It has become clear to me that when someone turns 30, there is absolutely nothing you can do for them other than throw them a 70s Disco Funky Roller Skating Party.
We did this for Sister 2 on Saturday.
Sister 2 is graceful, chic and reserved. She is also a complete awkward, nerdy nutball. I’ve known this since she developed a personality, but her friends have a real grasp on it. She also loves parties and loves to celebrate her birthday. The semi-surprise skating party was not my idea; I was just along for the roll. BIL (brother-in-law) 2 and their friends planned the event. Sort of flawlessly. Aside from the fact that someone may or may not have had to go to the ER afterward.
As the ’70s Disco Funky Roller Skating Party name may suggest, there were outfits. I’ll hit the highlights. First of all, every woman there sported blue-green eyeshadow. Some of it was sparkly. Sister 2’s outfits had been purchased for her by her friends: for pre-game, a lame’ funkadelic rainbow tie-dyed halter-topped bell-bottomed skin-tight unitard, false eyelashes and platform shoes. She’s 5’8 1/2″ barefoot, so in this get-up, she looked like an Amazon woman. A brick house. Plus she’s got long blonde hair, which was curled back at the ends. For skating, she changed into Olivia Newton-John circa 1982 (a chancy dodge of the ’70s vibe), in those glittery stockings that are impossible to put on or take off, super-short, satiny, hot pink shorts, a white shirt covered with a hot pink off-the-shoulder 3/4 sleeve top, and (the ’70s prequel to the legwarmer) tube socks with hot pink stripes around the calves.
BIL 1 looked like Chester the Molester in a semi-see-through button-down rolled sleeve shirt with breast pockets and the top four buttons undone to show off his rather copious chest hair, plus red polyester pants, a diagonally striped belt and a pair of driving mocs. Plus a pair of gold-rimmed sunglasses, some slicked back hair, and some fine shaving work that pared his full beard down to mutton chops and a mustache. When we got to the skating rink, I was a little surprised that there was no photo of him posted on the door with a big, block-lettered message warning everyone not to let him in because it was dangerous for him to be around children. Before he left the house, he told Twin Nephs that if anybody who looked like him ever tried to talk to them, they should run away.
I myself had nothing disco-y on hand. Instead, I opted for JC Penney’s catalog circa 1979: higher-waisted, dark, flare-legged jeans, a very striped almost butterfly collared button-down shirt with the sleeves folded back, tightly tucked in and finished with a skinny red belt. I was going to do the Farrah Fawcett thing to my hair, but I couldn’t bear to go quite that far with the look knowing I’d have to get gas and stop at toll booths, so my hair hung flatly from its center part.
We pre-gamed briefly at a local watering hole and then swept into the skating rink where we descended on the poor retiree at the skate rental desk with reckless fervor.
This is probably the part where I should mention I have not been on roller skates in at least 20 years.
First order of business after lacing up my skates (which were oddly wet in spots – I chose to believe the rental desk guy had just thoroughly disinfected them with anti-fungal spray) was to relieve my bladder, straining from a road trip twice as long as it should have been due to traffic, and compounded by a beer. Skating on carpet is trickier than I remembered. I struggled to figure it out. Do I skate? Do I walk? Capable of neither, I sort of half-assed it with a combination of the two, punctuating my moves with occasional arm-wheelies for balance retention.
When I got to the bathroom, I was confronted with a tile floor. Huh. This could be a scene. And me without my LifeAlert. I stutter-skatewalked to a stall, bursting for relief, and slowly rolled in.
And then I couldn’t turn around.
I stood there, facing the toilet. Strategizing.
I slowly worked myself around in tiny little controlled baby steps so that I was facing the stall door. Thinking I was home free, I got myself situated and began to assume the position. My bladder contracted excitedly.
I don’t know about you, but public bathrooms always make my mother’s voice ring in my head, so I squat instead of sitting. I crouched.
And rooolllled into the stall door. Thunk.
Muttering under my breath, jeans around my knees, growing increasingly sure that I would kill myself on the skating rink, I pushed myself back toward the toilet. Sorry, Mom. I have to sit. That proved a bit harder than I anticipated, because the toilet was set for the children who frequent these kinds of establishments and not grown women who are at least 5’10” in these skates. But I managed not to bust my ass or my face.
Finally comfortable again, I made my way back out as everyone was laced up and venturing onto the rink’s wood floor. With a little trepidation, I clopped out and made my initial effort. I think I went about three feet in the first minute. I couldn’t seem to recall how to coordinate my movements to propel myself forward.
Skating, turns out, is not like riding a bike.
Eventually I remembered how to use my hip muscles to get going, and I sang along to the far-out tunes that were blasting from the DJ’s corner. But the muscles I worked much more than I had as a grade school skater were the ones in my arms. The flapping was frequent. I haven’t seen the video yet, but since there were no fewer than six cameras there, I’m sure it’ll turn up, and I’m sure I will look like a Grade A Freak Show. Ass out, knees bent, then the sudden and uncontrollable switch to the ass-in, shoulders back position, followed by the ever-so-graceful Arm Flail, orange-wheeled feet slapping the floor fruitlessly in search of purchase, sometimes punctuated by the verbal “Ooah! Whoa! Oof! Ah!”
Yes, it is a seductive dance.
It took maybe 20 minutes for me to find something I could loosely call my groove thing. The rink was a little rougher than I remember them being in my day, and I couldn’t really steer. Turning the corners became a hodge-podge effort, positionally, as I couldn’t quite get secure enough to do that thing where you cross one foot over the other. But though I was struggling a bit, I certainly wasn’t the only one. BIL 2 and his friends, who used to be actual skaters as teenagers and have played a fair amount of roller and ice hockey, were pretty self-assured, but the girls were all awkward all these years past junior high skating parties. And one friend, who’s not even from the US, had never been on skates before in his life. He inched his way around the rink, staring at his feet, tight white jeans and chest-baring shirt flashing under the blacklights.
