Many of my friends went ice skating this past Monday.
I did not.
For those of you struggling to understand why, may I just take a moment to call attention to the time I got a black eye from my cat, or the time I walked into a tree, or my graceless stop, drop, and roll routine on my way to my car.
If that still doesn't convince you that I should never be allowed to try maintaining my balance on a sheet of ice with a potential weapon strapped to my feet, I thought I'd tell you about my last foray into the sport of ice skating.
In my childhood, with much practice, I became a decent roller skater. I didn't do tight little spins or jumps but I could hold my own comfortably at high speeds without worrying that I would take out a toddler or flip over the half-wall and land in somebody's pizza.
When my friends broached the concept of ice skating with me, I initially balked because a) I lack basic balance and coordination and b) I lack basic balance and coordination. They tossed all of my objections out the window with the logical argument that if I could roller skate, I could ice skate.
This is a falsehood of enormous proportions.
For one, roller skates have four wheels. Four. They are like mini-SUVs. There's no wobbling around on a blade thin enough to slice deli meat.
For another, roller rinks are notoriously non-slippery. No one expects you to maintain your balance on a surface that, were it located on the roads, would cause every driver to pull over and haul out some chains before proceeding with caution.
I, however, believed my friends because I'd always loved to watch figure skating and I was slightly exhilarated by the idea that by mastering clunky roller skates when I was 12, I had unknowingly prepared myself for mastery of the ice as well.
I strapped on a pair of ice skates and stood shakily on the rubber mat outside the rink as doubts began to set in.
"I can't even stand on the mat!" I told my friends. "How will I be able to stand on the ice?"
"It's easier." They lied. "You'll be gliding."
"How do I move forward?" I asked, watching skaters whiz by with various degrees of proficiency.
"Just like roller skates." They lied.
"How do I stop?" I asked.
"Lean to the side a bit and sort of skid to a stop like you're sliding in to home base." They lied.
And then they entered the ice rink and began to skate.
I watched for a moment and, besides one or two little bobbles, no one fell, slammed into the wall, or maimed a toddler. I tried to convince myself that if they could do it, I could do it.
The fact that never once has that argument held up in any kind of sport requiring balance and coordination did not stop me from trying it again.
I entered the rink.
The saw blades strapped to my feet scissored uncontrollably and I grabbed for the wall.
A child was already on the wall.
I could not, in good conscience, take a child down with me so I abandoned plan A.
Plan B involved a very painful collision with the ice.
I was not dismayed. I'd fallen a time or two while learning to roller skate. I'd expected this.
I tried to rise and discovered a little known fact: keeping one's balance on a sheet of ice while wearing butcher knives on one's feet is against the laws of physics.
There are those who can safely flaunt the laws of physics and make it look easy and then there are people like me.
On my third attempt to untangle the heap that was me on the ice, I got the brilliant idea to get on all fours and then slowly inch my legs up to a standing position.
Now I was bent at the waist, with my legs mostly straight, pointing my derriere at anyone who wanted to enter the rink, with my hands glued to the ice to help me keep my balance.
It was time to stand.
I did. I rose from the waist, kept myself erect as I jerked and wobbled, and then decided I needed to move forward.
My friends said it was just like roller skating. I remember the motion of gently pushing out with one foot and then the other to gain momentum. I tentatively mimicked the motion and moved forward with all the grace of a rhino on stilts.
Ignoring the spasmodic jerking of my body as it strove to maintain its already precarious balance, I focused on the positive: I was moving.
I pushed out again with my foot and two things happened simultaneously: One, I gained momentum. Two, my foot refused to return to me.
Now I was moving, alright, and it occured to me that I had neglected to ask my friends how to steer.
Steering, however, was the least of my worries. My left foot was drifting further and further from my body until my body began to scream at me: "Splits! We're doing the splits!!"
"No!" I said firmly to my left leg, and my right, and anything in between. "No splits."
My body didn't listen.
Years earlier, I'd attended gymnastic lessons for months and in the safe, non-icy, no-lethal-weapons-attached-to-me setting, my body had steadfastly refused to do anything remotely resembling the splits.
Now was not the time to remedy my track record.
Nevermind that my flexibility wouldn't allow for the splits and I'd probably rip a tendon or two that would render walking impossible. I was wearing jeans. One does not do the splits in fitted jeans unless one wants to give the crowd more than they paid to see.
"No!" I said again, outloud. "No splits!"
My right leg drifted away from my left leg in direct defiance of my orders. Meanwhile, my struggles had increased my momentum until every person on the rink was in danger of being bull-dozed by a woman doing a 3/4 split with straining jeans, an unfortunate tendency to yell at herself in public and zero ability to steer.
I cast about frantically for any shred of advice from my friends that would help me fix the situation before I did something truly embarassing and called to mind their instructions for stopping.
It was something about sliding into home base.
I was approaching a curve. It was now or never. I shifted my weight to my right, tried to mimick a slide into home base, and flipped into the air instead.
The good news: I did indeed slide to a stop, just like my friends instructed.
The bad news: The wall stopped my slide.
I pulled myself cautiously to my feet and joined the parade of children clinging to the wall, as I made my way around the rink, one baby step at a time, all the while planning a much more interesting use for my ice skates the instant I saw my friends.