Rollerblading of the Mind
I Like the Relaxing Part of Vacations...
After I had picked up a pair of used roller-blades from a garage sale my ex-boyfriend Michael was always after me to use them. It’s one thing to own sporting goods; it’s quite another to actually practice a sport with them. I had taken them out on the street once and felt relatively comfortable with the motion that was somewhat like ice-skating. However, you need to understand that it took me 20 years to graduate from double blades to single blades. I still like the solid feel of two pairs of wheels under each ungainly foot. I am not from the women in sports era. I am from the women skipping gym every week because we have our “friend” era…
So, Michael whisked me off to the sporting goods store to buy me roller-blading equipment. This was a foreign concept to me since I never owned roller-skating equipment… except if you count the key. Also, I could not remember ice-skating equipment either but then I suppose all the clothes I had to wear to keep me from freezing to death on an ice pond in Buffalo acted as padding against injury. So we went into the store seeking wrist and knee protection. We went to the wall that looked like it contained cyber replacement parts for the Million Dollar Man. Michael picked out a set of black hard plastic contraptions that looked completely alien. He slid my hands through the elastic and plastic black tubes and strapped the Velcro shut. My fingertips were all you could see. I couldn’t move my wrists at all and I was sure they would atrophy before we left the store. I stood there looking at him helplessly knowing I had been assimilated and was now Borg. This was before the kneepads.
Let me give you a bit of background here. I come from strong Polish peasant stock. We are built low to the ground with childbearing hips and sturdy legs. Traditionally, we can work in the cabbage fields, squat down and give birth, bite off the umbilical cord with our teeth and keep right on working. What I’m trying to say is that by no stretch of the imagination do I have the type of legs that will look anything but disturbing in sports equipment. That’s running shorts, ankle weights, leotards and especially roller-blading kneepads. In fact, just pulling them on over my stubby muscular legs was a scarring emotional experience. I did not look like the long-leggy blond on the packaging. In fact, I did not look like a female of the species at all. As I struggled to get them over my thick calves and finally placed them on my fat knees I realized that the blood had ceased to flow into my feet and my toes were turning blue. At least these kneepads, unlike the wrist manacles, allowed movement. I supposed they had to otherwise it would look like an production of Frankenstein on Ice.
I was willing to take the risk that I might fall and break something. However, Michael was a worrier so I compromised and said I would try them. He assured me that when we went on vacation all the people we were going with would look like this. For some reason this mental picture was not at all comforting.
We were going on vacation with Michael’s childhood friends and their wives. Michael’s best friend’s wife is slightly older than I am but she has always been motivated by some kind of inner trainer who makes her tow the line. She gets up at six a.m. so she can perform an hour of aerobics before she leaves for work. When she gets home she walks with her dogs in rain, sun, sleet or acts of God. She weighs about 10 pounds less than I did in the 8th grade and is a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. This is a feat I have tried to accomplish approximately 27 times. I am on the Weight Watchers’ List of Lost Causes. They send me literature, sympathy cards, and coupons for diet chocolates. There is a photo of me on every Weight Watchers’ bulletin board on the East Coast with the caption, “Have you seen this women? If so, approach with caution and do NOT feed.” Patty, on the other hand, weighs in every month WITH her shoes ON. She is always at or under goal. I was sure she’d look perky in her kneepads. She’d probably wear a sports bra so she could get some sun. She would probably not jiggle… anywhere.
Michael’s other friend’s wife is a total nightmare. She is one of those petite thin people who can eat anything and everything. She works for a national candy manufacturer but still looks like she can fit into her high school cheerleader uniform. She’s naturally athletic and is so relaxed about her good fortune that you can’t even effectively hate her for it. I imagine her effortlessly roller-blading uphill with her two pre-teen boys playfully waiting for the rest of us to catch up. I’m sure she had to go into the children’s department to get kneepads that would stay up.
Michael’s cousin’s wife is my only safety zone. She and I would lag behind and console each other by blaming genetics and our mothers who over-fed us as children. One or the other of us would get a spasm and the other would kindly offer to wait it out with the afflicted. If we stood next to each other in our kneepads it would give us the illusion that we did not look misshapen.
I’ve said nothing about the boys so far. They are all under the illusion that time has stood still for them. They will not be able to understand why they can’t move their legs the day after roller-blading. They will blame the pain on sun poisoning or bad shellfish. They too will get spasms but when they get them and insist they need to use the men’s room. They’ll sit on the can to catch their breath. Everyone will be trying to keep up the delusion that they are not wracked by aches and pains. When the vacation is over at least one of the guys will need hospitalization or protracted medical attention.
So, I had to prepare for the active athletic vacation arranged by my delusional ex-boyfriend and his buddies. I had to go out on my street with my roller-blades and my roller-blading equipment to see if after I was all garbed out I could still balance. I longed for simpler times of skinned knees and bruised hands but that was way before I worried about my daily calcium intake. If I practiced enough I though I too could give the illusion that I was not in serious distress and would rather be sucking down Mint Juleps by the pool.
The vacation came and went. Funny thing is, we never put on the rollerblades and I have since sent them to Goodwill. It’s easy to work yourself up into a frenzy…and sometimes more strenuous than the actual event itself.