“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” — Joseph Campbell
Except that Joseph wasn’t talking about literal burning; painful, blister-inducing burning. But I promised this story, so here it is.
Once upon a time there was a skater. A very sweet, very earnest skater, who wanted so badly to do well; so, so badly, that her coach, with all good intentions (very very good intentions, I might add), sewed her the most beautiful dress she possible could at the time, and worked for hours and hours to get it to fit just right. In fact, she even lowered the skirt just a couple days before the state meet, just to make that dress “perfect.” Did I mention that Coach’s intentions were super duper good and honorable and not malicious, not one tiny bit?
Ah, but every fairy tale has its sinister side, and this time it comes in the form of a dress lining that was accidentally caught up in that last-minute skirt re-do, so that when Sweet Skater put on the dress again right before she needed to compete, the dress that fit ever-so-perfectly, the dress that she didn’t try on earlier because she wanted it to stay super clean and nice and perfect, it now created the hugest, most indecent wedgie known to man.
So Sweet Skater put on the dress and, like a very good competitor, kept it covered until just a moment before it was time to take the floor for her very brief 4:30 min. warmup period. One camel and one double salchow later, it was apparent that something — anything — had to be done to fix the gigantic wedgie (ok, for those of you who aren’t my age and don’t know what a “wedgie” is, try out these synonyms: butt floss, thong action, ride up inside…get it?). We were desperate, and time was ticking away. Coach didn’t want Sweet Skater to worry or be distracted, but holy moly, this was some serious TMI on the floor.
Coach scanned her not-working-very-well-at-the-moment brain for some sort of solution, and remembered that once she accidentally glued her own nylons to her leg with a hot glue gun. Coach immediately thought, “Aha! Glue the trunks of the dress to the tights with E6000, the world’s miracle glue!” So she quickly sent another parent in search of the only vendor selling E6000 in the arena, and $7.00 later (rip off, totally) they had their solution. Coach squeezed a glob of glue to Sweet Skater’s butt, pressed the Beautiful Blue Dress into the glob, and squeezed her butt cheek until it started to set.
Voila! Success! Beautiful Blue Dress stuck to Sweet Skater’s tights, and with about 15 seconds left in her warmup, it was apparent that she wouldn’t be putting on an extra burlesque-style show during her routine. Warmup was over, and it was time to rest for about 15 minutes before it was her turn to compete.
After about two skaters had finished their routines but before Coach could finish her pre-performance pep talk, Sweet Skater started to squirm in her chair. She claimed her butt was burning, but Coach didn’t have time or brainpower for a Plan B. Besides…Sweet Skater was sort of picky about itchy fabric, so Coach just assumed she was being a little bit whiny. And Coach, with her BA in psychology, also assumed that maybe there was some transference going on here…Sweet Skater tended to get nervous before a routine, so maybe the “burning” was just a physical manifestation of these nerves, the same way some athletes feel like throwing up before they skate. Plus Sweet Skater’s mom came to check on her and her now-public buttcheeks, and told Sweet Skater it was in her head, too. No worries! Coach pressed Beautiful Blue Dress against Sweet Skater’s tights one more time, for luck I suppose, like football players smack each other on the butt before a play, and it was her turn to skate.
Sweet Skater did great, and no one filed any sort of indecency complaint. Sweet Skater came off the floor and took off her skates, determined to get out of Beautiful Blue Dress a bit faster than usual. Still, no worries; everything had turned out great. Right?
Ten minutes later Sweet Skater returned to the Ready Area in her very nice little sundress, ready to head back to the hotel for a much-anticipated swim. Sweet Skater sat down, but quickly got up again, announcing that her butt was burning…a lot…and it hurt to sit. Coach, calm at this point, since all World’s Greatest Wedgie adrenaline had subsided, took Sweet Skater into the restroom to check out her complaint. There, plain as day, was a red, angry blister — the exact size and in the exact spot where the E6000 glob had been. The biggest, meanest looking spot of skin ever, just mocking them. Fortunately Sweet Skater couldn’t see that part of her rear end, so Coach was able to lie to her and say it didn’t look so bad.
Of course, Coach was me. Sweet Skater was my Stephanie, who you can read about HERE.
The moral of this story changes every time I tell it. Sometimes the moral is “Listen to everything a kid tells you.” Sometimes it’s “Try on every damn dress after every damn alteration.” Sometimes it’s “E6000 is Satan’s Syrup.” But this time, the moral is simply, “Steph, I miss you. No one has ever been as good a sport as you. Ever.”
The “burn out the pain” in the Campbell quote is obvious. Stephanie’s attitude was the “joy.” I felt so, so terrible for years after that incident, but I can honestly attest that her butt is not scarred and no long-term physical damage occurred. Plus she hit a very lovely double flip that day. Maybe she just didn’t want to fall on her blistered butt, but I have a feeling she remembers the joy of that day (and the good laughs we’ve had since then over this…and every time I see that dress on someone else I get to relive it, because that dress is still in circulation, being worn by little girls ignorant of its almost X-rated past) more than the pain. I know I do.