I decided that I wanted some roller skates.
Every year I try to get myself a birthday present, something frivolous that would normally never come up on my shopping list. One year it was the complete collection of a comic I like - although it wound up being another couple years before I actually read them.
I’m often just as bad at enjoying things as I am at choosing and purchasing them - underbuying is a pervasive attitude.
I kept seeing women on skates in the neighborhood, and it looked marvelous. Maybe this would be a way for me to start getting back in shape without feeling like I was working out? Just something fun and cute?
Finally I went online to find adult-size skates. I was not prepared in any way for the panoply of glorious roller skates. Sparkly skates, skates in every shade of ice cream and neon, space age skates, skates with light-up wheels. Holy moly, so much rolly!
I had to narrow it down from five contenders. Then I reminded myself that I am a satisficer by nature and that I can only wear one pair at a time. If I wear them out, I can always get a different set a year or two later.
If you want to buy roller skates, it’s impossible to avoid learning a bit about roller derby. That’s probably the market for older babes who want to skate. I know a few people who do it and love it. In spite of the time I spent in martial arts, this is not the game for me. I am uncomfortable hitting people or feeling like I might hurt them, and I also hate anything that goes at a high speed. I knew I could skip roller derby gear without any fear of missing out.
I settled on the rose gold skates. Every time I look at them, I feel the sort of swoon that I have not felt toward a material object since childhood. PRETTY!
As soon as the skates went into the shopping cart, the next level of marketing attempts began. If you bought that, maybe we can convince you to buy this!
Pads. Knee pads, elbow pads, wrist… braces? What even is all this stuff.
I remembered the last time I skinned my knee as an adult and what a giant biohazard that was. I bought the pads. Conveniently someone else had already matched up my pretty rose gold skates with somewhat color-coordinated pads in a kit. There’s a matching helmet, but my old bike helmet is good enough for now.
Meanwhile, my husband sat at my side, choosing his own skates.
It basically went like this: “It’s time to pick out skates. I’m ordering mine now.”
Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve only worn skates once in the past 25 years or so. My friend had a party at the skating rink.
My husband, on the other hand, is a hockey player. He started with roller hockey. Not only can he skate, he is quite fast and skilled on both roller and ice skates. For him to choose a pair of skates was only a marginally harder sell than, say, a pizza.
He was more worried about my choice of skates than his own.
Obviously he was going to get inline skates - rollerblades - because they are faster and feel similar to ice skates. He has been talking about playing hockey again, and this would be a good way to get his ankles conditioned.
Equally obviously, I was going to get 1970’s-style disco skates. I’ve never worn rollerblades and didn’t feel like they would be much help.
His arrived first. He brought the box upstairs, tore into it, and started lacing his skates. Two minutes later, he stood up in them and skated across the room. Pretty good for a guy in his fifties.
Mine came two days later, long after all the rest of the safety gear had arrived.
They are so much cooler in person!
Traffic-stopping, knockout, glamorous roller skates. It’s entirely possible that they have magical powers. People cannot take their eyes off these things.
Which is very good because otherwise they would be staring at me, flailing and windmilling my arms and wobbling everywhere at .5 mph.
We carried our gear down to the alley that runs along our building, the same alley where our neighbors go to cry on the phone and smoke and have long dramatic conversations at top volume. Surely this alley can handle a couple of middle-aged people on wheels.
There goes my husband, speed-skating, skating backward, practicing a variety of stops.
Keep watching, I’ll eventually enter the frame, clomping along like a child playing dress-up in wooden clogs.
We both realized something about ourselves in our first minutes on our new skates.
My husband realized that his ankles are no longer as strong as they were when he was on an ice hockey team, before we got married.
I realized that my core strength is basically gone and my balance isn’t so great either.
I also realized, after about twenty minutes, that as much time as I spent on skates as a child, nobody had ever taught me how to brake. It suddenly occurred to me that the only way I had ever stopped myself when I was in motion was to grab onto something or crash into a wall.
Traditional roller skates have a rubber stopper on each toe. Wait, you think I’m going to brake by tipping my foot forward until that thing touches the ground? Um, I think not.
We practiced together, which meant he would skate backward while holding my hands so that I could practice going one direction down the alley. Then I would practice skating by myself while he made a couple of trips back and forth.
It seemed like about time for us to pack it in. I had made a little progress and had an idea of what types of tutorial videos I might need to watch. Neither of us was bleeding or concussed. We changed back to regular shoes and headed upstairs.
“That was good for a first day,” he said, which I heard as “first date.”
It was! It was a pretty good date. A date on a skate with my mate.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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