So, guess what we got last night?
Still can’t guess? Try this one:
Yep. Roller skates.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here too much, but the husband, the baby, and I have taken up roller skating as a pretty serious hobby.
I used to roller skate a lot when I was a kid. For most of elementary school, everyone had a roller skating party for their birthday and so most weekends I would spend an afternoon at the Ches-a-Rena in Cheswick, skating in between courses of that kind of gross but kind of delicious frozen pizza and way too sugary birthday cake. Then I just didn’t go skating for a long time until college. A group of us went back to Ches-a-Rena during spring break. And in case you weren’t aware, roller skating isn’t really like riding a bike. You do forget how to do it and I fell. A lot. Sore and embarrassed, I figured that was that for me and roller skating.
A few years ago, during our annual trip to Detroit, there was a roller skating party at one of the big rinks there. “Hmm. Roller skating. I guess I’ll give it another try.” However, the skaters there were seriously skilled. While I struggled to stay upright, people would fly past me, dancing or sometimes rolling backwards on two wheels on one foot.
It was really humbling. But it was also really inspiring.
Over the past year, the three of us have started going roller skating as often as we can, usually a few times a month, and we’ve become kind of obsessed with it. We’d been getting pretty good on rental skates, but the expert skaters that we talked to told us that if we really wanted to get serious about it, we’d be much better off investing in our own skates. Plus, they’re much more comfortable than rentals.
A few weeks ago, I called the owner of the rink that we’d been going to and asked him how much skates were, naively thinking that we would just go, try on a few pairs and be on our merry way. The owner told us, “About $50,” to which we said, “Great! We’ll be right over.” However, dude had not fully unpacked that answer. Skates are $50 for kids. For adults, they’re considerably more expensive and you don’t just plop a pair on your feet like you were at Payless. You pick out boots, bearings, plates, stoppers, and wheels and order them, then have someone assemble them for you.
So, we placed our order and waited anxiously for him to call us, letting us know that our skates were ready to be picked up.
Last night, we headed out there after the baby’s baseball game. Tuesday nights are the adult sessions, which not only means are there no kids present, there’s also no one under the age of 60 there.
I had never paid much attention to the culture of roller skating, but it’s definitely a lifestyle for some. The folks in attendance last night had been doing this for a long time. The ladies wore short, little skirts and shiny pantyhose and danced around smoothly and expertly with their partners to organ music. “What the hell is going on?” I muttered, but apparently there are people who do what is essentially ballroom dancing on skates. It’s weird but also kind of bad-ass.
We got our skates on and teetered around a little bit. They felt much different than the rentals. As I wobbled around the rink, a 90-year-old woman zoomed past me on one leg.
We’re taking our skates with us to Detroit this weekend and returning to another iteration of the party that got us hooked a few years ago. And though I know I won’t be on any kind of level with some of the skaters that we’ll see there, I’m a little bit closer than I was.
If you’re so inclined, I highly recommend roller skating as an activity. It’s a hell of a workout and it’s really satisfying to get better at it. And if you’re looking for some inspiration, I recommend checking out a documentary from a few years ago called 8 Wheels and Some Soul Brotha Music, which chronicles much of the history of roller skating in the U.S. and how it came to be an urban pastime. Some acknowledgments are given to roller derby and the couples skating that we saw last night, but the contemporary focus is on rinks in cities and how they become centers of communities. Very interesting stuff.