Total Humilation on the Roller Rink, circa 1984

You know when you’re feeling a little big for your britches? (Using that phrase alone should nullify anything I’m about to say.)  Then you get a flashback, a glimpse of some past experience that is earth shatteringly embarrassing and the universe puts you right back in your place?

Well, here I am trying to parlay this “CBS Expert Mom” thing into a piece for a national magazine.  I am at my laptop touting myself as an “expert,” and trying to seem way more important than I am.  Just as I am rambling on about my amazing qualifications to a senior editor, whom I shouldn’t be writing directly in the first place, Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” comes on the radio.  I am immediately transported to Cockeysville Skateland circa 1984.  Its Girl’s Skate, the disco lights take over the floor.

Now, if you are 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 cool as possible.  You have to rock your shirt with the iron-on decal, those jeans with a comb sticking out of the back pocket, and those leg warmers you shoved up over them to add a “Flashdance” effect.  The boys watch from around the rink and if they likes 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 they’re cute, you slap their out-stretched hand.  Yes, it is an exercise in self esteem.  Years of this did quite a number on my psyche.

On one 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 I am right?

Here I am 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 look around at the outstretched arms, More than a feelin, should be my background music.  As a sensitive kid, I am an equal opportunity slapper.  So, I slap the hand of anyone that puts it out there, unless they’re really dorky and everyone else is avoiding them, obviously! Those poor kids go home and make “kill lists,” or comfort themselves with their Star Wars figurines.

Then I spotted him, that cute preteen, he looked bad.  I mean good bad. He probably drove here on his motorized dirt bike with his skates hanging from the handle bars and a switchblade hiding in his pocket.  He was definitely from the other side of the tracks. You know, like Matt Dillon was in Little Darlings. 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 skate 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 and pretending to slick his hair… Shit, he gave me the “psyyyyych.”

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, then ricocheted off, and slapped to the ground.  I am SO COOL!  I got up quickly and ran to the bathroom to cry in a stall, while reading about who is ez, and who loves whom 4-ever.  “Couple’s Skate” started without me, 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, cause someone will put you right back in your insecure, struggling, awkward place… where you belong.  Unfortunately, I’ve been put in my place too many 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.

Dear Senior Editor- I am a lowly writer, eh forget get it.

22 thoughts on “Total Humilation on the Roller Rink, circa 1984

  1. cherie

    This was great. It also brought back memories of humiliation that I’d rather not discuss. You always have a knack for bringing back good and bad memories. Keep up the good work.

  2. Erik Deckers

    Excellent post. I was trying to think of a topic to do for MY column today, and I think I found one. It’s about how I totally destroyed this girl’s self-esteem at a roller rink back in the early 1980s.

    Actually no, now that I do the math, I realize I’m more than a few years older than you. I was a junior in high school in 1983 – 84. I hadn’t skated since 8th grade, and unless you lived in Muncie, IN, our wheels never crossed.

    But I’m writing a skating column for sure. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Bari

    I still think you’re pretty slick. All that stuff just makes you stronger. We all start at the beginning and have to streach a bit to get noticed. And your wall crash must have worked. Just look at you now…

  4. Barry

    Loved your post. Especially the part that your dad took you skating every week. I’m sure, had he known your dilema, he would have tried to console you, probably adding more embarrassment and humiliation. Nothing like dad, hand hanging over the top of the stall, trying to calm his distraut daughter.

  5. Amy

    What a fantastic post! Takes me back to the “Eight Wheeler” rink back home in Illinois and “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes.”

  6. Alison

    Love it Jenny, and very insightful! Always a great lesson, and always a phenomenal read! Can’t wait to read the article, which I know you are going to get!!! Positive thoughts sister!!! Positive thoughts! And if you need anyone to taut your amazing wit, humor, and expertise you know I will!

  7. julie

    Hey Jenny,
    I couldn’t help but laugh. Going to Skateland at 1pm on a Saturday was one of the highlights of my childhood.
    Thanks 🙂

  8. rachy

    oh, jenny, so well written, it really brought back similar embarrassing moments in my life when i was young. i know exactly that heady elation thinking “yes, he’s really looking at me….he thinks i’m cute” and then in mere seconds that feeling in the pit of my stomach realizing “he didn’t mean it” capped off by the ultimate embarrassment of falling. i would have run home and stayed in my room alone for hours…no days! my pre-teen and teen years were filled with socially awkward and embarrassing moments, it really felt good to be an adult and leave it all behind.

    keep writing, jen, keep writing!!!

  9. Insanitykim

    OK first off, Xanadu, one of my all time favorite movies. I think I am like, 100 years older than you or something but, you have good taste in movie pictures that generally relate to your posts…

    Second. Man, back in Alaska we didn’t have any of this girl and couple skate stuff! Or, I was just waaaaaaaaaaay too dorky to even notice it, because I was jammin’ out to “Funky Town” and “I Love Rock and Roll” and “We Got the Beat” in my roller skates with neon laces AND my matching sweater and leg warmers. I would have SOOOOO been there with you, being dissed by the cute older cool guy, slamming into walls…

    But hey, I just realized I put my shirt back on inside out last night at about 1 am so…take THAT stupid too-cool-for-kim guy!

    Dude…I just realized I need that bonus CD…

  10. nancy schutt

    How great! A woman with your talent SHOULD treasure the memories that keep you down here on the planet with the rest of us. Humility is to be cultivated!
    At the awards dinner in honor of your contributions to the world of language and humor, may you spill your creme brule on the Senior Editor’s Armani suit.

  11. Jamie

    Never in New Hampshire as we ice skated 10 months out of the year…but Sadie Hawkins rings a bell (oh please, oh please…say yes!) Cute, as always…and I actually felt like I was there watching!

  12. Matt Willard

    I am highly trained in Skate Fu and I probably would have shown that guy how the floor looks after you do a 360 degree flip only to land gut-first on my mighty roller skates.

    Yes, my childhood memories are bitter as well.

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