Brave, secure man.
Just when we had gotten our mojo together in a somewhat controllable way, it was time to see how low we could go. Limbo! No, not bending backward. You’re guaranteed to crack your head open that way. You have to squat.
Squatting would prove to be my Achilles Heel throughout the day.
I managed to make it through four rounds of limbo before my knees – and my jeans – would no longer let me get low enough. I rolled under the bar and my weight shifted. Next thing I knew I was on my ass. Out of the game. Hysterically laughing. Good thing I had already peed.
Next up: Elimination. All skate until the music stops. Then, get to a corner. The DJ decides randomly which corner will be eliminated. I worked up a good bit of speed and then the music cut out, and I remembered I had absolutely no idea how to stop. “Aaaaahhhhh I’m gonna die!” I yelled as I hurtled toward a cinderblock wall.
That’s how you stop.
One of Sister & BIL 2’s friends used to actually work at a skating rink, and he is serious about his games and his rules. He’s a big guy and he spoke with a great deal of authority. But in polyester pants and a wild print shirt, a medallion glinting in his chest hair, it was hard to respect him. He laid down the orders for game #3: Roller Relay Races. The boys gave themselves over to chivalry and didn’t totally wipe up the floor with us. Then it was on to game #4. Form teams of 5. The first four people crouch in a straight line like leap-froggers. The fifth person stands at the back and it’s their job to push the crouched line down the rink, around a bowling pin and back.
The first problem with this game, obviously, is going to be the sustained crouching. It wasn’t long before Roller Ruler was met with protests from near the floor: “Um, can you hurry it up with the rules, dude? I’m dying here. My knees…”
Sister 1 groaned in front of me as I clutched her waist. “Can Apolo Anton Ohno sub in for
me?” I asked.
“Don’t make me laugh, I’ll wet myself!” she warned.
Roller Ruler sounded off. “Ready? GO!”
Emphatic urging and shouting erupted from each line, along with grunting and laughing. Sister 2 pushed from behind me in a fit of competitive energy. “Let’s go let’s go let’s go let’s go!” she cried, brow furrowed. But all of three feet from the starting line, my right leg went away. Just… drifted off errantly. And I was once again on my keester.
Sister 2 looked back at me, torn. “Go!” I yelled, motioning over my head for the team to go on without me.
“I gotta leave you behind!” she yelled.
“Go!” I urged. “Save yourselves!”
Unofficial game #5, by the way, was the Getting Up Game. As in: get up off the floor, you pathetic, inflexible creature. Oh, many of us played. I think BIL 2 had the most spectacular wipeout, actually, because he went down hard and fast at the center of the rink, THWACK!, hefty gold chains rattling around his neck and hitting him in the face.
Game #6 involved hula hoops and holding hands in a chain like Red Rover. The mission: pass your own body completely through the hula hoop, and then pass it on to the next person in the chain, without letting go of their hand. The hoop had to make it all the way to the end of the human chain and back. My team won. Woot!
But the game that did us in for good was game #7: Over/Under. We formed two lines, single file, facing forward. The object was to stand still and pass a ball backward, and then forward. The first person had to pass the ball over her head to the second person, who had to go under her legs to the third person, who went over his head, etc. But on the return pass, one of the girls on the other team lost her footing and went down hard. She tripped up a second girl, who came down awkwardly on her own hand, and that triggered the fall of a third girl, who landed on top of the second girl. Everybody laughed and laughed and laughed, and one of the guys skated around the pile in a circle, taking video, “Aaaahaha, this is gonna be so great on YouTube!”… until we realized the second girl was crying.
“Uh, free skate,” Roller Ruler directed us awkwardly so we would stop staring at her. I felt bad for her, though I have to say I was relieved not to be the one who wound up sitting on the sidelines with ice on her wrist, debating a trip to the hospital. I did that at a skating party in fourth grade. Hairline fracture. Didn’t dig it.
There was a debacle when one of the hula hoops came apart on the rink and scattered 5,327 little black plastic beads all over the place. I nearly took a header skating through them, but I thought I had just hit some sort of weird patch of floor. And then someone who came after me actually did take a header. Next it was eight people in outlandish outfits, on hands and knees picking up these little beads. The loser teenaged rink employee (and you knew there had to be one) came out with a sad little broom and dustpan while we worked on gathering all the marbles. It wasn’t until we were almost done that he left the floor and came back with a giant push broom.
Douche. You think it’s funny to watch people twice your age crawl around in wigs and ill-fitting poly-blend, picking up tiny plastic bits they can’t even see in the roller rink darkness? One of us has already split his pants. When I get up off this floor I’m gonna kick your ass.
I had a Slurpee for the first time since my senior year of high school, and Sister 2 had a Ring Pop, which she licked blissfully while batting her fake eyelashes and swishing by in her satiny shorts and sparkly stockings. And when two hours were up, we took a group photo on the rink, rolled off the floor and reclaimed our grown-up shoes. Plans were made for doses of ibuprofen before bed. We all headed back to Sister & BIL 2’s house for a cookout. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t wonder at all why the cast of “Welcome Back, Kotter” had appeared in the yard. When I got back in the car for the road trip home, I rubbed off the blue-green eyeshadow. Getting out of the car in front of my building, I had hints of the soreness to come.
I can’t say for sure, since we had a blast, but at this point it’s probably wise to hang up my roller skates for good.
Kind of a bummer, man.