Thursday, 8 August 2013

Proud to be a MAMIL. Part 1

Edit: Having written a large amount here without coming to a natural conclusion, I am making this into a series. You can't just write about MAMIL's without veering off in other directions to help fully justify or or further illustrate the concept.

I wrote some time back about what is a MAMIL (HERE). It was a tongue in cheek look as to what a MAMIL is and what makes him what he is. It blurred the boundaries as to what MAMIL’s are with those of cyclists in general. In all honesty, after reading it back, I feel I have not been fair to MAMIL’s (myself included) and in general it was a wide ranging moan at how cyclists are perceived by non-cyclists (insert your own derogative term here).

This is not fair to MAMIL’s we are a breed apart from other “sub cultures” within cycling. So I intend take a little to time to look at this topic a little more seriously (though tongue in cheek will never be too far from the surface – it’s a drug and I can’t stop myself).

To kick off let’s have a serious think about sub-cultures, I myself have been guilty of the crime of using sub-cultures in terms of cycling, it is very convenient when trying to get a message over in a blog. Truth be told there are no sub-cultures, other than those we have decided upon ourselves. Do we differentiate between different car drivers? In general terms we don’t – they are people (myself and most cyclists included) who drive cars, but somewhere cyclists started being called cyclists and not bike riders, the difference is subtle but important. Instead of focusing on the mode of transport we focus on the people that use that mode of transport – focusing on the individuals inevitably means that the focus will then drill down further into segregating the individual cyclists into groups, the human mind works in this way, it is the basic concept of project management to divide a large and relatively unknown thing into smaller and more manageable sub-sets that our brains can cope with, and in the case of cyclists a lot of people need help in understanding this other worldly group. 

This division ends up with us having hipsters, commuters, racers, tree huggers, MAMIL’s etc. All said and done though it would not be very useful for this post if I was to ignore this grouping and it would make my further following pronouncements and insights irrelevant – so for convenience sake I will just happily agree with the division of cyclists into groups rather than render the rest of this post irrelevant! 

EDIT: I still think Hipsters are a breed apart not only from cyclists but human life forms in general – so they shall always be a sub-culture, I guess they wouldn’t want it any other way anyway. 

Having totally distanced myself from sub-cultures (hipsters excluded) I shall now happily type away detailing the MAMIL sub-culture of cycling, I am too old to care if I am two faced (we shall return to this theme forthwith). Whilst being middle aged does not make you part of a sub-culture, how you choose to express yourself at a given age point does, and how MAMIL's act and behave (and spend) does define them from many other cyclists.

MAMIL’s are an elite (in my opinion at least) group of people, we have seen far too much in life, we have lived through the Chairman slapping us and our peers down, frightened of our youth at the time, and our new fangled ways of integrating the computer into the company (yes even in our day business was aggressive, many a time I have stabbed a work colleague with my quill pen) and we have had to deal with the young upstart in later years, who mostly come up with banal ways of integrating a Twitter and Facebook campaign into the workplace – so revolutionary I know. We have tried to explain to said young up-start about the constraints of using a 3rd party applications to drive business forward but also forget the fact that the young upstart doesn’t even know HTML beyond the ability to use bold and insert a picture into his post on some message board. We have even learned the art of being forgiving of their blinkered ways and instead bemoan the poor educational system and their reliance on being fed ways of being online by all seeing companies that make a fortune from the ignorance of these young’uns (whilst silently cursing for not having thought of it ourselves).

Lycra and fancy dress all in one piece of clothing
MAMIL’s aren't just sad Lycra clad weekend warriors with waist bands that are sometimes stretching the technical capabilities of the aforementioned Lycra. Yes some of us do look bad in Lycra or any tight fitting garment for that matter – but do you know what, we are just too old to care. Let me give you an example to better explain my point. A teenager (and I do know of them as a couple are residing, all be it grudgingly, under my roof as I type this) will move heaven and earth not to embarrass themselves. A MAMIL has embarrassed himself so many times that to be honest one more thing won’t even register on any scale. A teenager will spend hours in front of the mirror trying out the latest dance moves to appear “cool” (OK not a term used any more but I still use it) on the dance floor – a MAMIL will do the opposite – we will practice dancing in the most “un-cool” way possible, in the hope of having the chance to humiliate our teenage child at the most public of public events possible, yes we will look stupid but it is worth it just to see the mortified look on our kids face. You may say this is cruel? I would argue that a) we are supposedly suffering humiliation at the same time and b) it is a life lesson and part of our parental duties to teach our beloved offspring humility. These are my excuses and I am sticking with them. As a note here to fellow MAMIL's reading this - if your teenager is giving excessive amounts of grief, I find shouting out the car window as I drop them off for a rugby match something along the lines of "Bye bye mummies little solider, don't let the big boys hurt you" often let's them learn who the true power lies with. I have even heard of parents who pick up their children from the school gates in fancy dress but I believe this is something that should be held back as the "Atomic" threat.

