1981 for a Day

Ok, how much fun is roller skating? I just got home from taking my son to his friend’s birthday party at the Sunshine Roller Skating Centre, and while he took off his skates after five minutes, it turns out I still have a need for speed.

As soon as I laced up my clunky four-wheel skates, I was transported back to the days when going skating was the height of my week. It was a great age, when hearts were won and lost in the glitter of the roller rink’s disco ball.

You could tell how serious a relationship was just by watching the couple skate. ‘Just friends’ would skate side by side. Holding hands was serious and if you saw a couple doing the double hand hold (which required one partner to skate backwards), they were practically prenuptial. A late night – i.e. 8:30pm – rendezvous in the darkened corner of the rink was likely to lead to making out.

Or so I was told. I personally never made out at the roller rink. My most romantic moment came the night the only other person I knew at the rink was the cutest, most popular boy in my class. He didn’t know anyone but me, so we ended up talking a lot that night.

Then it came time for the sadistic slow skate in which the girls would line up against one wall with the boys opposite them across the rink. The courageous boys had to skate the length of the rink to ask a girl to skate, and if she said no, it was public humiliation for him – but double for any girl left standing on her own.

I usually didn’t line up for the slow skate because I was pretty sure no boy would ask me, but on this particular night, when they called for the slow skate and I sat down to wait out the horror, the cute boy said, “Aren’t you coming?” Not only did he ask me to skate, we HELD HANDS! It was magic.

It was a different time. None of us had cell phones or PlayStations or tattoos and there was no such thing as the internet. When I was very young, I used to go skating with my family. What did my parents do while I was out skating? I have no memory of them. I only remember being lost in the thumping music, singing as loud as I wanted while I skated as fast as I could.

There was no such thing as a person not knowing how to skate back then. If you couldn’t skate, how would you ever get a boyfriend? How else would you learn to fall with grace and humour and then get back up again? How else would you figure out what to say to get the DJ to play your favourite song?

I was usually successful with “It’s my friend’s birthday and she loves that song – could you please please please play it?” but then I didn’t have cleavage to work with like I do now. Ok, today’s DJ couldn’t have been older than 16, which makes him particularly susceptible to cleavage, but he stopped the music mid-song to play my request – that NEVER would have happened in 1981.

Maybe the Sunshine DJ was just showing respect for the elderly, but I don’t care. There’s about a 30 year gap between the ages of 10 and 40 in which most people worry about looking like a dickhead in public. Thankfully, my window recently closed which means I could skate fast and rap along with Labyrinth as loud as I wanted.

The best part of today, though, was that – after two hours of running around in his socks and jumping on the bouncy castle – my son decided to give skating one more try, and now he likes it so much he’s having his own birthday party at the same roller rink in a couple of weeks.

Yay! 1981, I’ll see you again soon!

6 thoughts on “1981 for a Day

  1. There was a skating rink that I went to on Saturday nights in the early 70’s (while I was in junior high). High school students went there too, but everyone was able to have a good time, unless some boy asked the wrong (i.e. someone else’s) girl to skate with him. We didn’t have the, “slow skate” tradition that you described in your article, but the room was sufficiently darkened (apart from the disco ball) during the, “couple skate” songs, which were always slow, romantic tunes. When we moved away to a smaller town during my eighth grade year, alas, there was no skating rink to be found there. But we still found ways to pass the time during those idle high school years. 🙂

  2. Thank you for unlocking the mystery why I never had a boyfriend in my youth….I could not skate! Thank heavens my one and only was willing to overlook this major character flaw. 🙂

  3. Me too!!! And I was still very proud of myself this weekend when I was still able to do it! ALl the 6 and 7 year olds were enormously impressed 🙂

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