Many an ardent cyclist will be struck with Tour de France fever this month, but it is the middle-aged man who is at the most serious risk. Here, in another Sneak Peek, this time from chapter 6 of my forthcoming Cycling Widows sequel (launching Saturday, 1 August) we delve into the all-consuming malady that is THE CURSE OF THE MAMIL…
Males in their forties and fifties are also likely to be overcome with OCD, and I believe this affliction has become even more endemic in Britain since the 2012 Olympics, Bradley Wiggins being knighted, setting a few records and such. For this reason, I shall focus on this demographic for the rest of the chapter.
So, let’s look at our middle-aged male…
One could probably say he’s successful – after all, he has all the trappings… the wife, the car, the mortgage, the 2.4 kids. But then he hits mid-life. Suddenly he’s looking back over the years and wondering What’s it all about? Sensing that life has passed him by in a flash, he begins to grasp about for things to fill a kind of void he feels. And, unsurprising, he picks cycling to plug the gap. After all, it’ll get him out of the house on the weekend and, having packed on the flab over the years, cycling holds out the tantalising promise that he will attain a kind of physical prowess.
If your husband was into cycling from the day you met him, then OCD is something you learn to accept and get to grips with at an early stage. But a wife whose forty-something husband previously showed no real interest in cycling might be forgiven for her alarm at seeing her spouse suddenly get out on the bike, togged up in figure-hugging Lycra.
Unfortunately, if this is the kind of behaviour being exhibited in your household, then know that your husband has joined a breed of cyclist known as the MAMIL – or the Middle-Aged Man in Lycra. In an online article, self-confessed MAMIL Andy Bissell describes a peloton of fellow sad-sacks as “a sight to behold. It’s a blur of clashing colour schemes, wobbling flesh and receding hairlines, the sound of whirring cranks punctuated with wicked banter, expletives and the last croaks of those suffering severe oxygen deficiency”.
The natural habitat of the MAMIL fraternity is on a Sunday club ride or a summer week off spent in Mallorca, working the roads like a Scalextric track, getting in some ‘serious training’ (To what end, exactly? one might ask.)
It has to be said, despite the initial shock a new Cycling Widow is likely to get from seeing her fully-grown husband packed in a slick kit of Lycra, there are two pretty good reasons for wearing the stuff: firstly, it doesn’t require ironing, and secondly, it masks a history of physical neglect (although, as we shall see, this does have its downside).
Whatever you think about Lycra, know that it needs to be treated with respect because, in a sense, it is akin to nuclear energy. It has great power and can be used for good (for example, it brings electricity to our homes). But in the wrong hands, it can do only harm. I’ll illustrate this with a typical scene in a cycle shop changing room. Here, the newly-fledged MAMIL has dragged his spouse out with a view to purchasing a new skinsuit. As he turns this way and that, looking at his own reflection in the mirror, what he should be asking his wife is: “Does my gut/backside look big in this?” But instead, he turns to her with a self-satisfied smile and asks her what she thinks. “You lika da Lycra?” he says in a naff Italian accent. His question, of course, is completely rhetorical. I look like flippin’ Bradley Wiggins in this get-up, he thinks, smoothing his hands down the side of his skinsuit and admiring his physique, confident his wife sees the same, sleek and sexy pedalling machine that he does.
It’s clear his wife hasn’t fallen under the Lycra-look spell, and sees him for what he is: a paunchy, aging couch potato body clothed in some kind of close-fitting garment that looks like a dustbin sack with shoulder straps. Let’s face it, with images like this in mind, I’m sure you’ll agree that it should really be outlawed for all but true professionals, like dancers and athletes, to wear such a figure-hugging material – Lycra really ought to remain the preserve of folk whose bodies actually fit comfortably and attractively into the stuff.
Almost oblivious to his wife’s presence, the new MAMIL picks up a pair of ridiculously-expensive cycling shades, pops them on and nods self-assuredly as he stares at his reflection. I’m hot! he thinks. The look is complete. He’s a force to be reckoned with.
Whilst the magical effects of Lycra minimise the visual impact of self-neglect and make unfit folk miraculously look and feel more sporty, they do, unfortunately serve to magnify the self-delusions already running through the mind of the MAMIL (and cyclists in general). And in this example we see another affliction which nearly always accompanies OCD, and that’s Narcissistica Pedallaricus – more commonly known as Cyclist’s Vanity. As with OCD, the rider is usually oblivious to the fact that he has the condition.
The MAMIL’s wife, of course, will roll her eyes at the spectacle before her, wondering how she managed to get dragged along to the bike shop. This Sunday will only be his third weekend cycling with the club, for goodness’ sake! she thinks, certain his new hankering for expensive bikes and cycling garb won’t last long. How wrong could she be?
Hollywood, of course, has its counterpart to the MAMIL. In horror movies, you may see an innocent fellow suddenly turning into a werewolf at the sight of the moon. With the Curse of the MAMIL, as I call it, the sight of a bicycle has the power to turn an otherwise harmless, amiable middle-aged man into a rabid pedaller. Whereas previously he spent most weekends innocuously glued to his favourite armchair watching sport on TV, with his only exercise being to flick the remote control and lift his tins of beer, he is now besotted with the world of cycling. Dressed in his newly-acquired Lycra ‘mankini’, cool shades and aero helmet, he is suddenly demanding peak nutrition in his diet, spending his evenings surfing the net for bike porn, and chomping at the bit to build up a decent weekly mileage. The transformation can be terrifying for all who know him.
Unfortunately, unlike the werewolf scenario in movies, there really is no magic silver bullet that will put an end to this alarming situation (although possibly a real bullet from a real gun might do the trick – but don’t blame me for the consequences if you decide to try this at home)…
No, desperate as things are, please don’t go using weapons on your beloved MAMIL – he needs help and understanding, not punishment. I’m sure a few of you out there will know someone who has dipped their toe into the MAMIL pool, but with pro cycling hitting our screens this month, the threat of them breaking out with full-blown Tour de France fever and joining the MAMIL ranks for good will be at DEFCON 1. So please pass on this blog link to those who are living with someone who might be at risk.
As you might have guessed, there’ll be more to come on the Sneak Peek front, and here are a few other goodies you can pick up this month, too:
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