This is a humiliating, but true story that I somehow managed to suppress until very recently. Damn the nostalgic power of '80s music!
You know how whenever you're feeling a little big for your britches (using that phrase alone should nullify anything I'm about to say, but you should read it anyway), you'll get a flashback, a glimpse of some past experience that is so Earth-shatteringly embarrassing that the universe puts you right back in your place?
Well, this was one of those times.
The other day I was attempting to parlay these NBC parenting segments I'm doing into a piece for a national magazine. As I typed away, touting myself as an "expert," trying to seem way more important than I actually am and rambling on about my amazing qualifications to an Editor-in-Chief (who I shouldn't have been writing directly to in the first place), Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" came on and I was immediately transported to Cockeysville, SKATELAND, circa 1984.
It was Girl's Skate and the disco lights had taken over the floor.
Now, if you're unfamiliar with roller skate culture, Girl's Skate is the precursor to Couple's Skate. During Girl's Skate, your job, as a girl, is to look as totally awesome as possible. You have to rock your off-the-shoulder shirt with puffy splatter paint, your acid washed jean skirt and those high striped socks.
The boys watch from around the rink and if they like what they sees, they put out a hand for you to slap. The "hand out" also implies that they would like to Couples Skate with you. If you think the boy is cute, you slap his outstretched arm, but if you think he's too dorky, you hold your hand close to your body in an overly dramatic acknowledgment that you would rather be caught dead than be seen skating with him.
Yep, it's an exercise in fostering self esteem.
On this particular day, I had my eye on a very cute older boy; he may have even been a preteen! I spotted him from across the crowded rink as my dad laced up his skates, trying to catch up to my speedy entrance.
Oh, I didn't mention that my dad skated with me every week? How could I forget that detail, this story is about how cool and awesome I was, right?
There I was, doing my best tricks:
The speed up and glide.
The crouch down and stick one leg forward.
The professional leg cross weave around the corners.
I looked around at the outstretched arms while "Electric Avenue" played in the background. As a sensitive kid, I was an equal opportunity slapper. So, I'd slap the hand of anyone that put it out there. Well, unless they were super nerdy and everyone else was avoiding them, obviously! You just know those are the ones who went home and comforted themselves with their Star Wars figurines or made "kill lists."
Then I spotted him, that cute preteen. He looked bad. I mean, good-bad. He probably drove there on his motorized dirt bike, skates hanging from the handle bars and a switchblade style comb in his back pocket. He was definitely from the other side of the tracks. You know, like Matt Dillon in Little Darlings or Kelly from The Bad News Bears.
I noticed that he wasn't really offering his hand to too many girls and in a defensive action, started to skate towards the middle.
As I got closer, he did it. He eyed me and then threw out his hand. Holy crap, that's for me, and now I'm so far on the inside I'll never make it, and then we won't get to Couples Skate. I won't be able to hold his hand, which I'm sure will be cool and big, not small and sweaty, like the other boys I always couples skated with. He may even be good enough to do the envied backwards hands on hips skate! My life is officially over.
Move Jenny, move!
I weaved through a few slow girls and reached as far as I could to touch even a fingertip. Then, in a crushing blow, he pulled his hand back, pretending to slick his hair. Holy shit, he gave me the "psyyyyych," before the "psych" was actually invented!
To add insult to injury, or in this case, injury to insult, my arm had overstretched to meet his teasing gesture. I felt myself going down. Think slo-mo in some cheesy 80's film, "Ohhhh Nnnoooo." I grabbed at the wall to pull myself in and slammed straight into it. Not being able to stop there, as the sheer force was too great, I then ricocheted off and slapped to the ground.
Yep, COOL, I was! (If you say that with a Yoda accent, it smarts that much more.)
I got up quickly and ran to the bathroom to cry in a stall while Couple's Skate started without me. Seriously, it just began like normal, as if the most horrifying incident had not just occurred on that concrete slab of rejection.
I remember the song perfectly; it was Air Supply's, "All Out of Love" or maybe Journey's "Open Arms" or some ballad by Foreigner or Styx. I also remember the pain. Oh, the pain and the "uncoolness."
Apparently, you can't get too cocky in Cockeysville or anywhere, 'cause someone will put you right back in your insecure, struggling, awkward place... where you belong. Unfortunately, I've been put in my place more times than I care to remember.
Even as an adult, a simple song can bring back an experience that sends you to rock in a corner. I guess you're supposed to dust yourself off and get back in the ring -- I mean, rink.
Dear Editor-in-Chief: I'm a kick-ass writer and I'm not half bad on a pair of skates...
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