If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my forties, it’s that life is too short for boring bike shorts.
Later this month, I’ll turn 49. I feel like it’s going to be kind of a big year. I don’t necessarily have anything planned, it’s just that next year’s birthday is a big milestone, and I want the last year of my forties to be better than the first.
Forty was a rough year for me. I started out with hernia surgery. Then I slipped on some ice and bruised my ribs. Later that winter, we said goodbye to a dog who had been with us for 15 years. Capping the year was some turmoil at the organization where I worked at the time. It wasn’t fun.
I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot over the past nine years, especially about myself. I changed jobs. I’ve tried some new things. I’ve found some different ways to get involved in the community. My wife and I sent our two kids off to college (and they’re both still there!). I even cleaned out my garage.
There have been some changes, too. Most notably, when I turned 40, I had recently gotten back into shape after a few too many years of sitting at a desk, not exercising, and eating too many bacon-double-cheeseburgers.
These days, I still spend more time than I’d like sitting at a desk, and I exercise fairly regularly. But my metabolism seems to have slowed down, and if I even dream about a bacon-double-cheeseburger, I wake up 2 pounds heavier.
There have been some other changes, too. My hair is grayer. My doctor (who is way younger than me) took a look at the varicose veins in my leg and suggested compression socks. My workouts these days are more about maintaining what strength and flexibility I still have and preventing injury, rather than getting stronger. I need a brighter light to read the small print.
But the biggest thing I’ve learned is to worry a little less about what other people might think of me. And so, last winter, I went ahead and ordered myself a pair of floral print bike shorts.
In most of my other endeavors, my attire is fairly standard. For my job, I’ve the official uniform of the middle-aged office worker: “business casual” plaid button down shirt with khakis. For weekend chores, well-worn Carhartts and an equally well-worn hoodie. Sweatpants and a slightly less worn hoodie for watching football on Sundays.
For me, the whole point of getting out on a bike ride is to get away from the everyday routine. If I’m going to have fun on my ride, I might as well have some fun with my riding clothes, too. I’ll save boring for the office.
I’ve had both compliments and teasing from my riding friends, and even a stare when I had to stop and get some gas on the way to an indoor bike class.
Nine years ago, that might’ve bothered me. Now? Not so much. There’s enough other stuff in the world to worry about without wondering if someone likes my bike shorts or not. And I think it’s fair to say that floral print bike shorts are a metaphor for a whole lot of other things.
So, bring on 49. I plan on enjoying the ride.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.