The underground roller skating scene in Worcester won’t laugh if you fall
A few months ago when the Skylight Roller Skating Center announced it was closing, I bought myself a pair of their signature skates with the full intention of training. I finally dusted them off this week and headed for an undisclosed outdoor meetup with the roller girls of Worcester, perfectly prepared to publicly humiliate me.
The first people to greet me were the infamous wheelie kids, who I developed a soft spot for after watching “508 The Takeover”. Skateboarders practiced tricks in the center of concrete, orbited by inline skates, scooters and bicycle gears. A wave of roller skates rolled down the winding ramp towards me. I felt tiny in my dress shoes, a head below everyone else.
It took me a long time to find my legs. Despite years of attending Skylight birthday parties, I never really got the whole thing about skating. I did understand, however, that waving my arms gracefully helps distract me from the chaos going on below my waist. No one particularly cared how well I could skate, they were just happy that I came.
Feeling a genuine sense of community over the past 12 months has been an inevitable challenge. I am grateful to a circle of friends with “Moxie” – by the way, also the name of Amy Poehler’s over-simplified and yet overwhelmingly watchable adolescent feminist film. The women around me are ready to brave the 10 degree wind chills to sit together in my driveway and drink sizzling cups of hot chocolate. A few weeks ago they convinced me to try snowboarding for the first time and then showed great patience as their adult companion ostensibly struggled on Rabbit Hill. Yesterday we got together on a cross country ski trail and tried something new for all of us. The pandemic has brought my friends closer together by forcing us out of our comfort zones time and time again.
I shouldn’t have been surprised mid-skate when a Bean Counter Oreo cookie cake came out of nowhere with sparklers flashing in honor of a personal milestone. We waved paper plates at candles to blow them out and spread slices for everyone on wheels. I tied my laces twice for a victory lap.
At that point a new team arrived, dressed in 70s disco outfits. The leader tossed us a stack of flashy tops and a salmon blazer and asked everyone to get dressed. She was wearing a metallic windbreaker and a pair of heart-shaped glasses. No one asked any questions. We did what we were told.
My skates got more comfortable as the night wore on. We cheered on the brave ones who attempted jumps and tricks. Everyone has had a fall or two; I took 10.
I asked if there was a ladies room nearby and the main disco girl told me I could try the restaurant next door. Three of us sped towards the exit, and by the time I realized we hadn’t thought to take our shoes off, we were too far away.
When the hostess asked if she could help us, I just smiled and asked gently, “Where is your toilet? “
She looked confused and pointed us down the hall. We skated past her like it was quite ordinary for a group of women in their thirties to walk through the dining room at 10pm on a Wednesday night. When the bathroom door closed behind us, we had a nervous breakdown. I had forgotten what it was to laugh like that, arrogant and rowdy. My cheeks hurt. We promised to come back to the restaurant soon and tip like bigwigs.
The law of diminishing returns is a funny thing. My friends and I used to see each other in person almost every day because we went to the same places all the time with the same people all the time. Now we set goals and plan like stunned little kids on a scavenger hunt. We value the quality time we spend together, even if it means being cold and falling on our butt. We’re not shy about failing in skating, snowboarding, cross-country skiing or whatever, because we’ve been so spectacularly successful in friendship.
Want to put on our shoes? DM me on Instagram @sarah_connell and I’ll fill you in.