The Dangers of the Couples Skate

The Dangers of the Couples Skate

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I recently read a column by fellow humor columnist, Jenny Isenman, about one of her most humiliating experiences as a young girl. Since she doesn't have the global reach I do, I thought I would relate the story for her.

During a skating party in 1984, little Jenny was rolling around the rink during a Girls Skate, leg warmers pulled up over her jeans — no, that's not the most humiliating part. I know, that surprised me too! — when she tried to slap hands with an older boy.

Apparently this was a signal. During a Girls Skate, they would slap the outstretched hands of the boys they wanted to Couples Skate with. The boys would stand along the side and stretch out their hands to the girls they wanted to skate with, while the girls hoped the boys they liked had their hands out.

It was an exercise of mutually assured destruction in the self-esteem department.

If a boy stuck his hand out, he could be ignored and rejected, thus subjecting him to a drive-by ridicule; if a girl skated by the boy of her choice, he might keep his hand in, and she would have to skate on, pretending the other girls weren't skating over the tattered remains of her heart.

We never did this kind of thing when I was a kid, growing up in Muncie, Indiana. So I don't know if this was something they only did in Jenny's school, or if no one at my skating parties did it while I was there. Given my Couples Skate record — zero — either scenario is a possibility.

Instead, we received our rejections after asking a girl to her face. That way, she could laugh at you directly for several seconds, rather than giving you the opportunity to whiz by and avoid personal humiliation.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

On this particular day, Jenny had her eye on an older boy, who was standing on the side, watching her skate. He caught her eye, threw out his hand, and she made her way toward him to signal her intentions. When she was inches away, he yanked his hand back and pretended to slick back his hair — the old "psych!" move.

However, her attempts to reach him threw her off balance, and she went careening off the wall crashing to the floor. She skated off to the bathroom, and cried in a stall, while the Couples Skate went on without her.

Personally, when I was a kid, I never saw the point of a Couples Skate. Of course, that's because I never actually had a Couples Skate. For the most part, I went to the skating parties with friends, and we would do what most 11-year-old boys did: farted around and pretended we didn't care if the girls didn't want to skate with us. But we showed off, secretly hoping our goofy antics would make them want to skate with us.

It was delusional optimism on our parts, since they never wanted to spend time with us during the rest of the year either. Why would a skating rink be any different?

So we body checked each other into the kiln-hardened 2 x 8 ledge that doubled as a landing zone for young skaters faces, and stood around during Couples Skates, making fun of the boys who were skating with girls.

We made fun of these boys partly because we were jealous of their successes, but mostly because we were still at the age this as a treasonous action against our gender.

We knew girls were supposed to be interesting, but we weren't quite sure why. So for the next year or so, we continued to goof off, show off, and get blown off by the girls in our class, never quite realizing they weren't as impressed by our antics as we were. We were happy to live our lives on Planet Boy, as humorist Stuart McLean calls it.

But we only had to face this rejection on wheels for a couple more years, up through middle school. That's when we started finding girls interesting, but didn't know any other way to get their attention than by goofing off, showing off, and writing awkward notes, still without success.

After that, came high school dances, and the embarrassing rejection most commonly found within a five foot radius of me, usually visited upon me by girls who derived sadistic pleasure from dashing the hopes of young men.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

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