Welcome to Untethered, a new column by me, a person who has basically never been single in their whole adult life. Herein, I’m publicly committing to, above all else, dating myself and building community around me not based on the relationship escalator — for the indefinite future. I’m curious about what that looks like, genuinely, and hope you’ll explore that with me!
For the first few days of the breakup, I was in shock. I hadn’t expected it, had watched myself from outside myself. Still, it was done.
As the shock seeped down through the strata of my body and my mind and settled into something like the first few stages of grief, I was filled with the urge to move my body. This urge did not manifest in craving the ways I ordinarily moved, but in a longing for new, faster, (more furious?) modes.
So, being one to give into what are surely harmless impulses, I immediately engaged in the following, in chronological order:
Roller-Skating at a Rink for the First Time Since I Was a Child
The weekend following the breakup, I got in my Subaru and drove up to Western New York, sometimes crying ON THE HIGHWAY while going 70 mph. Sure, those Fast and the Furious guys can Tokyo Drift, but have they ever attempted to drive while crying so hard they can’t see? I imagine, actually, maybe, tenderly, yes. Still, it’s not shown. I stopped at my favorite queer-friendly Hot Dog joint in Erie, PA (Lucky Louie’s, if you’re ever in town — also this commercial starring a drag queen is tops), and arrived at my sister’s where she let me crash on her couch. The very next day, the two of us were seized with a desire to do something, anything, and we settled on roller skating.
We wanted old-fashioned, four wheels-per-foot roller-skating, with blacklight and disco balls and Day-Glo murals. We found a rink and cemented our plans. On the way, we stopped at our dad’s, and while we sat out back with his wife, he recounted a story from his high school days. He went to a roller rink with a date, got in a fight with another boy, and had his date come to his defense, yelling “Leave him alone! He can’t even skate!” as he struggled to get up off the floor.
My sister and I drove out of town to the rink, in an area made up of old housing stock and a dive bar. When looking around for someone to rent skates from, we caught sight of several teens with staff shirts doing tricks in the center of the rink. Eventually, one of them noticed us, zoomed over, and provided us with skates in our size. We sat down in a plastic booth and pulled the worn leather weighed down by heavy wheels onto our feet. And I guess I really am my father’s son, because as soon as the skates were strapped on, my sister and I locked eyes, only in that moment understanding the true extent to which we were screwed.
It was a wall-clinging, hand-holding, grimacing time getting acclimated to the fact that we had strapped wheels to our feet. We soon realized we’d paid to humiliate ourselves for the evening, but then comforted ourselves with the fact that we weren’t the only ones struggling, or the only adults struggling for that matter. It was a no-judgment zone, except for the occasional eight-year-old asking us if there was anything they could do to help. We both only fell once, my sister on her butt, and myself into a vogue-style split situation that only bruised my ass a little.
Still, when I got the rhythm together and was zooming around the rink, even making turns, all while a bunch of teens skirted the edge of death on one leg or jumped every time they passed my sister, it scratched that itch I had, the one that said I needed to physically feel like I was flying. And hey, someone complimented my Gay Chaos socks, which do indeed glow under blacklight. I left sore but satisfied — and with a plan to return to the same roller rink with my sister next time I was in town, which I will be by the time you’re reading this.
Spinning and Sliding and Falling and Chafing on a Slippery Pole for Some Reason
So, it had never occurred to me that this might be the case, but you know how sliding down a metal slide in shorts can hurt the heck out of your legs? That’s what a pole-dancing pole felt like on my legs whenever I tried to grip it with some very sensitive patches of skin!
For some impulsive reason, I paid about $12 to go to a pole-dancing class. It looked fun! Instead of the wheels on a skate spinning, you are the thing spinning! My brain had been screaming at me to GO FAST, and it refused to be silenced by the reality that I am in my thirties and not always that capable of going that fast — or of picking up new physical skills right away!
It was harrowing. Even though my spins were SNAIL-PACED and executed with the grace of a fish out of water, it still felt, to me, like I was careening out of control. I thudded to the ground more times than I can count. Still, the more experienced dancers in the class were warm, supportive, encouraging. There was a culture of clapping for someone when they nailed a trick that caught me off guard for just a moment before it utterly charmed me. When I managed an elbow stand and to grab the pole with my ankles, and the class applauded me, for that singular upside-down moment, everything became warm and fuzzy, no matter how anxious spinning around made me. I’ll probably be back, if only because I’m stubborn and enjoy cheering on people who’re trying to do a hard thing.
Normal Dancing but With a Queer DJ Playing Italo-Disco and Also Spaghetti
I love going dancing. This is a fact. Imagine my surprise when I almost dry-heaved with nerves while I parked my car up the block from the venue. I considered turning around, giving up, not going in. But I’d already promised a friend I’d meet her, and I didn’t want to flake. So, I made my way past the boys smoking outside and into the venue. Wearing a mask still makes me feel like an outsider, but I made it work, enjoying the dichotomy of a crop top + an N-95. I found my friends, found a can of something, and found the dance floor where another friend and queer, awesome-as-all-get-out DJ was spinning Italo-disco for a small but ever-growing crowd of people dancing; some solo, some in couples or groups, and each with a range of enthusiasm from rocking side to side to full on throwing themselves around like they’d just invented some kind of disco-mosh.
When I managed to communicate “break up” over the roar of disco by miming breaking something with my hands to my friend, she assured me with her voice that somehow carried: Breakups happen for a reason. She proceeded to note that people have told her she’s a great friend to be distracted with while flipping her blonde curls back and batting her eyes in a way that communicated she fully embraced her party-girl status. I laugh because it’s true, but also not a bad thing. It’s a neutral thing, and maybe even a good thing when you need it.
The whole dance situation is called Spaghetti Disco because at midnight, the kitchen staff brings out trays of free spaghetti. When the spaghetti happened (the spaghetti-ing?), I was trapped off to the side of the stage by a series of ultra-passionate dancers but became aware of the spaghetti when people brought it onto the dance floor to drop forkfuls of pasta into their open mouths while swaying their hips and spinning. Despite being marinated in a combination of sweat and the smell of marinara, I left the disco feeling cleansed.
Maybe next time, I’ll try the spaghetti.