World Naked Bike Ride, Montreal edition, July 5 (daytime) and August 2 (nighttime), 2014.
There’s something cathartic about riding a bike naked on the streets of Montreal. But that is yet to be determined as we enter our sixty-ninth minute of this ride.
The World Naked Bike Ride is an international event across 113 cities worldwide. In Montreal, we’re a little over two hundred bicyclists, unicyclists and a few rollerbladers of all ages, sexual orientations and, to be politically correct, melanin pigment levels. This diversity compliments the variety of body types and sizes. For wandering eyes like mine, this becomes much more apparent in the raw.
From Dorchester Square we roll onto Boulevard René-Lévesque. With all the attention we are getting it feels like we are celebrities on the red carpet. The only thing missing is a fashion commentator – quite understandable.
Our police escorts guide us as we make a left up Saint Laurent and then through Place des Arts and Saint Catherine. Going west we return to René-Lévesque via Crescent. Now, on round two of the same route, we’ve come to a halt at yet another bittersweet red light.
Sweet in the sense that a group of unicyclists perform crazy tricks, luring in bystanders. This had been successfully accomplished somewhere around Place Des Arts where a young man, innocence written all over him, stripped naked and joined us in our chants of “more ass, less gas.” Maybe he was hoping to hop on his bike for a quick cheeseburger, ending up with more buns than he could imagine.
Rotating wheels do the same for thoughts. I begin to suspect the event organizers’ true intentions. Perhaps all this environmentalism and bodily health awareness is simply a smokescreen for some perverted genius. I envision a creepy middle-aged man, his eyebrow raised and pinky finger between his lips. While starring off into space he catches a glimpse of Miss August seductively stretched out on a sandy beach wearing nothing but sand. He has an epiphany, followed by an evil sounding snicker.
Other passersby meet us with cheers, laughs, a few blushes and an abundant of smartphone flashes. If only people had the same reactions when viewing themselves or their significant others in the nude. It’s the flashes that make me question how all this would pan out with those responsible for my traditional Muslim upbringing.
To the average spectator we must appear to be perfectly elated and overjoyed. But a more profound inspection would reveal different shades of naked comfortability. This is precisely my dilemma, bringing us to the bitter side of the red lights. Red lights mean we don’t pedal, which essentially means there is no elevated thigh to conceal the privates.
If I could just somehow casually throw the fact that I’m a grower not a shower into a conversation with a neighbouring cyclist. A green light and we’re back in pedalling motion.
The gentle breeze against my genitalia is soothing and meditative. I begin to deliberate if my time approximation (sixty-ninth minute, remember?) is linked to some sort of perverted socialization. Have my notions of nudity been socially distorted by sex? If so, what else? What if my upbringing had been in a society where shame and explicitness had no links with nakedness, would I be further or closer to reality?
Consumerism and materialism are considered normal. Trends and fitting is the complete contrast to being peculiarity. It’s not the term that has been overturned, but societal attitudes towards it. So much so, that there’s little space left for self-determination. A feeling of freedom overcomes me. I feel enlightened and free. I now look forward to next red light.