band of cycling friends has been a revelation.

With this particular group, I feel wedged between a neurotic older sister, wild younger sister and the crazy inappropriate uncle that everyone loves because he'd give you the shirt off of his back (but not before telling you an offensive joke). The affection amongst us is almost overwhelming.

When I think about my relationships with BBoH and RC, it is the shared experience of cycling that was the catalyst for taking garden variety adult friendships and transforming them into something much more meaningful. We sweat, bleed, suffer, drink together. We are experiencing the best and worst of what competition brings out in our personalities, living the physical and emotional transformation that occurs when hard work, stubbornness, lyrca and Friday happy hour all collide at full speed.

The BBoH and I call each other FT (fraternal twin). We couldn't look any different from each other, but our minds are tuned to the same socially inappropriate frequency. Within a week of becoming friends, we could finish each others sentences. After Table Rock, we were sitting in almost the exact same location at Hopworks, enjoying beers after the epic road trip to Southern Oregon. BBoH returned from the bathroom, giggling mischievously.

BBoH: "Hey FT, guess what I did."

LK (without skipping a beat): "Hey FT, I bet you just stuck your face under the hand dryer in the bathroom." (Hopworks has high-powered hand dryers that create G-Force-like ripples on anything within a 12 inch radius).

Busted. Her faces falls momentarily.

BBoH: "How did you know that?"

LK: "I'm not even going to pretend like I haven't done the same thing a time or two. Or eight."

(I'll remind you at this time that my FT and I are in our early-30's.)

My relationship with the Rough Cuddler followed a different trajectory. You don't become friends with the RC overnight. She's had more life experiences in the past 10 years than most of us will have in a lifetime. With that experience comes barriers that have to be frequently negotiated while building the friendship. There are tryouts that you don't even know you're participating in...the grace with which you respond to heartbreak, the loyalty you have for your friends in crisis, your commitment to the constant improvement of your character, your taste in beer and chocolate, whether you cheat on repetitions in class.

Having RC as a friend and surrogate older sister is not always easy. When I'm being a jerk, I get to hear about it, whether I want to or not. Advice is straightforward to a fault, often loud to the point of head-splitting and liberally peppered with the word 'fuck.' But always worth listening to, if not always followed.

What I get in return for taking it on the chin is unwavering loyalty, an enormous amount of healthy perspective and a recurring sense that I will throw up from laughing too hard. RC is also an important touchstone to how much I've changed in the last year--both in terms of losses (a best friend, two love relationships, 20 pounds) and of gains (climbing legs, confidence, 50 pounds of gear).

So when I bitch about the effects of hanging out with a bunch of assholes, I do so with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. I plant it there carefully, however, lest it bitten off mid-guffaw.

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