I am an ice skater. To be exact, I’m a person who ice skates on a regular basis, often with a coach or a teacher. I have purchased expensive skates. I go to the skating rink 4 hours a week at minimum.
I like ice skating.
Because I am also 39, this makes for a bit of confusion with the other people my age at the skating rink. A nice lady around my age recently asked me, as I waited for class: “Are you a teacher?”
“No, I’m a student. I think I’m in your daughter’s class.”
“Oh,” she said, and immediately found something very interesting to do elsewhere.
Now, I don’t really know what it’s like to be a young person skater. I’m guessing it’s very competitive and slightly cutthroat. I remember a scene from the recent Tonya Harding movie where Harding’s obsessive mom tells her, “Don’t make friends with them. They’re the enemy.”
I have a feeling that’s the unspoken sentiment.
But, because I’m a bit older and I’m still taking group classes ($70 for 6 weeks v. $120 for 4 weeks in private lessons, you’re damn right I’m in group lessons, son), I’m in a class that includes a girl who is 8, a girl who is 11, and a girl who is 12. They are working on things like scratch spins, Mazurkas, and Waltz jump combinations.
I’m working on not throwing up when I spin around 3 times consecutively.
My teacher seems like a fine skater, but she’s annoyed I’m in the class. And why not? I’m more than twice as old as I should be, and half as competent than all the other students. While she’s showing them how to position their weight correctly on a scratch spin entrance, she’s trying to ignore the fact that I really only want to do about 10 crossovers before my thighs are killing me and I want a candy bar.
I exaggerate, of course. I want 4 candy bars.
As I drive to my ice skating at 5:00am in the morning, I pass a billboard. It is a picture of a flawlessly edited model who is about my age. She has baby-perfect facial features—completely lineless. The text of the billboard says, “Defeat the forces of nature.” There is a phone number for a plastic surgeon below.
Every time I pass, I feel a little smug. I don’t need to defeat the forces of nature. Aging is good, aging is a part of the human process. So what if I have an entire luggage rack below my eyes? So what if my boobs are slipping inevitably towards their final destination: my knees (which make firecracker noises when I do squats)? I’m cool with being almost 40.
But of course, that is what my ice skating is all about, isn’t it? Some people buy fancy cars to remind themselves of when they were young. Some people have affairs, some people get Botox and put their excess ass into their face.
But me? I’m having a mid-ice crisis.
I have always wanted to be a skater. From the time I was 12, I wanted to compete and be on the ice, dancing beautifully to music that moved me. But it was too expensive then (just as it is now), and I didn’t have the time.
Here I am: two children, 4 jobs, and a new house, and I still don’t have the time. But I’m doing it anyway. Because it is my feverish grasp at a youth that I’m never going to return to.
My teacher knows this. All the girls in my class know this. Their moms and my husband know this. And they all sort of pity me. If I was the kind of person who really worried about how people thought of me, I am sure I would quit. Like the great poet, Robert Harrick said in his poem, “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time,” :
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
Basically, it means: Ya gonna get old, lady. So do all your fun stuff now while you still can.
If Herrick saw me, he’d make fun of me too, attempting to tarry forever in my prime. But, I think that it’s not so stupid.
I’m not impossibly old. My prime is still just a couple years behind me. It’s not too late to do a few more of the things that I’ve always wanted to do. Ice skating is one of them. And I’m getting better, I really am.
There is a rose bush that is just a block from our home. When it is in bloom, it is the most beautiful orange and pink you’ve ever seen, like a sunset you can hold in your hand. But when it dies, although it loses the vibrant highlights, it fades slowly—the center white, the tips an antiqued rose.
It is as beautiful in its death as it is in its prime. Two different kinds of beauty, but both completely captivating.
As I reflect on the first 39 years I’ve been alive, I have lived wildly and irrationally. Vibrant is almost passé for the risks and rewards I’ve seen so far. As I look towards the future, I bring with me experience, knowledge, and (dare I admit) wisdom. The same love of life, the same grasping, aching desire for adventure, but with a bit more care to not fall on my knees.
Although I’m the oldest kid in class, I still have the wisdom to be a kid. Although I get nauseated when I do my one-foot spin, I keep on spinning.
Some might choose a different way to gather their rosebuds, but this is mine. And while it includes a lot more falling and a lot more learning and lot more being schooled by 11-year-olds, I think it’s a good way to remind myself that, while the flower of my youth is starting to fade, it’s still alive.
Now, pass me a candy bar. I’m off to the rink.