Sunday, October 18, 2009

Roller Skating Hell

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.


Girl Clumsy said...


The DJs at the skate rink of my youth were never so cruel.

One day we'll go skating together!

Nautilus said...

Trying to leave when Vanilla Ice is playing, I reckon you might have been the smart one!

Actually, DJs in glass houses (booths) playing Vanilla Ice and M.C. Hammer really shouldn't throw stones.



Gold Jen

bard said...

hahaha! That brings back a lot of memories.

Believe me, I could share some equally ridiculous rollerskating stories from MY childhood. I wouldn't even know where to start....

Chez said...

I've always been terrible at rollerskating....oddly, though, my 11th birthday party was at Rollerworld. Granted, one of my best friends had the same birthday as me and it was her idea to have a joint party. Lucky for me (?), I had a fractured elbow at the time and stayed off the rink as much as possible. And, don't even get me started.

However, I went ice skating once and it didn't turn out so bad, which was really weird to me. Okay, so the only way I had of stopping was to throw myself into a snowbank, but other than that, I was totally all right with it....

Dr Yobbo said...

The ultimate insurance against skate-related social injury: feet that are too big for rentals. They usually top out at US 12s. Muhahahahahaha.

And yeah, any 'DJ' whose career highlight gig is cranking MC Hammer at the rollerderby is a sad, sick and miserable individual by any stretch of the imagination.

yankeedog said...

Another potential Roller Derby star's dreams brutally quashed by a roller rink DJ.

A great word picture of you as a teenager. Weren't you in every mall in America 'round about 1989? I sure think I saw a lot of girls running around similarly clad.

A nicely written piece, Jen. Well done!

jennicki said...

GC: Yes! You may have to hold me up but yes we will!

Naut: I agree! It was probably the apex of his career!

Lerm: Thanks!!

Bard: Oh, do please share!

Chez: I have never even tried roller skatig, simply based on my roller skating experience.I was invited once and ended up sitting in the stands with the mothers watching everyne else skate.

Doc: As a girl I'm relieved that my feet could fit in the rentals. If my feet were too big for it that would've been a whole 'nother social hell growing up.

YD: Lol thank you! Actually the party was in 1990 and I wasn't quite a teenager yet. And yes you could've found me at the mall every frickin' weekend.

jennicki said...

Oop Chez I meant I never even tried ice skating, not roller skatig.

Barnesm said...

Great story, though once again careful with the "like a zombie" references this may not end well.

Now days kids have al sorts of other possible party options: rock climbing, waterslide/pool parties, aquarium or planetarium kids parties.

Perhaps these would have been more welcome

Flinthart said...


Seems to me I know somebody with a skating story that had a worse outcome... Mister Barnes. How many pieces did that fibula shatter into?

Mayhem said...

Sadly Jennicki, roller skating was the only sport I was actually good at while vertical............

oooh that sounds bad, minds out of the gutter people, I was a swimmer! Running, netball, running, basketball, anything involving running, did I mention running? Anything like that was torture.

As a teen in Melbourne weekends were a group of about 8 of us my friends, my olders sister's friends, and carpooling Mums. The only time we weren't allowed to go was when the temp hit about the 40degree (celsius) mark.

Ice skating was soooo not fun, and roller blading? Forget it. I actually went back to it in my early 20's and didn't totally suck!

One day I will go skating again.

Barnesm said...

HEY Flinthart that was ice skating, completely different animal.

Ice skating (not to be confused with ice scating) is a symphony of movement and precision that highlights the human body in a dynamic equilibrium bringing one closer to perfection.

Roller skating (and I pray there is no roller scating though I haven’t googled it) involves bad 70's disco music and clocking youngsters who can roller skate better than you,not to mention its links to the US’s more southern states - roller derby which in the future will evolve into the competitive bloodspot rollerball.

Chez said...

It's okay, I figured you meant ice skating! :)

I was surprised at how much easier ice skating was for me....however, I only did it once, and that was in eighth grade. I might be blowing it up in my head, and if I went out on the ice now, right on my ass I'd go.

Flinthart said...

Ice skating, roller skating -- it still winds up being several weeks in bed, with some fucker organising visits for you from Blinky... heh.