Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Skater Haters to the Side

I had a long list of career choices when I was a kid, which was always met with a long list of reasons why I couldn't pursue those career choices.

I want to be a chemist!
You can't be a chemist, you're terrible at math.

I want to be a lawyer!
You can't be a lawyer, it's too much school.

I want to be an astronaut!
You can't be an astronaut, there are no women astronauts.
What about Salli Ride?
Well she's exceptional. Are you exceptional?
Heck yeah I am!
Well you're too fat.
Guess you're right...

One of my career choices was born at an Ice Capades show in Denver and died on an abandoned skating rink floor.

In 1985 my folks took me and my older brother to our very first Ice Capades show in Denver, Colorado. In the eyes of a five year old girl, a dream was born: I will do this. The costumes. The spinning. The twirling. The whimsy. The SPARKLIES! I looked at my mother with wide eyes and she said, "Is this something you would like to do?" Well of course it was.

After that I became obsessed with ice skating. I was in love with Scott Hamilton and the way he commanded the awe and attention of everyone in the arena as he flawlessly glided across the ice. I wanted to leave people struck with awe and wonder with my icy ballerina moves. 

It's safe to say I was a typical middle child who desperately craved attention. Soon after my dream was born my younger brother was born and my status of "youngest and special-est" was downgraded to "middle-est and stay out of the way-est".

Strangely, despite the fact I wanted to be an ice ballerina, I never touched a pair of ice skates. I would practice my Flying Camel skating up and down the street in front of my house. I wore my shortest skirt I had over my leotard, eyes closed, one leg gracefully stretched out behind me and arms raised in front of me; as if I were reaching to the audience in my arena to embrace them in my delicate arms as I offered them my gift of the frozen dance. In my head, I was Scott Hamilton. Scott Hamilton in a skirt. 

My favorite weekend activity was going to the Skate City next to where we lived. I would spend hours there, skating in circles. Now I want to be forthright: here on earth, I was by no means a talented skater. I was terrified of using the brake system on my skates, after a one-time incident of using them at high speed and getting thrown several feet onto the pavement. When skating at home my method of stopping was throwing my body onto the nearest patch of grass. At the skating rink I would stop myself by slamming into the carpeted wall on the opposite end of the floor. I also found that attempting a Flying Camel on roller skates was a foolhardy goal, since roller skates do not pivot on the ground nearly as well as blades do on ice. I never let this stop me, though. I was determined to be the most beautiful roller skater at Skate City. Arms stretched out, leg raised behind me, everyone there was an unknowing member of my loving audience. 

Anyone who is familiar with skating rinks is also familiar with the myriad of activities that went on there. The Hokey-Pokey, the Happy Birthday Dance, Simon Says, and most importantly the speed skating competition. I never really attempted the speed skating competition; my purview lay in substance, not speed. For the speed skating competition to start everyone had to exit the floor to make way for the challengers. Every time the call for everyone to exit the floor came, I would attempt to stretch out my time on the floor on my own so everyone standing on the sidelines could sample my talents; however, as soon as the lights came on, that was my prompt signal to get off the floor. 

One Saturday afternoon, when I was nine years old, my family took one of our usual excursions to the Skate City. My older brother, bedecked in a Broncos t-shirt and rat-tail haircut was huddled in the corner of the floor with his friends, and my parents were taking slow laps around the rink with my little brother. I was lost in my fantasy, taking turns around the oval, practicing my backward skating with one leg raised and my arms stretched out, lost in the music, which was more than likely Kokomo by the Beach Boys (admittedly my favorite song at the time). I started to notice as the music played on that people were slowly leaving the floor and crowding around the sidelines, but the lights weren't coming on; so I kept on skating.

I kept taking my turns around the floor, adding movement, gracefully flexing my arms in front of me. Since Kokomo was playing I would occasionally incorporate a little hula hip sway here and there. I was owning that floor and I was not going to stop until the song was over. Every now and then I would catch my mother's gaze, and she had such a huge smile on her face. My heart skipped a beat every time I saw her smile, because I felt like I was finally making her proud of me.

Reality was trying to break it's way in to my little fantasy skating dream; I could hear my brother and their friends making snide comments every time I passed them.

Get off the floor tubby! It's time for speed skating! Move it pudding belly!

Reality was not invited to my skating party. I was in a heaven of my own making, because I didn't just want to be a skater: I wanted to be seen. Seen for something other than a chubby little girl who is constantly falling down on her skates. I wanted to be seen as something beautiful and graceful, and being a chubby little girl, I was never referred to as beautiful or graceful.

I stuck through the entire song, and as a finale I decided to attempt my flying camel. I stretched my fingers out in front of me, and slowly lifted my leg behind. I attempted to pivot into a turn, but I fell. I got back up, got momentum, stretched out again, turned, and fell again. I attempted this three times, and on the third I heard an audible "Awww!" from the sidelines. I didn't have their admiration. What I did have, was their pity, and as a bullied, chubby, middle child, I was willing to take it. I stood up, took one last lap around the floor and skated to the sidelines, straight into my mother's arms. She hugged me, stroked my long blonde hair and laughed, "You are so sweet Prissy! You were beautiful."

In the disco lights, and heavy smell of feet and nachos, I thought I was beautiful too. 

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