River City Jules: Introducing the River City roller

For all my fellow Gen X-ers who find themselves sitting around with friends, grumbling about how times have changed, lamenting the passing of their acid-washed, Karma Chameleon childhoods as kids these days bop along with their flat-billed hats and nanopods right before you yell at them to get off your lawn, I have found a time machine guaranteed to take you back and make you feel totally awesome again, if only for two glorious hours: the skating rink.

Luke and Caroline were invited to a birthday party, and I, having little else to do on a Sunday afternoon, tagged along.

Immediately upon opening the highly secure door I was hit with that old familiar smell of sweaty feet and Bananarama. The same brown high-top roller skates with orange wheels and frayed laces waited for me on the same carpet-covered counter manned by the same 20-year-old attendant who was at my own Skateland South from the ’70s and ’80s.

Only this time he called me “ma’am.”

My nerves were on edge as I laced up. Would I remember how to go? Would I remember how to stop? Would I remember all my old moves with such fervor that I finally follow my heart’s very first dream and hit the pro-am roller skating circuit, creating my own Hamill-camel and catapulting the art to such popularity that everyone will want my haircut and Clairol will pay for my highlights?

“Mom, can you help me?” Caroline asked, wobbling to her feet and breaking up the fight Shaun Cassidy, George Michael and Sting were having over me (and my new highlights) in my head. I grabbed her hand and led her onto the disco light laden floor, marveling at how my taste has matured over the years, just as Cyndi Lauper hit the speakers.

And girls, they wanna have fu-un, oh girls…

“You know the words?!?” Caroline exclaimed in awe to her suddenly-cool mom dancing in the dark and, apparently, singing out loud.

The rink did not disappoint. There was Jessie, who could skate backward; his girl, who could turn on one foot; and Jack and Diane skating with their arms criss-crossed in front. I skipped the limbo this time (though, for the record, I once came in second in 1985), but I did do “YMCA,” and we all partied like it was 1999.

Then, like all good things, the Sunday session came to an end, this time with the Snowball. I watched kids pair off, hoping against all odds that the blue-eyed boy I’d walked in with would ask me to skate, but he was hanging with his friends and didn’t even notice me. Which was strangely reassuring, as that was exactly how I remembered every couple skate from my youth playing out before.

So, my dear friends embracing your 40s like you might a cactus, meet me at Sk8away, and we can forget all about our mortgages and wrinkles. I’ll be the one in the corner teasing my bangs, waiting for “Thriller” to begin.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.


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