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Berating Skating

(I don’t care how quintessential it is)

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Shannon Sorenson

No, dammit – I can’t skate. Not on wheels and not on ice. And besides a brief stint as a hardcore thrasher back in the fourth grade, I can’t even ride a skateboard. Who cares?

I don’t care what you say – I will not be made to feel ashamed about this. Especially ice skating. So what if I never learned? So what if countless kids growing up in the wintery Midwest can ice skate, but I was always too scared? So what if it’s a quintessential Wisconsin pastime? So what? 

Hey kids! Since the weather’s super frigid outside, let’s head down to the neighborhood deathtrap for a good ol’ fashioned frolic! All ya gotta do is strap these massive razor blades onto you feet and then run out onto the most slippery surface in the city. Hey, did we mention the ice is rock hard and it’s 1984 and safety helmets haven’t been invented yet? Anyway, lace up the rusty ol’ knife shoes we rented for you and get on out there! Watch out for the 40 other gawky, uncoordinated kids! Don’t shatter your ankles! 

You can’t make me feel bad. I don’t want to hear one single word about how it’s really not that hard, and if I’d just worked up a little courage decades ago, I could have enjoyed hours of frosty fun, meeting cool new people and making countless wintertime memories. So shut up about that. 

In reality, if I had tried ice skating back when I was a kid, do you know where I’d be right now? Dead. I’d be dead. Because ice skating is (probably) insanely dangerous, and I’m so glad I dodged that chilly bullet. 

How can you even think it looked fun to young Mikey Paulus? 

Hey kids! Since the weather’s super frigid outside, let’s head down to the neighborhood deathtrap for a good ol’ fashioned frolic! All ya gotta do is strap these massive razor blades onto you feet and then run out onto the most slippery surface in the city. Hey, did we mention the ice is rock hard and it’s 1984 and safety helmets haven’t been invented yet? Anyway, lace up the rusty ol’ knife shoes we rented for you and get on out there! Watch out for the 40 other gawky, uncoordinated kids! Don’t shatter your ankles! 

I’m 100% positive this is exactly what an adult said to me one winter long ago.

It’s not hard to find a skating rink – aka “Satan’s Play Pen” – around here. The Chippewa Valley is peppered with outdoor and indoor rinks, allowing us to break limbs and dislocate joints without having to drive longer than 10 minutes from most locations. 

But hey, why stop there? For some people, skating on a regular ol’ sheet of ice just isn’t dangerous enough. No, some morons prefer to find a sheet of ice suspended over an actual, real-life lake. I’m not sure if you know this, but in the wintertime, the water in our lakes gets really freakin’ cold. Like, hypothermia cold. Like, if you drilled a hole into the ice and dipped your foot into the water, it would immediately freeze and shatter like a crystal platter. Boom, no more foot for you, idiot.

And yet. There are people out there (I have met them), who go ice skating on lakes and ponds. They do this on purpose, and totally not because a deranged serial killer is forcing them to play out his demented fantasies. 

You know what? Ice can break. Stay off it. Especially when you’ve got Bowie knives stuck to your feet like some kind of Northwoods Freddy Kruger.

All I’m saying is this: walking can be pretty fun. Just all by itself. You don’t need to introduce extra elements of danger into your recreational scenarios. You don’t need slick surfaces, sharp objects, and near-freezing water. All you need is the blazing blue winter sky above you, a snowy line of pine trees off in the distance, and a few miles of well-shoveled concrete sidewalk, salted and tested to ensure maximum traction. Talk about fun!

Now, don’t be alarmed, but the lunacy outlined above extents to other winter activities as well. Some people add big sticks and hard rubber disks to the equation. Some people mercifully avoid the ice, but they climb to the top of steep, wooded hills with pointy wooden planks clamped onto their boots, only to slide back down, creating a 100% chance of hip dislocation after ramming into trees at high speed. 

And some people? Some people go “cross-country skiing.” As if this world isn’t hard  enough. 

So in conclusion, no, I can’t ice skate. And you can’t make me.