“Bernadette Murphy’s luminous book shows us how to take risks that make us fierce and vulnerable, knowing that true strength is about being generous as much as it is about not giving in.” Emily Rapp Black, author of The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child
What happens when women in midlife step out of what's predictable? For Bernadette Murphy, learning to ride a motorcycle at forty-eight becomes the catalyst that transforms her from a settled wife and professor with three teenage children into a woman on her own. The confidence she gained from mastering a new skill and conquering her fears gave her the courage to face deeper issues in her own life and start taking risks. It is a fact that men and women alike become more risk averse in our later years which according to psychologists and neuroscience is exactly what we should not do. And Murphy stresses that while hers is a story of transformation using a physical risk, emotional and educational risks can serve the same beneficial purpose for other women.
Murphy uses her own story to explore the larger idea of how risk changes our brain chemistry, how certain personality types embrace dangerous behavior and why it energizes them, and why women's expectations change once estrogen levels drop after the childbearing years. She also explores the idea of women and risk in pop culturewhy there are so few stories of the conquering heroine (instead of hero). Surely Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff should not be our only pop culture reference for women finding true freedom.
With scientific research and journalistic interviews weaving through a page-turning, road trip narrative, Harley and Me is a compelling look at how one woman changed her life and found deeper meaning out on the open road.
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About the Author
Bernadette Murphy has published three books of creative nonfiction: The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate (with Michelle Huneven); The Knitter’s Gift; and the bestselling Zen and the Art of Knitting (2002) in which she uses memoir and reportage to explore the connection between fiber arts, creativity, and spirituality. She served for six years as a weekly book critic for the Los Angeles Times. Her personal narratives and essays on literature have appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Manifest Station, BOOK Magazine, Ms. Magazine, LA Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times Magazine, and elsewhere. She currently serves as core faculty in creative nonfiction at the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA program. Learn more at bernadette-murphy.com.
Table of Contents
Note to Reader ix
Section I Look
Chapter 1 Staring into the Eyes of the Beast 9
Chapter 2 Izzy, My Love 23
Chapter 3 Death Is Certain, the Hour Is Not 35
Chapter 4 The Bitch Is Back 50
Chapter 5 If You're Happy and You Know It 65
Chapter 6 Male Approval and Sexual Power 78
Chapter 7 Totally Hosed 85
Section II Lean
Chapter 8 Leaving Home 95
Chapter 9 Matchy-Matchy 112
Chapter 10 Right on Time 126
Chapter 11 On to the Promised Land 139
Chapter 12 The Uglies 157
Chapter 13 Benediction 169
Chapter 14 Coming Home 182
Section III Roll
Chapter 15 Cardiology 197
Chapter 16 The Human Race 206
Chapter 17 Yes 216
Chapter 18 Evolve or Die 228
Chapter 19 Eight Days in Paradise 235
Chapter 20 Failing (and Falling) Better 243