Inspired by Girl Clumsy’s fantastic post on re-visiting childhood moments.
Roller skating plays an inevitable, um, role *cough* in the social infrastructure of most children’s lives. Well, at least in my childhood.
Weekend events often included trips to the local skating rink, for birthday parties, holiday bashes and end-of-the-school year gatherings.
Born a natural non-athlete, I loathed roller skating and whenever a party invitation arrived in the mail, my stomach dropped upon reading the location as “Roller World” or worse, the card itself was shaped like a skate. As the date neared I’d come home from school and face that skate card with the same enthusiasm as taking a math test or getting an allergy shot.
I tried to like it. I practiced. I had my own PlaySkool skates from Santa, bright red, yellow and blue colored skates that could be adjusted as my feet grew bigger. I scooted myself around in them all over the house in the summer. I was quite the champion on carpeting, specifically brown shag carpeting. But once I entered dangerous flooring—the tiled kitchen or the slick hardwood in my bedroom—I was as horizontal as Paris Hilton at a casting call.
My mom tried to help. She would take me outside and after gently coaxing me onto the sidewalk (I preferred skating on the grass—it was kinder on my backside) she would grab my hands and slowly roll me down the block. I kept my arms out straight like a zombie and would bend my knees ever so slightly. I would freeze in absolute terror as my mom grasped my hands, walking backwards as I rolled. When she finally let go I would lose my balance, arms flailing at my sides as I fell forward or backward, scraping either my knees or my ass.
It wasn’t too attractive for a seventeen year old.
I kid, I kid. At seventeen I’d already tried and failed at the latest fad in transit footwear—the roller blade.
When the day of one particularly dreaded roller skating party finally arrived, I had an idea. As I got ready, pulling on my black lace leggings and adding pins to my jean jacket—my favorites were New Kids on the Block and a big, yellow smiley face that said Don’t Worry Be Happy—I went over my plan. The goal was to spend as little time on the rink as necessary. This was probably the best and only option I decided as I pulled my crimped hair into a side ponytail.
I’d follow my friends to the rental store, where we would pick out skates in our respective sizes and then sit down on a long bench and lace up. I’d take my time, slowly loosening then tightening the shoes as I gossiped and giggled with my girlfriends over our latest crushes.
Then we would skate around the carpeted party room, mingling with the new arrivals as they trickled in. This I could handle. This was slightly heaven to my hell party. With ease and considerable traction I would be able to glide around the room as the event progressed, from present opening to eating of the cake and ice cream.
My plan played out as expected, but then the inevitable, dreaded moment came and I knew there was no escape. The lights dimmed, the disco ball began its spin, and the DJ’s voice boomed from the booth.
“Who’s ready to PAR-TAY?” he announced, and all the girls around me jumped up and squealed. Someone grabbed my hand and we floated across the safety of the carpeted floor onto the dangerously smooth surface of the rink.
I was fooled at first. Holding hands in a line with my girlfriends, slowly gliding to the Bangles’ slow, sultry “Eternal Flame” I felt like I was soaring. As we circled around the first rounded edge of the rink we all belted out with Susanna Hoffs “I don’t wanna lose this feeeeeeeling…”
The music stopped abruptly, and MC Hammer flooded the speakers. “LET’S GET THIS PAR-TAY STAAAAAARTED!” the DJ yelled over the bass, and my safety net broke apart, my girlfriends squealing and speeding up with the music.
“Wait for me!” I called desperately, trying to keep my balance. I slowed to a crawl, taking tiny steps forward with my right hand up against the ugly padded wall. The lights began to flicker and change color, from pink to red to green.
I was halfway to the rink’s exit. I bit my lip as Debbie Gibson’s “Electric Youth” blared and my friends lapped me once, twice, three times a loser. Everyone was going so fast around me and the lights were flashing and the DJ yelling.
I had my very first panic attack.
I pressed my body up against the padded walls, digging my fingernails in as I inched closer and closer to my destination. I could hear my friends as they passed me. “Jenny! C’mon! Are you OK?”
“I’m fine!” I yelled, my voice muffled by the padding. “This is totally awesome, haha!”
Suddenly the music stopped, and the DJ boomed “Alright you crazy kids, time to switch it up! Everyone now go in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION!!”
I clung to the wall, groaning as people cheered and turned around behind me. I was so close to the exit. I couldn’t stop now. I took another step forward.
“YOU! In the jean jacket! Yeah you missy! You’re going the wrong way!” I grimaced as I glanced up at the DJ booth. He was glaring and pointing at me.
“You have been ELIMINATED.” The rink went dark and suddenly a bright spotlight shined on me, my arms and my body pressed hard against the wall. I could hear a splatter of giggles echo across the room.
“Let’s not let Little Miss Party Pooper ruin our PAR-TAY!” The DJ bellowed, and the place erupted in cheers as “Ice Ice Baby” bounced off the speakers and the disco ball started turning and throwing light around the room again.
I continued inching my way to the exit, cursing the DJ under my breath as I went. When I finally reached the safety of the carpeted floor, I clunked over to the bench and removed my rentals, rubbing my tensed, aching feet, and vowed to never skate again.