One of the main reasons I decided to start this project was to push myself out of my comfort zone. Like most humans, I’m terrified of failure or looking stupid and whilst this might be a normal part of the human condition, I think that my self-consciousness has been holding me back from too many things.
I’ve had some bad injuries in the last few years which have made me extra cautious around falling down. Due to various medications and illnesses, I’ve lost a lot of my hair and to add insult to injury, my head and face seem to be the sweatiest parts of my body. When I get overexerted, anxious or stressed, I look like a bald, shiny, soaking wet tomato. I hate it and often withdraw from activities so that I don’t feel uncomfortable. Increasingly though, I’m coming to the realisation that I would rather be sweaty and look ridiculous than continue to sit on the sidelines.
So, to my first adventure: Roller Skating (and also blading)
Skating is not new to me. When I was about 7, I became obsessed with the idea of roller-skates, which led me to borrow a neighbours skates so that I could practice roller-skating around my bed. As the house was carpeted, this practice lead to a very disappointing experience the first time I got onto concrete and I fell over many, many times – but I persevered.
Santa was kind enough to bring me my own pair of skates and soon enough I was whizzing up and down the street and performing amazing stunts and plays with a girl who lived in my street. I regularly skated home from school and bossed around my younger siblings and other kids in the street, as part of lessons I delivered for the very reasonable price of 50 cents a person.
There was a roller-skating rink in my town that I thought was the most amazing place on earth. I used to look it up in the phone book regularly, and memorized the number so that I could be relied upon if ever a skating party needed to be booked. We went there for birthday parties and a few memorable school excursions before someone fell and broke their arm.
I was about 11 when rollerblades were released and I was entranced. Once again, Santa did me a solid and after adjusting to the different balance and style, I was hooked all over again. Then, I went to high school and although I still skated occasionally, my interest started to wane. We had moved to a new neighbourhood, my school was too far away to safely skate to and being a teenager, my attention shifted to other deserving recipients (boys, specifically Luke Perry).
I hadn’t done any form of skating for at least 20 years, but it was something that I was keen to explore again. Before Christmas, some friends and I had started talking about skating – one was getting rollerblades for Christmas (Cindy) and another (Heidi) was looking into skating as a new form of exercise. We found a skating rink and set a date to attend the Friday Night Family Roller Disco. It was amazing.
Being me, I was concerned about having the right outfit. I didn’t want to go full active wear, but also felt that my usual wardrobe of wrap dresses and skirts would not be suitable. Heidi pointed out that I could lean into the 80’s vibe and wear a skirt over some running tights and that dilemma was solved. I also invested in some delightful metallic silver eye shadow that proved to be an excellent distraction and, I’ve since discovered, will be stuck to my skin for the next 10,000 years.
The venue: Skateworld Mordialloc – although it was about 200km from the skating rink I grew up with, the whole set up felt very familiar. It was, like stepping back into 1989 in all the best ways. Our booth consisted of old bench seats from the Comeng carriages, which used to service Melbourne’s train network. This place is ripe for a hipster led revival and I fully expect to see elaborately tattooed and bearded men serving single origin coffee and obscure craft beers before the end of the year.
The cost: $20 per person, which included entry and skate hire. Booths can be booked for $20
The crowd: The vast majority of attendees were between the ages of 6 and 12. There were a few parents supervising and some older, cooler siblings. In addition to the parents supervising their kids, there was one older gentleman who was giving off some very heavy “cool single dad who is here to party” vibes. We were joined by our slightly sceptical husbands (Evan, Donald and Paul), set ourselves up in a booth and got ready to roll.
The action: I started out with roller skates, wanting the full retro experience. This was a quick reminder of how much had changed since 1989. I was terrified. Just shuffling to the rink took about 20 minutes. I managed a very slow, deliberate skate around the edges of the rink, clinging desperately to the railings as confident 7 year-olds flew past me looking bemused. I felt like I was going to fall over every time I shifted my weight. How on earth had I managed this before?
My friends were doing much better than me. Cindy and Paul both had their own skates and were happily whizzing around the rink. Heidi, Evan and Donald has both moved past their initial trepidation and were moving freely around, kindly offering to chaperone me on my very long journey.
Whilst the rink was taken over for a game of skating limbo, I decided to swap to roller blades in the hope that I would feel more secure and balanced. This turned out to be true and I was able to skate a few more laps without needing to cling desperately to the support railings. I even overtook a few kids (most of whom were under the age of 6 and being patiently walked around the rink by their mother) and felt satisfied that, perhaps deep down, I had retained some of the skills from long ago.
What I had not retained was my muscle tone and agility. Although the roller blades were easier to skate in, they were incredibly uncomfortable. As an avid wearer of stupid shoes, I’m familiar with my feet being uncomfortable, but this was next level pain. I considered that my skates might be too tight and went up a size. Whilst this reduced the discomfort a little, my ankles felt completely unsupported and as a veteran of some nasty ankle injuries, I’m hyperconscious of anything that leads to a lengthy stint on crutches.
The stern talking to: I was considering my next move, when the dancing competition started. I held back, not wanting to look stupid, but after giving myself a quick pep talk “Who the fuck cares, you’re at a roller rink in Braeside, just go and enjoy yourself” I leaned down to tighten my skates and felt the twinges of an old back injury. The joys of being a late 30’s, overweight and unfit dreamer. I wanted to cry and also vomit a tiny bit from that pain, but managed to hold my composure and enjoy the rest of the night. I was disappointed that I had been held back, first by my fear and then by being out of shape.
This has happened before, and would have previously meant that I walked away and never ever tried again, but I’m so tired of cutting things out because I am scared or uncomfortable. I’m going to take a few skating lessons (I imagine it will cost slightly more than 50c) and see what I can do to rekindle this long forgotten love.
The verdict: I got eye makeup all over my face, wore uncomfortable shoes and injured myself attempting to dance. I had fun with my friends, who braved the outer suburbs and were kind and supportive. An excellent Friday night.