I hadn’t heard of social suicide until the same child who invented pussy up, told me she could not ride the bike she’d saved for, because her helmet didn’t “go” with the bike. The long coveted bike was a powder blue cruiser; a-girl-on-the-way-home -from-the-beach, hair loose, a sandy-bare feet-riding-bike. The handle bars begged for a basket. A helmet did not go with the bike. She was right. At first I denied her observation.
“That ridiculous, how can a helmet not go with a bike?” Then I looked outside at her bike, propped against the fence and knew she was on to something.
“Mom, it looks awful, I look awful with a helmet riding that bike. It’s not a helmet kind of bike.” She stood with her hands out to either side, head forward, frustrated with my inability to see her point. I saw her point, I just didn’t want to.
“Maybe they make helmets with big straw hats over the helmet part?” My hopeful solution.
The bike stayed against the fence. She wanted to ride the bike. She didn’t want to wear the helmet. I insist on helmets because heads are precious and a helmet saved my son’s life. One day last week the temptation grew too big. She hopped on the bike and took off for a bridge to jump into a rush of high tide. All the kids do it. When she got home she said she wasn’t going to lie: she hadn’t worn her helmet.
“How was that? Did the wind feel good?” I asked.
“Yes. And I looked fine on that bike without a helmet.” She sat on the couch in deep thought and I went about my ususal business of not being sure what I’m going about the business of.
In the end, I knew she would make a good decision. I knew she’d seen what a helmet could do, one saved her brother’s life. I also knew I’d never in my life worn a helmet until I had kids and needed to set a good example. Helmets block out half the fun of bike riding. The wind, the speed, the rush; all muted. But that is not the point. They are good. Seat belt good.
Her solution was to return her bike and get a more helmet-compatible bike. She even had to pay a bit more. She does not throw her money around. If I’d doubted how serious she was about her cruiser not going with a helmet, I doubted her no more when I heard the amount of summer sweat shelled out to trade in the cruiser. She went about the deal on her own and came home triumphant. I peeked at the new bike and saw that it was a muddy bike, a rainy bike and the sort that a rider would wear a helmet with. It was not a casual home from the beach with a bouquet of wildflowers in the basket kind of bike.
“Mom, I just couldn’t keep it. Riding that other bike to school with a helmet would have been social suicide.” She stared at the sporty trade-in. She had loved the whimsically powder blue bike. She has loved how she could sit up tall and ride the thing. But the cost of that bike could have been social suicide.
What do I not allow myself for fear of social suicide? I wanted to say there wasn’t a single thing I wouldn’t do– social suicide be dammed. But that just wasn’t true. I’d love eyelash extensions but what would people think? I thought about piercing my nose and I’d love to ride the tandem bike I picked out of the trash without a helmet. But social suicide is always a mere noose away… are you at risk of committing social suicide?