I ran into a fellow adult skater last night. We hadn't seen each other in awhile and so it was nice to catch up. He asked me what I was up to, and I said I was a hare shy of being ready to test Pre-Bronze. He looked at me funny and said, "That's not ISI, is it?"
No, it's not. That's USFSA.
"Isn't that too serious? I mean, ISI is fun."
"I guess, but I like the seriousness. Being too laid back about it isn't great either."
"Well, ISI is serious too, but..." and he trailed off and shrugged. "But whatever you want to do I guess."
That's true. This is what I want to do. Over the past two months, my off-ice training partner has noted I've become more focused, more serious. I've noticed it too, and I like that. "Is skating still fun for you?" He asked me, looking concerned.
"Are you kidding? This is the most fun I've ever had with it. I am having a blast!"
And it's the absolute truth. As much as a formal test can be intimidating, it's kinda fun, too. Formality doesn't mean No Fun. The trick with Formality is learning to have fun within the structure. As Picasso said, "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
The American South has a bad reputation of being full of ignorant hillbillies living in trailers, shopping at Wal Mart and wearing offensive tee shirts. Which isn't to say I haven't worn an offensive tee shirt, I have, but the South was a place of gentility and grace before it got a nasty reputation. I grew up learning about forks and spoons and what to say and how to dress, palling around with little old ladies at formal little parties and gatherings. And it's here you learn how to eat as much lobster bisque as possible at a buffet without looking like a total pig.
As a girl, I was involved in a branch of the Masons. If you want formal, they have it. Little old ladies measuring the distance between the knots in your silly ritual wear, and hissing a bit if you didn't square your corners just right when crossing the room. Skating likes to think it's the only activity with an underwear fetish, but I've got more experience with straps, no straps, tights, slips, "a red thong, really? flesh tone only please," pasties and some other device we nicknamed "The Madonna" after a music video from the 80's. ("Sharon, do you have The Madonna? I need it for the dance next weekend.") I've had rulers taken to my hemlines and necklines, had my steps measured so I crossed the room correctly, and ritual work was no joke for these blue-haired adorable old women.
But for some reason it was fun. I don't get it either, because I can see where it might become stifling and awkward and frustrating. But for me, it was like a game. I still don't know what you win, but it was a fun game to play by the rules and get it right. If you lose, you always get another chance.
Skating is like this. Turn here, do it just this way, tuck in your laces because they're distracting, and for god's sake act like a lady. This appeals to me. I'm sure ISI is a fine program, but it lacks the formality, the fun little game, that I like playing. And I think what's hilarious is if you get the test part wrong and fall, how can you not laugh? Here everyone is, all dressed up and stuffy and prim, and you wind up sprawled on your butt, wet and cold in a spangled leotard? Skating has this veneer of being so graceful and elegant and whatever, but we're all well aware of some ridiculous things that happen in the name of "grace." (Don't eat too much before training or you'll puke. Watch what you say, know who will get the message because making gossip work for you is an art form.) How is that not funny?
I'm not doing USFS because I think it's better, it's just better for me. And I'm getting excited about it!