I went to the skating rink recently with my kids. The PTA at our school is made up of a lot of college professors and that means they are like geniuses. And so they have the PTA meeting AT THE SKATING RINK, which is genius. Kids skate. PTA ptas. I don’t usually make it to the PTA part of the evening, so I didn’t pay attention and I’m not sure if this particular night was actually a meeting or just a night at the rink for the girls’ school. But we take full advantage of free fun to occupy our time. So we were there.
Do you know what they have at the skating rink now? A skate buddy. What a skate buddy is, is a walker type contraption made out of PVC caulked together in a tall tipped over 3-D U and mounted on skate wheel casters. The kids stands wobbly on their skates in the middle of the U surrounded by protective PVC and just glide across the hard hard skating rink without ever even knowing how bad it hurts when you fall down on that hard rink and your skates are untied and your knee lands square on the laces.
When I was a kid you learned to skate and you learned to skate fast because you didn’t want to be the kid falling all over the place that everyone would make fun of. And you certainly didn’t want to be on the ground because it was the 80s and everyone had on a No Fear shirt and you could see in their faces that they meant it. Then there was the obligatory older junior high kids holding a roller derby right in the middle of open skate time and you might get killed or even worse your fingers run over.
The fuel that rocketed you from wobbly on wheels to skater extraodinaire was humiliation and fear. Skate or die. (Also when I was a kid it was safe enough to drop your child off at the skating rink on Saturday morning with her friends and pick her back up at noon. So this whole skate rink social was kind of Lord of the Fliesish.)
Then if that wasn’t enough, there was the whole snowball thing. You could A. stand awkwardly on the wall and wait to be picked by the really really cute guy with the No Fear shirt and skater haircut. And you’d be so nervous if he did that you would probably forget how to skate. Or it would be the really really nice but awkward guy who kept offering to help you up when the open skate roller derby threatened your fingers and who is going to someday be the perfect husband. Because somewhere around 25 he’s going to grow into his face and be cuter than the skater dude is now. Plus akward guy will be like a rich and famous social entrepreneur/humanitarian on the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize. But right now he is threatening your very place on the social food chain by picking you to skate around the rink with him and HOLD. HIS. HAND. Or B. You could go hide in the bathroom until Endless Love stopped playing. Then come out and act like you had no clue you had missed it and act all disappointed and stuff.
Any way you skin it though: Humiliation. We knew how fun skating was because we earned it. And it hurt. The immense please of rounding a corner and doing a turn right in front of your friends to skate backward so you can face them while you all sing Hangin’ Tough at the top of your lungs, will be totally lost on kids of the skate buddy generation.
They will skate. Sure. And they will be good at it. Fine. But they will have always expected to be good at it. Never been frustrated by it. And never had the opportunity to feel the success of skating all the way around the rink under the glow of that disco ball for the first time. They will no have a true understanding of how fun it is because they will not have had to struggle to earn it. They will have turned into fine skaters protected by a shield of PVC on wheels. You gotta fall to know how good standing up feels, much less shooting the duck.