Even before participating in our town’s first annual Bare as You Dare naked bike ride through town yesterday I questioned whether to write about it here on my blog. I often ponder what to write about through the week but this was a little bit different. Ultimately it came down to a fear of stigma – fear of what people would think about me knowing I partook in this bike ride, fear of disapproval, fear of misperceptions and judgements – and since that’s not a skillful reason whatsoever to avoid doing something here we go!
The first naked bike ride, I read today in our local news, took place in Spain in 2004. Since then they have spread to cities all over the world. One of the biggest is the World Naked Bike Ride every year in Portland, OR, which drew around 9,000 people this year. Many of them started as a protest to big oil and promote bike riding. And of course different people participate for different reasons. Some people go to support and embrace differing body images, some go as a symbol to vehicular drivers that bike riding makes one vulnerable and to draw attention to sharing the road. Some people go to promote that nude isn’t lewd and some go to be free and exercise their right to free speech. And some, like me, go because it sounds fun!
Contrary to popular belief nudity in public is not illegal, at least not in Missoula, MT (and I’ve also read this about Portland, OR). It’s only illegal if one is exhibiting lewd or inappropriate behavior while naked. The event organizer of our local naked bike ride obtained all the necessary permits, spoke with local officials and the police department, and had the mayor’s rubber stamp of approval, who was quoted in the paper as saying that while he was neither for or against it the bike ride was covered under freedom of speech and was not illegal.
In addition to being motivated to joining the ride because it sounded fun I also went because it was a practice of stretching my comfort zone. And from experience I know that when I practice to extend my comfort zone and step into those feelings of strangeness I always grow a little bit and transform for the better, always. And looking deeper I also joined the ride to help me embrace my body. As I’m getting older and thicker around the hips sometimes it can be difficult to appreciate my body just as it is. At 150 pounds I’m definitely the heaviest I’ve ever been. But yesterday none of that mattered. And the more I can practice to get in touch with the beauty of authentic self the more I can share that with others. Of course I vacillated between moments of discomfort and feelings of awkwardness, as I’m sure many of us participating did, but they were quickly fleeting and replaced by a greater sense of camaraderie, connection, and joyfulness.
Since the first mention of there being a naked bike ride in Missoula there has been a lot of controversy. Along with a city council meeting being packed with outraged citizens commenting on how this event would scar their children for life the event organizer received death threats, was fired from her job, and was vacated from her home. And while there was talk of there being protesters along the route there were none to be seen. Instead the streets were lined with supporters, cheers, folks holding signs of encouragement, shared smiles, horn honking, and friendly waves as we rode by. And I saw video footage of the event organizer after the ride yesterday saying that to see all of the laughter, smiles, and support that is was all totally worth it. The headlines on two local news outlets that I viewed this morning said: “Bare as You Dare nude bike ride goes smoothly; no citations or protests” and “Naked bike ride in Missoula draws crowd, no protesters.”
Our local Missoulian newspaper estimated that 350 people took part in the ride yesterday. And I would say that even more folks lined the streets and bike trail that we rode on to support and cheer us on. It was simply a great community event that was full of joy, celebration, good energy, light heartedness, and togetherness. There were people of all ages participating and cheering and I heard one older man say with a smile as we rode by, “Hey, we used to do that when we were your age too!”
Many people in the ride were at least partially covered. And while I’m sure there were some folks who hadn’t heard of the ride who happened to be in the downtown area during the short time frame our naked community was strolling by and were offended or otherwise dismayed at such a sight it certainly wasn’t the intention to visually accost anyone. What life comes down to in many or most, if not all, situations is a matter of intention. Our intention and motivation are what largely dictates how what we do is received and what energy is exchanged. Of course this isn’t the case 100% of the time or with 100% of the people but it does make a huge difference for ourselves at the very least. From my perspective the intention of the ride yesterday was about community and celebration and that alone made it a worth while experience and a radiant success!