Wheaton’s Way

O, to be young again

A few days ago, I was hauling myself out of a swimming pool, when I thought, “When did this become difficult?”

Completely unlike all those Bond women, ascending as though on air, I was instead clutching the metal railing, dragging myself back into the world of gravity like I had watermelons for ankles.

This weekend, 25 skating enthusiasts will be heading to the Black Pearl Skate Park to raise money for Meals on Wheels. It got me thinking about the things we could do effortlessly when we were young, which would now be big challenges.

For the most part, it seems the only thing that’s like riding a bike is, well, riding a bike.
When I was about 8 years old, I was a hula hoop fiend. You might say I was an advanced hooper. I would start off at the waist and became a dervish, allowing it to drop to near my ankles before spinning like a waterspout to move it back up again. Neck? No problem. Wrists? Please.

I was actually dubbed hula-hooping champion at one of the school competitions – nothing could stop me. I might have joined Cirque du Soleil if it had existed at the time.

The years rolled by, and my heady days of hooping glory were but a distant memory, until I walked into a local shop one day and saw a vibrantly coloured familiar friend in the back corner. How could I resist? I could cast my mind back to the time when I was a sporting hero (sort of), plus maybe I’d lose some weight in the bargain, as hula-hooping was supposed to be great exercise.

I got my new purchase home and was so eager to try it that I left frozen food melting on the counter. I went out to the front step to give myself a wide berth, positioned the hoop around my waist and let it fly. It didn’t make one full revolution before heading earthward at breakneck speed. Hmmm… maybe I was a bit rusty.

Twenty attempts later, with the hoop following exactly the same trajectory every time, I realised that maybe I had lost my gift. Either that, or the hoop was broken.

I was crestfallen. I could no longer call myself a hooper. The hula hoop went into the closet where it tripped me up, without fail, every time I went to look for something.

As I got into my teens, roller skating rinks were all the rage. Anyone remember Turning Point on Eastern Avenue near Kirk Market? It was later called Shireynolds. That was ground zero for roller skating when I was young. Immediately all birthday parties had to be booked there, lest you be labelled uncool by your peers.

I could hold my own in the skates. No one was looking to book me to perform down Rodeo Drive, but I was decent.

I then graduated to ice skates when I was in university in London. Again, Tonya Harding’s entourage wouldn’t have wasted a baton on my knees, but I was able to make it around the rink without crashing, and even started working on my backwards routine before I left the country. It’s a shame I couldn’t put another year into it. I probably would have nailed a quintuple axel in that kind of time.

With all that skating experience in my pocket, it seemed to just make sense to buy a pair of rollerblades when I was in my late 20s. All the celebrities were wearing them and using them for fitness – I got sucked into the marketing.

I could not wait to strap them on and get moving. I imagined the freedom of skating everywhere – to the supermarket, to the beach, to the gym… No longer would I be restricted by the bulk of a car. I would fly, unfettered, through the world.

The moment I stood up, I felt an immediate shift in my confidence. Not unlike a foal with broken legs, I tried to make my way through the kitchen of my apartment, gripping every surface to keep me upright. Red-faced, I dropped onto the couch after moving 20 feet.

Okay, this would be more difficult than I thought.

Two weeks later, I was feeling a bit better about my progress. Time to hit the pavement.

To try and manouevre down two flights of stairs in the anvils with wheels would have been madness, so I walked down barefoot and got the blades back on at the bottom. The apartment was on West Bay Road near Lone Star, so my debut would be witnessed by one of the busiest traffic areas on the island.

I had only gone a few inches before realising that one thing the pavement had that my living room did not was pebbles. Without possessing the skill and experience needed to keep one’s balance in such conditions, I quickly found myself wobbling and weaving unevenly along the unforgiving surface. As this slowed my forward momentum to a crawl, I was about to fall prey to the ramps at condo entrances. With speed, I could have just powered across them, but at 0.1 miles per hour, my wheels followed the ramp, sending me off at a 90-degree angle, right into the main road.

Mercifully, there were no cars nearby, and it’s not like I made it to the median or anything, but one minute of windmill arms, followed by bending at the waist to creep back to safety, was enough for one day. I got a couple of honks of appreciation and peals of laughter from dear friends who had witnessed the scene. Needless to say, the rollerblades were stored soon after.

When I was younger, I used to wear heels all the time. I’m talking 4-5-inch things with only a spindly post between my foot and the ground.

Last weekend, I decided to go through my shoes, and found some beauties I had all but completely forgotten about. I was particularly delighted to rediscover some sparkly boots with a 4-inch stiletto in the back. I had to try them on immediately.

I’ll just leave it there.

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