So where is the above taking us? Well firstly you need to understand that you cannot mock a MAMIL in the hope of shaming them into submission – we shall not be turned! We discovered in middle-age, the elixir of life. This elixir is not some potion – we have read Harry Potter to our kids (but often skipped ahead because they fell asleep far too early in the story) we know that those magical potions don’t really exist. We maintain the use of common sense as to what will work, unless of course we read about some new all-powerful "go-go berry juice" that will make us pedal faster and longer, then we will ignore common sense and pay exorbitant amounts of cash in our endless search for higher average speeds. The spam e-mailers have never really latched on to this, don't they realise that adding the word "Viagra" into our spam email filters is easy, if only they understood what really piques our interest their emails would soon be marked for "follow-up" in many a MAMIL's in-box. 

We have discovered the freedom and quiet that can be achieved on the open road, on-top of a self-powered pedal bike. It is funny that something we turned our back on in our late teens when we got our first car (in those days insurance was still reasonable and you could actually drive a car after you had past your test) is in fact the thing that saved our ever vanishing sanity in our wiser years. 

After a few seasons back on the bike, I look at forums and see the posts of fellow MAMIL’s about their joy in discovering the bike again – we all admit failure in our descriptive abilities but in our hearts we hope that fellow MAMIL’s will telepathically understand the sensations we are trying to convey. The discovery of re-found and hard won freedoms, athletic exertions however limited, the freedom of not having bickering kids further deadening our already failing hearing in the back seat of the car, the joy of fresh air and newly found objectives, goals and achievements. MAMIL is not a tag we are embarrassed by (though as previously mentioned being embarrassed is a long lost feeling anyway) but an acronym we revel in, yes it is misunderstood by many people as to what it truly is and means, this is the point of this and upcoming posts - I will try and explain the mindset of our group, what motivates us and why.  

Is that a nappy? Or are you just pleased to see me?
From birth our goals grow quickly, from being able to make it through the night without a nappy or accidents, to dreams in our 20's of conquering the corporate world and having the latest top model as our partner. By middle age you either have achieved these aims and realised they weren't all they were cracked up to be, or you have given up trying realising they are outside your abilities. When you get back on the bike, you have a whole new tranche of goals that God willing, are still achievable and to be honest a whole lot more rewarding. Maybe it is doing 100 mile in a week or doing a 100 mile sportive, maybe your time and finances are more adaptable and your goal is to do the LEJOG which gets further refined into doing it within a given time-frame. Mind you, in a perfect circle of life way, we find ourselves going backwards into clothing that in some ways resembles nappies again.

Either way, buying a bike gives you a whole new set of goals that you can try to achieve and you are the one that sets them and achieves them – not some mealy mouthed ass kisser who wants you to generate a report that finds some uncorrelated link between how the companies’ profits have increased since the point in time the aforementioned mealy mouthed weasel joined the company. The chairman will totally ignore this as he is probably a fellow MAMIL and he realises that however hard you search it will always be an uncorrelated link and he has his mind on breaking 25 minutes in this weekend’s 10 mile TT anyway.

Being a MAMIL is more than just riding a bike, though this is the sub text for all other things, it is about a view on life, either found or extrapolated through riding a bike, phrases such as “I do as I please”, “if only they knew” and “screw it, just do it” are the underlying currents of future thoughts and actions.

So that’s the tone set for the upcoming “MAMIL the series”, it is far too much for one post, for that read “I need to think this through more” – keep an eye out for the next instalment – same MAMIL channel same MAMIL time.

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