When I was 10 the coolest thing around was the roller skating rink. If “coolest” didn’t show my age I’m sure the skating rink bit did, but then again I’m a slightly out of touch on what’s hip with the kids these days, so maybe cool is still cool. I guess I need to have some kids so I can know what’s cool again even though parenthood inevitably makes me uncool with both my friends and kids alike. The skating rink always smelled of stale popcorn and sweaty teenagers, but I loved it. My mom would take me every weekend for months. Until one of the “punk teenagers” pushed her and she broke both her arms, yes both her arms! My father nearly killed the kid, like seriously. You don’t know my dad. Anyway, getting off topic here. I so desperately wanted to be one of the cool pretty girls. I wanted to dress like them and talk like them and be picked first for the couples skate. Unfortunately, I was a frizzy red headed slightly overweight tragically fashion challenged very loud and awkward little girl. Need more of a visual? You know that little girl in a bumble bee outfit tap dancing for like homeless dudes in the “rain” video by Blind Mellon? Yea. Pretty much like that. Look it up, early 90’s, tragic little girl, just like me. What ever happen to them?
Anyway, None the less, try I did, to fit in with the pretty cool girls. One such desperate attempt to be a cool girl was made up of a plaid skirt, knee high socks and a button down shirt. Maybe I was channeling my inner Britney Spears. Anyways, I clang to the only other girl in the rink near my age thinking strength in numbers. She was a foul mouthed too short for her age gum in chewing confident runt. I wasn’t sure where all that confidence was being created in that bite size little body. We skated into the bathroom where the runt pulled out a small bottle of liquid from her even smaller training bra. She held it to her nose and inhaled “want some?” she asked pushing it into my face. It smelled like my dad on a day he forgot to use deodorant and compensated with what he called “foo foo juice”. I wrinkled my nose and turned away to cough saying “Why would I want that? You know that’s men’s cologne, right?”. The runt started rubbing the cologne on her neck laughing at my ignorance “Yea, I know it’s cologne doofus, I like to smell like men have been all over me”. I decided I was OK with not smelling like men had been all over me, that seemed like something I wasn’t cool enough to pull off and people would just think I’d lost a fight with a skunk. The cool older boy that worked Saturday’s playing music and making announcements came over the loud scratchy speaker “Ok kids, it’s time for snow ball, girls on the left and guys on the right! You know the drill, once around then rink and then grab a new partner”. I nearly fell on my butt as the girls put away their lip gloss and ran screaming out of the bathroom to line up against the wall. I hated snow ball. It was my most dreaded part of the night, I like shoot the duck or fast skate, those only took skill.
Snow ball took coolness and being pretty and thin. It was kind of a stupid name, I always thought, because it made no sense at all. Now that I am an adult, I think some sick 40 something dude made it up and laughed hysterically at these unknowing teens happily running out to participate in “snow balling” each other. Ew. I just threw up in my mouth a little thinking about that and the scent from the rink came rolling back to me. Anyway, here I am on the wall of shame waiting for anyone to ask me to skate but even the dirty stinky boy passes me up for the girl next to me who puts out her hand without extending her arm and making a face like she was sucking on a lemon. Even the stinky boy passed me up. The runt had already been around the rink with three boys as I stand pathetically against the now empty girl side wall. I think about skating back to the benches, where at least I can appear not to care with the other SMART rejects that didn’t even attempt to stand on the wall. The runt comes over and does some fancy toe turn to rest up against the wall next to me since she was so tired after skating with so many boys. Bitch. Anyway, she goes “Why haven’t you skated with any boys” and I’m like “I dunno, maybe I look silly in my knee high socks, like maybe they only look cool when you’re not in roller skates, or maybe I should have smelled like men have been all over me or maybe…” she finally looked over at me and took a break from making google eyes at the boys passing by. She tilted her head smacking her gum and chewing like a new born cow.
She looked absolutely puzzled by what I was saying and I thought perhaps I needed to explain further my concern with my knee high socks, but she looks at me and starts talking so I don’t get the chance, “If you think you’re pretty, you’re pretty” she said in a high pitch squeal before skating off with boy number four. I felt like I had been hit with a sludge hammer. I repeated what she said to me, out loud, as she faded into the dark strobe lights of the romantic snow ball skate. “If I think I am pretty, I am pretty?” I asked out loud. What the hell does that mean? What do my socks and my scent have to do with how pretty I am? Until that moment it actually legitimately didn’t occur to me that anything like that would factor into how pretty I was. Not only did these things not factor in, but being pretty never even really occurred to me. Like, sure the boys weren’t asking me to skate, but it legitimately never occurred to me that it had anything to do with whether I was pretty or not. So, I rolled my silly socks down, turned my back to the rink and decided I was pretty. I decided I thought I was pretty that night, then I didn’t care if anyone asked me to skate. It’d just discovered this major secret, that I was pretty. So, I starred at the wall through the whole Whitney Houston song and counted the lines, for each line I repeated, “I’m pretty”. Seriously, I was 10 and this actually happened.
So, here I am feeling really good about myself and doing positive affirmation (before I knew what that was) and do you know what happened? Actually. Nothing. No one asked me to skate, but I strolled off that skate deck like I was a model on a run way and I did not give a shit. That felt really good. So, maybe it didn’t matter if a boy asked me to skate. In fact, I didn’t even bother getting up for the next “Snow Ball” skate. I waited until the skilled skating challenges and I won a trophy. I wish I could say that night changed my life. I wish I could tell you I didn’t struggle with eating disorders or seeking unhealthy attention, but I can’t. All I can say is, when I think back on that night, I think about the life long struggle I have had to get where I am today and that is empowering. One day, I hope I can meet a frizzy red headed slightly overweight tragically fashioned challenged very loud and awkward little girl and tell her “own that shit”. Because one day, none of this will matter and the fact that you are brilliant like no other will matter. I’ve had my fair skates with boys now that I am an adult, and it’s not all that great. Although, the affirmations followed me through life, so I guess I have something to thank that little smells like lots of men runt for.