Like Riding a Bicyle

It's a little known fact that I work a part-time job as a waitress at a local Irish Pub near where I live.

The first year after I separated from my husband, I went through what can only be described as a rather carefree "phase" of my life. After years of taking care of someone else, I didn't know how to spend all the time that I suddenly had. And since I'll plan every minute of my free time rather than have quiet time to actually think about my problems, I packed every minute of spare time with worthy activities such as shopping, eating out with friends, and traveling.

In the short term my "phase" proved to be great fun. I have the best wardrobe of my life and lots of fabulous photographs and memories from all the places I've visited. But, the carefree and easy life also has its drawback. It is bad for the waste line and even worse for the budget.

My New Year's resolution for 2005 was to make better use of my free time and try to be more fiscally responsible. Like every proper Greek girl, I had spent my formative years working in my dad's restaurant. I liked the business, the physicality of the work, the social aspects, and the fast cash a decent Friday night might bring. It has also been my secret desire to operate a little cafe of my own someday. For these reasons, waitressing seemed like a logical way to spend my free time. It had been almost 20 years since I worked in the business. But serving food in restaurants is sort of like riding a bicycle. You don't really forget how to do it.

Some weeks I work very hard and more hours than my friends think is reasonable. But I have immensely enjoyed my evenings at the pub.

Friday night I left my day job in corporate America and headed to my night job. I was scheduled to work the 6p - 2a shift because there was an outdoor concert scheduled to take place right off the terrace of the pub.

Shortly after I arrived, a group of women sat in my section. They were my first table of the evening and would be among my last of the night. After a few rounds of drinks, I learned that this group of women wasn't there for the concert. They chose my pub to celebrate a very special occasion.

"This is my divorce party," explained a woman who looked to be about my age and sported a fashionably short haircut.

"Oh, congratulations!" I said sincerely. "I had my own divorce party back on April Fool's Day of this year. I thought April 1st was an appropriate day to mark the event."

The woman laughed. "Well, this is my second divorce," she admitted.

"Mine, too!" I replied. I felt a bond with this woman. I understood exactly where she was in her life on this day. I didn't have to know the details of what went wrong and why. After divorce number 2, the whys don't really matter anyway. This day was about looking forward.

The women celebrating this momentous occasion took breaks from drinking and eating to draw "surprise affirmations" - sometimes funny, but always reaffirming little sayings from a plastic bag. I even got to pull one of the affirmations for the guest of honor.

Among my favorite was a quote by Gloria Steinem.

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

I laughed at the quotation itself and understood the sentiment behind it. After the end of my second marriage and after a series of dating disasters, I would have wholeheartedly agreed the Steinem's analogy. But these days, maybe in part because of the new man, I take slight exception to the quote.

After two desperately unhappy marriages, I've become a woman who firmly believes that a person doesn't have to be coupled to be happy. I pride myself on independence and value my freedom as a single woman. It would take years and a lot of convincing to get me to trade my single status for a married one.

But this being said, Steinem's quote is flawed because a fish NEVER finds a bicycle useful or pleasurable or valuable (correct me if I am wrong, Utenzi, because my knowledge of marine biology is lacking). In contrast, a woman can, on occasion, find a man to be all of those things (or at least as fun as riding a bicycle). ;-)

The quote was still funny just the same and most appropriate for the celebration. The women finished their evening at the Irish pub. The guest of honor left. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. So instead, I say goodbye to her here.

Man or no man, Sister, I wish you all the best in your new life! Have fun. Do as you please. Don't look back at the past because there is enough in your present and future to keep you happy and occupied.

But, if the right person and circumstance present themselves someday, don't be a fish and take a chance on a man. You may have taken some nasty crashes in your past. But relationships are like riding a bike, you just have to get up there and try again.


Laura said...

Very true Diane, very true.

Xavierism said...

I didn't know you were Greek! I'm Greek Othrodox by denomination. Our Greek Festival is in October...


I love dancing to Greek music...and eating the fabulous goodies!

Have a great week!


aka senior advisor said...

I hope to be having my own divorce celebration, no later than August 15, 2007. Why the delay, don't ask! I expect you to be right there with me Diane.

And given the delay, I think a separation party may be needed as well!

Congrats to all of you who have successfully taken the plunge into unwedded bliss. I'll be joining you as soon as I can!

David said...

I didn't get the whole bike thing except for the part that you like to ride it.

utenzi said...

Since Ms Steinem is now married, something she previously had vowed never to do, some of the pithy things she said in the past might be just that. In the past. Not that she didn't have some validity--but it was a little one sided.