My Least Favorite Question

It happens like this:

I’m seated around a table with a lovely couple from Oroua Downs––though we could be anywhere––surrounded by a breakfast of eggs on toast with fried tomatoes. The flavor seeps through the bread, salt and pepper. Alive.

Last night I camped (with permission) on the couple’s lawn. In the morning I will cycle the remaining 70km to Whanganui.

They ask the familiar cast of questions:

Who are you?

Where are you from?

What does your family think?

Are your parents alive?

How far have you cycled?

And then it tumbles out. My least favorite question.

It’s more of a statement really,

& it makes me want to gag on my toast.


“Cycling all this way, you must have lost so much weight?!”

Really? I smile and laugh it off,

not wanting to be confrontational.

I wish they would say:

            “You must have such a big heart.”

or

            “You must be so strong.”

Here’s the thing.

I have no desire to become so small that I disappear.

I am here, I am queer, I am visible.

hey!

I am a speck of hi-vis neon cycling through the landscapes, over the mountains and rivers / announcing my place in the family of things.

poet_lindispass

POET / writer / story collector / touring cyclist / etc.

(Can you tell I’m trying to memorize Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” this week?)

I honestly couldn’t give a flying fuck about how much I weigh, or how much anyone around me weighs, for that matter.

Am I able to do the things I want to do,

to cycle across a country whole,

to dance through many continents? Perfect.

That’s all that matters.

body2

an actual place I camped, just on the eastern side of Arthur’s Pass, NZ.

But some days I have to be my own strength––

& shut out the body-shaming culture that permeates the everyday things. The eggs and the toast.

Go home, body negativity. Go home.

body5

wide open roads are my happy place

Here’s my challenge to you, world:

let’s change the culture.

The next time you see a #solofemaletouringcyclist, or anyone, for that matter, who is doing something awesome in the world––

for goodness sake, don’t ask her about her weight.

Don’t think about her weight.

What does she do?

body10

yours truly, out and about collecting stories

That’s it.

That’s all there ever is.

Doing.

Being.

Breathing.

Cycles of breath.

Not one bit of who I am as a person is captured in a number, in the amount of force exerted on the mass of my body by a gravitational field.

body8

I’m not an object. Stop treating me like one.

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14 thoughts on “My Least Favorite Question

  1. Devi, I got this question all of the time when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Still get it when people ask me about my experience actually. I always get a bit of pleasure out of replying, “Actually, I gained three pounds.”

    • There are so many more wonderful / useful / stimulating things to bring up in a conversation than weight… it drives me bananas. But anyway — yes! Social norms on this topic are messed up. Let’s change the culture 🙂

  2. Pingback: wild geese, mary oliver | metaphlame

  3. I loved how strong and confident I felt during and after my bike across the country. I think that kind of question is saying a lot more about what other people think about when they think about these amazing physical feats than it actually says about those doing them. Truthfully, I don’t think a lot of people understand how profoundly the kind of challenge you’re taking on could change your life… so they ask seemingly shallow questions.

    Personally, I didn’t hear a lot of questions about weight… what I did hear a lot of was “I could never do that”. It was my favorite thing to try to boost people into believing that they could do it and that there is a beautiful simplicity to it once you’ve begun. Some people in my group did it very specifically to lose weight, and that was their prerogative. It is unsurprising, giving the persistent conversation that that is so inescapable around here. What I found was that everyone I know who’s done something like that chooses their own way to measure their accomplishment… vertical feet climbed, miles passed, communities stayed in, milkshakes consumed, Culver’s visited, learning to ride no hands, bikey tan lines, the fit of their clothes, flat tires changed, friendships forged, meltdowns experienced. Still, I can understand how those questions can make a person feel during and after such a deep experience.

    Way to go on your adventure! enjoyed your post. 🙂

  4. I love you Devi Lockwood … You are an inspiration to me personally much more than you will ever know … & you make me laugh out loud as I just did after reading this!
    I wasn’t laughing ‘at’ you in the very least … Of course not! I was feeling a heart bursting with warmth & also total joy that you came into my life! You are so refreshingly genuine ‘without’ ego & ‘with’ empathy …. I ‘get’ what you’re saying in my spirit & my soul & I love the way you say it! Stay in my life forever ‘beautiful being’ ……. C U Soon….. X Diana 🌈🌈🌈

  5. Hey Devi- I read your blog a bunch and if I might offer another perspective…. Our bodies are amazing things. (I know you will agree because you write about this topic often!) I’m definitely not a weight obsessed person- if I feel happy and healthy that’s more than enough for me. However, I do think that one of the most fascinating aspects of taking on a physical challenge is to watch how my body responds and adapts to different situations. The weight I gained while lifting for crew, the weight I lost when I stopped, how my legs got bigger and my arms got smaller during my long distance hike- all these things are so interesting, and very often I want to talk about them! What frustrates me is when I feel I can’t talk about my body because it is such a loaded topic. People assume that if I say I gained weight due to sports, I am disappointed. Or if I lost weight during a hike, or because of an illness, that is a good thing. Such conversations are awkward. At worst, we make judgements. At best, we clam up because we don’t want to say the wrong thing.

    I have no feel for the spirit in which this question was asked and I’m not trying to pass any judgment on your post, but I do feel pretty strongly that, as women, we need to develop ways to more casually talk about our bodies and our weight in order to combat the dominant and repressive assumptions that you clearly perceived in that question. If we can’t talk about ourselves without falling into the same patterns we abhor, we’re not doing anything to change the problem.

  6. Wow. That is the LAST question I would think of when meeting a person who is cycling, or hiking across the country! “…you must have lost so much weight” ?!?!?!
    That is so pathetic.

  7. And then….. the world is a wierd place. In Senegal it is a very positive thing to be fat, and many women want to become fatter. When a person becomes thinner, people ask if something is wrong with you or if you are sick. It is difficult to explain in senegal if you don’t want to gain weight 😉 But yes I definitely agree that people should care less about all these things and rather be in a body in which they feel comfortable and confident. 😉

  8. Kind of weird people would focus on weight for a cycling journey. The comments that I have received are related to iron lungs (not right now), strong legs.

    I wish you strength and learning in your journey.

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