Yesterday I attended a motorcycle safety class. The first half of the first day was classroom instruction, followed by a test. I scored a 100. After breaking for lunch, we met on the training course.
The training course was an asphalt parking lot. It was the hottest day in Texas so far this summer – 107°. All students were required to wear long pants, long sleeves, boots (at least over the ankle), full fingered gloves, and DOT approved helmets.
I knew I was in trouble pretty early on. We had to walk our bikes from an upper lot down to the lower lot where the course was set up. I struggled to keep the 300 pound beast upright, but nearly lost it once. The instructor told me to “just drop it – you can’t hurt it” but I was determined not to be the person who dropped their bike before I even got on it. With the instructor’s help, I got the bike back upright and somehow woman-handled it down to the safety course, although I was lagging far behind my five other classmates.
I needed water, but the instructor said we would break soon. My heart was racing and I just didn’t seem to be able to catch my breath. But I couldn’t wimp out! I just couldn’t! AFTER ALL, I’M A VEGAN! I am an ambassador for all vegans and I must make my brothers and sisters proud. As a vegan, I feel I am constantly being judged, and I don’t want to come up short. If I am too much or too little of anything, my veganism will be blamed for it, so I can’t wimp out!
We finally took a quick water break but it was over in two minutes and we were back on the bikes. The asphalt was burning my feet through the soles of my vegan boots. We did some exercises on the motorcycles, practicing using the clutch and brakes and going very slowly.
At some point I began to realize that I did not have all my faculties about me. But my judgment was impaired, and I chose to try and ignore the fact that I was losing it. My shirt was soaked with sweat and I was afraid I was going to lose my pants, because they were so heavy with sweat. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I told the instructor that I needed to put some ice around my neck. He said he could not allow me to do that if I wanted to complete the course. Each and every segment must be completed and it is not fair for the others to wait on me while I cool off. He said we would break in 20 minutes and asked if I could make it. I said “I guess we’ll see.”
The next thing I knew, the instructor was headed for the shade trees where our coolers were. One of the other women in the class had left her bike and stumbled over to the trees, where she fell onto her back in the shade. I was so grateful that we were taking a break and that I wasn’t the one who wimped out first. Plus, she was considerably younger than I am.
While the instructor called 911, one of the other students worked with me to cool our fallen comrade as much as possible. She was obviously scared to death and said that she couldn’t feel her legs. She asked me to phone her husband. The ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital.
Meanwhile, we had wasted precious time and the instructor rushed us back to the course. I knew that the hottest part of the day was still ahead, and I decided that I didn’t want to end up in the hospital, so I told the instructor that I was out. Two hundred dollars down the tube. Cha-ching!
As I made the Walk of Shame back to my car, I realized that both of my arms were numb. I made it to the car, got in, and blasted the air conditioning. I drank a quart of water and sucked on ice cubes. I took the electronic temperature gauge that I keep in my car and pointed it at the ground next to the shade where I was parked. The reading was 131° and I felt sure that it was even hotter down on the course. My head was pounding and I just wanted to get home.
After a couple of extra strength Tylenol, some cold fresh fruit, and a long nap in front of the air conditioner, I felt considerably better. Thinking back over the day’s events I realized that my veganism was part of the reason I insisted on sticking it out as long as possible. I hold myself to a higher standard. And I think others do, as well. If I had been the first to leave, or the only one to leave, I don’t think anyone would have blamed my age or my gender. It would be that “I don’t eat meat and therefore I am deprived of the nutrients my body requires in order to function.” Any time we (vegans) get sick, others suspect that it’s because of the way we eat.
I think there are many times when, because of my veganism, I hold myself to a higher standard. I have just about perfected the vegan cupcake, and I make them for non-vegans every chance I get. I would not offer a non-vegan a vegan cupcake that was only “okay” or just “pretty good.” My cupcakes are awesome and they stand up to any non-vegan cupcake. When I take a dish to a non-vegan potluck, I do my damndest to make sure that mine is the best dish there. When I attend a large event and I am served the only vegan dish in the room, I make sure everyone at my table knows how much better my meal is than whatever slop is on their plates.
My dogs can go for years without so much as a hiccup. But the first time one of them has any type of health issue whatsoever, I am criticized for not giving them meat.
Am I so accustomed to defending my veganism that it has made me defensive when I don’t need to be?
Is this just my own personal neurosis, or do others experience this “higher standard” phenomenon?