Photo by Katie Reams
Five years ago, I was fired from the USPS for an unsanctioned interview with this very paper in which I opined—perhaps unfavorably—about the working conditions for transitional letter carriers. I'm over it, I swear. My life is unequivocally better: no more abusive supervisors, no more six-day work weeks, no more back-breaking labor, no more vicious dogs.
I do, however, miss the body that resulted from all that hard work. I was down to the same weight as when I was a freshman in high school and I'm not gonna lie: It felt good to get compliments. The validation we desire from others is real. During those skinny days, I can't name a friend who, after drinking a couple beers, wouldn't ask what my secret was. Then, we'd switch to hard liquor. You know, fewer calories.
It's stupid that I have that fondness for a body that could only occur by walking 12-15 miles a day, hauling 30-plus pounds of mail up and down the steep hills of Point Loma, yet here we are.
Bodies, man. We're never satisfied with the one we have, yearning for the one we want, and nostalgic for the one we had.
I will say, however, that since turning 30 the anxiety has diminished significantly; increasing comfort in my own body is a great part of aging and almost enough to counteract the nostalgia I feel for my letter-carrier days. I will keep getting uglier, more overweight and haggard, but my level of giving-a-shit drops at a proportionate rate. I'm hoping that within the next few years, I'll achieve "reading email on the phone while naked in the men's locker room"-stage comfortable.
So, I don't have as much trepidation when I see the event listing for the self-explanatory Undie Bike Ride: Full Moon Edition as I would if I saw it 10 years ago. But there is a little.
The event is a charity ride put on by SoCal Sessions, an advocacy group for "beards, badassery and bikes." I'm into at least two of those things , I think (whether I'm qualified to appreciate badassery is a up for debate [see: last month's Pokemon column]).
According to the description, Undie Bike Ride promotes a stronger bike community and positive self-body image, but scrolling through the pics of past rides, it looks like the only people who attend are hard-bodied people who don't have the same vampiric aversion to walking outside shirtless as I do. No one else has an embarrassing tribal tattoo, either. Basically, all I see are male Adonises (Adoni?).
But fuck it. I haven't ridden my bike all summer, and the prospect of riding in my skivvies is too good to pass up.
To play it safe, I double down on underwear. I wear briefs underneath novelty Halloween Jack-O-Lantern boxers (they're still considered novelty if I wear them year-round, right?). The boxers are loose enough that, by themselves, they would put me at risk for a flapping wang ticket. Pretty sure that's the official charge. I also wear a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt, just in case this is some elaborate prank to get me to face the Ghost of Body-Shame Past.
I arrive at Iron Pig Alehouse in Pacific Beach. A group of bikers has already congregated in front of the building. My friend Katie rolls up, and I'm thankful to have a buddy so I don't come off as a lone creeper. She introduces me to Ryan Allan, the founder of SoCal Sessions. There are at least four Ryans here tonight—it's not the first time I've been in that situation, but it is the first time that I'll use the color of their underwear instead of last names in order to discern them. Tonight, Ryan Allan will be Black Boxer Brief Ryan.
The sun dips lower. BBB Ryan stands on a stool in the middle of the sidewalk, gives the cue and riders of all ages and sizes strip down. Honestly, it's a little anticlimactic. All that low-level dread is for naught. Part of it could be the fact that we're in PB, where clothing is never very popular, but mostly we're all just excited to ride our bikes, excited to be bodies hurtling through space, excited to be bodies.
Fifty-ish underwear-clad bikers take over Garnet; Pacific Beach is ours. The night is surprisingly chilly and, without sounding too soft-core erotic—the cool breeze on my nips is quite pleasant. Liberating.
We take a left at the boardwalk and weave through groups lined up to watch the sunset.
I ride next to Katie. We talk about cats, the other bike groups she rides with, body image. She asks what the angle of the article's going to be.
"I don't know. Maybe body-image stuff," I say. She rolls her eyes. "I just haven't really been in my underwear in public." I continue. "This is a new experience for me."
"Oh, I'm in my underwear all the time," she says.
Some woman rides up behind us and calls out to Katie: "You in the purple. I think you're the sexiest person here tonight."
"I didn't know it was a competition," Katie says. "I didn't sign up for one."
"Well—" the other biker begins.
"I'm opting out." The other biker, embarrassed, falls behind. "See, Ryan. Even the women," she whispers, implying that body objectification comes from all sexes.
We turn and hit the end of the boardwalk and take in the sight of the super-blood-mega-moon, or whatever the phase is called. Some people howl like wolves. We get off our bikes to take a group picture. It's a reminder of how we all looked great that night.