April 23rd, 2012

The Big Mis

As in "The Big Misunderstanding". It's a plot device in romance novels (not all, but enough) that irritates readers. Here is an extensive description of who does it, why they do it and how readers feel and think about it.

http://www.likesbooks.com/99.html

I bring this up partly because it's always worth it to take a swing at the Big Mis as a plot device: they are annoying. I also bring it up to make a couple points about what a Big Mis can look like in a Real Life Romance.

I love bicycles (this is not the romantic relationship of which I speak). Every spring, I start thinking about bicycling again, usually because T. has been asking me to ride around the "block" with him. Every spring, I buy some sort of two wheeled toy: for myself, for my kids, or all of the above. This year's excuse was that R. broke his arm on the Razr so I bought a Go-Ped (the brakes on it don't work as well wet as dry, but they still work) to be the second adult scooter in the house. I also bought both kids better bicycles-with-pedals-and-training-wheels. We'd previously been buying Target crap on impulse and they tend to be steel and ridiculously heavy.

Anyway. We're at REI picking them up on Sunday and I'm getting the guy to adjust the seat heights. R. won't let the guy lower the seat height on A.'s as far as I think it should go and I don't really care, but I really insist on T.'s going way low because I want him to start using the bike-with-pedals instead of the balance bike and he won't do that if he's perched on top of something. I explain the rationale to R., but mostly, I just overrode his preference. I figured I'd lower the seat on A.'s later; R. had it at the point where she could read the pedals with the ball of her foot whereas I know you need to have the heel hit the pedal comfortably or a kid won't actually learn to pedal because the pedal will keep slipping away from them.

Rewind. I have an Electra Townie with "Flat Foot Technology", almost a crank forward design. It has weird handlebars that are super adjustable and R. persisted in keeping them too far forward so it was always a stretch for me to reach them. Also, he insisted on having the seat too high for me to sit on the comfy part of the seat (the seat that he hated and we temporarily replaced with a Brooks saddle, and then went back to), but instead I had to perch on the forward part and lean the bike to get a single foot flat.

Forward again. I see a woman riding a mixte frame -- a mountain bike -- but with modified, well, lots of things. Totally upright riding position, handle bars nice and close in. And I suddenly realize why my Townie is frustrating me.

Forward to today. I'm out with T. on the bike, and I realize how much of the time we are out I spend standing and waiting for T. We might take 30 minutes to go a mile -- half that time, if not more, is me stopped and often T. stopped, but sometimes I'm hanging out at the top of a cul de sac and he's riding around at the bottom of it. When it's dry, I get off the bike and sit on the ground. But today, it was wet so I had to stand. I had to stand, even tho I was on my Townie, which I bought to be an easy chair on wheels. Only I can't sit on it, because I have to lean over and perch. Which is Not Comfy.

So I go home, and I scream at R. Which is not good, but R. is a patient, gentle and kind man, long-suffering, etc. He tells me which allen wrench I need to adjust the handle bars. I fix the handle bars. Then I go after the seat, but the Bobike Maxi is blocking access to the quick release, so I can't. R. takes the Maxi off, adjusts the seat to where I want it -- well, still a little high, but better by an inch and I'll make him fix it again if I have to. And I keep trying to explain to him, in a lower volume and more civil tone what I want and why I want it. I go over everything in this post a couple of different ways. I say, I understand what you want to do with a bike (make it powerful and efficient so you can go fast) and I support that for you. I spent a large amount of money buying a Really Amazing bike so he could do what he wants. It is not that much to ask to have my bike adjusted the way I want it. I think he should be able to understand what I want from a bicycle.

Then I learn that whenever I say that riding my bike with T. makes me tired, he tries to readjust my Townie to be more "efficient". And then _I_ realize that he has no mortal clue what it is like for T. and I to "go around the block" because the way T. and R. do things does not involving stopping and hanging out. At all. Much less for long enough to read a full chapter of Aldo Leopold's _Sand County Almanac_ or buy a replacement pair of Ecco Snowboarder boots, or catch up on email and browse Gawker and Jezebel (or, sometimes, all of the above).

I get tired because the small stabilizer muscles in my lower leg, ankle and foot get tired and my butt gets sore, perching and leaning. I don't get tired because I'm riding the bicycle in the way that one generally thinks of riding a bicycle. And I have explained this to him before, but apparently not in a way that he could understand.

He _still_ does not understand this. The activity does not make sense to him (inactivity?). I compared it to my last goal before I gave up hiking in favor of reproduction, which was to find a way to laze around outside. I could climb a hill, swim in a lake, eat lunch and go back down the hill, but I sucked at just hanging out in the wilderness and that was a problem if I wanted to be out in the wilderness for days on end -- you need to rest sometimes, and you can go further if you pace yourself. I never got good at hanging out outdoors (possibly because I'm allergic to mosquitos and direct sunshine, thus leaving me little space between the two to find favorable conditions, winter hiking being sort of advanced in terms of "hanging out").

But while he could intellectually understand that I had a different goal, it was so alien to his associations with bicycles, that he just couldn't feel a real connection to it.

And that, I think, is what a Big Mis looks like in a real romance.