Wendy Hargreaves, an Australian columnist, made fun of middle-aged men who wear skin-tight lycra. Then many people wrote to her insulting her viciously. She defended herself in a retort column by saying that her mockery of a certain group of people "was a light-hearted jab".
Well, there's nothing wrong with that, is there? Light-hearted is always nice, and we really shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. It's bad for one's heart.
However, the number of words one can write in the style of a "light-hearted jab" at lycra-garbed cyclists is limited to pretty much "They look awfully silly." Once one writes more than that, one has taken unfortunate leave of light-hearted country.
And that's exactly what Hargreaves did. Her "light-hearted jab" included mocking "blokes spending big bucks on garish Italian cycling kits to solve their mid-life crises" and "griping" about "the out-of-shape show-offs who think they look like Lance Armstrong with sponsorship artwork all over their copious bods."
That just doesn't seem light-hearted. Really, she was trying to be jocular and show camaraderie when she called these people "out-of-shape"? I doubt it. And I'm curious about what specific behaviour she thought constituted "showing off". Do these cyclists perform stunts? Cycle dangerously? It's actually pretty hard to show off on a bike, especially when you're going fast on a road that you share with cars. In such a situation, a cyclist pretty much has to focus on staying upright, on course, and out of harm's way. So, seriously, were these cyclists really showing off? Or is that just Hargreaves' interpretation of wearing bright clothes and riding nice bikes? I guess one might interpret those two acts as inherently showing off. But then one must conversely state that people who wear muted colours or ride cheap bikes are so shy and self-effacing as to be socially crippled.
Also, people who aren't passionate about cycling often say that anyone who wears cycling gear and who rides a nice bike thinks that he or she is Lance Armstrong. But seriously, that's just exposing your own ignorance about cycling. Cycling is more than one celebrity athlete. So I suppose anyone who wears a soccer jersey and buys a nice soccer ball thinks he or she is Beckham? Anyone who wears a hockey jersey and buys nice skates thinks he or she is Gretzky? No, of course not. That was just cheap and easy rhetoric on Hargreaves' part. Nothing to be terribly proud of having written, that's for sure.
Hargreaves says that people buy Italian cyclist kits "to solve their mid-life crises". That's just mean. Not light-hearted. And, naturally, it's a gross assumption. Can someone not want to get into shape by using the world's most efficient (and arguably most pleasant) form of transport? If one has the money, why not buy a nicer bike? It's pleasant to ride nice bikes. As for the garish clothing, well, plenty of people have taste in clothing that mystifies me. I don't accuse them of having a mid-life crisis. If someone is playing very loud music in their car, maybe they're insecure or obnoxious. Or maybe they just really, really, really like the muisc they're playing and like it loud. I just don't see it as light-hearted to start branding people with derisive assumptions.
I don't care how expensive one's bike is. I don't buy nice bikes because I can't afford them, because I have other priorities, and because I find them inconvenient (one can't safely lock and leave an expensive bike in public for more than a minute or so). But I'm not clear about why riding an expensive bike deserves a "jab", light-hearted or Hargreavesian. I agree that garishly coloured clothing is hard on the eyes, but hey, if people will give someone free functional clothing that has corporate logos on it, why should that someone not wear it? I don't presume to know what someone thinks and feels and desires just because I see what they wear and ride.
Light-hearted jabs are great. But Hargreaves misrepresents herself when she calls her article "light-hearted".
Not really a lot of laughs there, Wendy.