In this series of articles I am looking at alternative views of what we consider feminine. Many of those of us that consider ourselves gender fluid struggle to find images of femininity that work for us. Typically, we succumb to the idea that an archetype of the ‘baby girl’, ‘school girl’, ‘cheer leader’ or lingerie model epitomises the feminine, although we are surrounded by examples of womanhood that are far more inspiring. In this series I am presenting a few cameos that offer alternative views of women, that can serve as a guide to how we picture ourselves, our nature, and what we might aspire to.
These paintings are by David Uhl. His inspired renditions of historic scenes have long illustrated the excitement of strong women and motorcycles. You can enjoy more of his art HERE – https://www.uhlstudios.com/
I was 19 that year. I remember particularly because it was when the market collapsed and Daddy lost the business. Mother and he decided to send us away for the summer, and we went to stay with our aunt in Cape Cod.
She was a tyrant, and we did our best to spend the days out of the house and down on the beach, sunbathing topless in the dunes, which at the time was considered outrageous. Vivienne, my cousin, was an outrageous flirt and seemed determined to see how far she could push things. I suppose that, in the end, that was part of her undoing.
Vivienne would borrow her brother’s motorcycle and we’d rattle off to the beach on it. It was unheard of for women to ride motorcycles back then, and of course two together raised a few eyebrows, but we didn’t care much. Hardly anyone would see us anyway, as we’d putter along through the loose sand of the dunes, to find a secluded spot.
I think Etienne was under the impression Vivienne and I were off to try and find a man, but he loaned us the bike anyway as he had a bigger and newer model and wanted to go down to the airfield with his friends. They all dreamed of being pilots. Can you imagine?
In 1929 the country was still going crazy for Lindberg and the idea of flying was on every young man’s mind. Vivienne and I found it rather boring and entirely unsurprising that there was so many accidents. We both knew people who had been killed in pointless flying crashes. There was one barnstormer had come into town a few years earlier and crashed his biplane into a church spire. Another hit a flag pole and killed his passenger, but survived himself. All that was soon to come to an end as the country slid into depression. That summer, though, nothing could be further from our minds.
Vivienne packed a picnic for us, some wine and she stole several of her father’s cigarettes. He was French and smoked those terrible things with no filter. But we would share one and thought we looked so sophisticated.
I carried the bag in my arms as she rode along, nearly losing it once or twice as we bounced along the track between the sand dunes. The sun on my shoulders felt lovely, and as we lurched forward now and then I would grab Vivienne around her waist, my hand finding her breast more than once accidently.
We sat topless in the dunes, sun on our shoulders, as we drank wine. It seemed the world really was at our feet. Later that day we got the bike bogged down in sand and it was only after a couple of the men from farther up the beach come along that we got the bike free.
None of us realised these were the closing days of an era. Soon the world would be a different place.