(c) 2012, Davd
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Famous rejecting words, those. But other maxims and slogans have proved misleading over the years—anyone else remember when cigarette smoking was considered healthy because it kept one’s weight down? … or penicillin was able to cure any and all “VDs”?
Maybe that fish needs a bicycle slogan is more subtly true than the sneering Feminists who made it famous, ever intended.
For some reason, last year, i asked myself the empirical question: “Might a fish in fact need a bicycle, under some conditions? What kind of conditions?” To address that question well, one probably should elaborate enough to ask also, “What for?” “For what might a fish need a bicycle?”
Turns out there is a good, sensible answer to that question, if the bicycle is located in the fish’s milieu.
Fishes live in water. The bicycle that a fish might need, then, has to be in the water. I can think of several bicycles that have crossed my sight in the past 20 years, that someone might throw in the water because riding them wasn’t appealing any longer. The Finns have a saying about junk, “Heitä vesilinnulle” (“Throw it [to/at] a water bird”.) I’m not aware how this came to be an idiom in the Finnish language, but it is one. It seems apparent that no one expects these things “thrown at water birds” to hit them—rather, they are expected to sink out of sight, or more out of sight than left in it.
So, there in the water is a junked bicycle, and she is a fish. Fishes have much to fear in their struggle for survival: Otters, kingfishers, some kinds of hawks and eagles, larger fishes, hungry bears, even human anglers. Hiding in the tangle of metal that is a junked bicycle, offers a small to medium-sized fish much more comfort and security than swimming out in the open that is mid-stream or mid-lake.
Imagine a kingfisher looking for its next meal, and our subject the fish, out in mid-stream. She is an easy target and usually she can’t see the bird coming. Now imagine her resting under the spokes of a sunken bicycle wheel: No prudent kingfisher* is going to dive into that maze of metal—so she’s safe.
Further, we might infer, the woman who doesn’t need a man, is to women generally as a piranha or a large shark is to fishes generally—far more dangerous than average. If she merely lets that show, guess what? Most men won’t offer her their company anyhow; she has no need to repel them beyond just being her dangerously repellent self.
The woman who needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, is also more appealing to that man—and here the analogy breaks down. Neither fish nor bicycles can cuddle.
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* It might be worth mentioning, that at Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery on Vancouver Island, the workers string old monofilament fishing line in criss-cross patterns above the pools where thousands to millions of salmon-fry are reared—because the keen-eyed predatory birds can see the line and will leave the fishes unharmed rather than risk flying into it.