Skating into middle age

When it comes to certain trends, I am proud to say I am a little behind the curve. Take, for example, that fact that I have never been able to bring myself to get a tattoo or that I do not own a pair of Crocs (although I will admit that I do own a pair of their ancient predecessors bought several years ago that never go beyond the privacy of my own back yard).

Blame it on conservative Midwestern roots that eschew anything that could embarrass or call unnecessary attention to oneself or one’s family. You know, like hot pink plastic clogs or a cute, little butterfly that, thanks to the wonders of middle age, withers to a snarling gargoyle. Plus, there’s always the practicality issue. Why spend $30 on a flimsy piece of rubber when that money could be better spent on something sensible that actually has laces and doesn’t squeak when you walk (again, getting back to the whole unnecessary attention thing)?

Then there’s the part of me that I like to refer to as “retro.” OK, maybe by some little whippersnapper’s standards, it may be considered old fashioned or, god forbid, “mommish.” Call it what you will, but there’s something to be said for the classics – mainly anything made of plain cotton in the colors black, brown or blackish-brown. They’re so familiar. So safe.

Which is why I find it hard to explain how I came about contemplating the purchase of a new skateboard. Not only would it be highly impractical, but seeing as how I haven’t been on one since Farrah Fawcett made them all the rage in 1978, it would likely prove extremely unsafe as well. Furthermore, nothing screams “look at me” quite like a gripped, middle-aged woman perched atop a child’s toy, careening down city sidestreets at top speeds of 2 mph.

But when I ran into a friend who was trying to unload her son’s board after his second brush with death, I found my inner Farrah screaming out. Next thing I know, she’s asking to take it out for a test drive, skinned knees, broken bones and sniggering neighbors be damned. Unfortunately, by the time I showed up to actually follow through on the threat, Farrah was nowhere to be found.

Granted, the board in question was a longboard, sort of the skateboarding world’s answer to the Lazy Boy recliner. But when your knees creak like an old rocking chair on a good day, and you’ve been known to trip over your own shadow, the prospect of hurtling along with nothing but four small rubber wheels separating you from the world’s worst case of road rash can be downright terrifying. “You go first,” I begged the spousal unit, who had been brought along to provide moral support and technical expertise, seeing as how he was the only one in the family who actually knew how to skateboard. He hopped on, pushed up the empty street and effortlessly carved a set of turns back to where we all stood. Suddenly, all eyes were on me. “Well? Take it for a spin,” they demanded.

“You mean right now?” I balked as my knees began to instinctually lock up in self defense. “It’s … it’s … too dark,” I stammered.

But they all just balked back, and I soon found myself feebly grasping my wooden death plank and awkwardly placing it on the ground. Tentatively, I stepped one foot on the sticky black deck and then the other. I stood, or I should say wobbled, for a moment to collect my courage when, as if things weren’t bad enough, I was informed that I was “goofy.” Of course, I could’ve saved everyone from this observation even before I got on. Needless to say, my maiden voyage did little to alleviate my new designation. I went all of 5 feet, round trip, on that harrowing first venture. But the good news was, I lived to tell about it, and since it was dark, the humiliation factor was kept to a minimum. I took this – and the fact that the board was brown and black (nice, safe colors) – as a good omen. And after a tearful goodbye from its rightful guardian, I pried the board from the 17-year-old’s clutches (it was for own good, I told him) and walked away the proud new owner of my very own Gordon Smith fibreflex.

OK, so it sounds more like a box of regulative cereal than a sleek, hipster mobile, and I wouldn’t know old Gordon if he ollied into me. But, fueled by a little liquid courage over the next few nights, Gordon and I got to know each other better, although I wouldn’t exactly say we were fast friends. It was more of a gradual process, as I worked my way up from conquering my street, to the next one over, until eventually, I threw caution to the wind and circled the whole damned block. Soon, my little trip around the block became a daily ritual, a chance to unwind and reconnect with my inner Charlie’s Angel. “Mommy’s just going on a little ride around the block,” I’d say as I put my shades down and pressed urethane to asphalt.

OK, so I looked about as relaxed up there as Washington crossing the Potomac, and I have yet to master corners or anything with a gradient over 1 percent. And, yeah, maybe khaki capris and sensible tennies aren’t exactly in keeping with the rebellious skateboarder persona. But the fact is, whenever I get on, I just can’t help but get the permagrin going, no matter how stupid I may look. And apparently, there are some who don’t think it’s so stupid after all. Just the other day, as I finished my daily jaunt, I came upon another mother walking with two small children in tow. She looked at me sideways, stopped and asked, “Do you mind if I try that out?”

I more than happily obliged as she gingerly stepped on, coasted a few feet and came back, permagrin intact. “Thanks. Where do I get one of those?”

I sent her away with the names of a few local skate shops and said I hoped to see her out shredding it up soon. And who knows? Maybe some day there’d be a whole posse of us out there – capris, tennies, purses and all. And for once, instead of being behind the curve, I’d actually be riding on top of it.

– Missy Votel



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Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale