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Bowled over by bowling – and I still stink at it

Submitted by on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 No Comment

bowlingI don’t have fond memories of bowling.

For that matter, I don’t have fond memories of any sport other than as a spectator. I’m the stereotypical “last kid picked in PE class” – except it’s not stereotyping if it’s true.

Bowling, though, was particularly bruising. Until a few weeks ago, I’d only been once in my life, with a bunch of friends back in the mid-90s. Several of our crowd thought it would be a fun outing, complete with a quarter per gutter ball fine that would go to a beverage fund. Guess who financed most of the beer that night.

After an hour or so, one guy took pity on me. “We didn’t know you were that bad,” he said sympathetically before offering me a quick tutorial. I’m not sure if his advice made me better or if the beer just made me think I was better, but by the end of the evening I think I was able to avoid the gutter a few times.

The next morning, I woke with an aching wrist, a slight hangover and an epiphany: I had completely, out loud reeked at something in public and lived to tell about it.

Oh, I’d been wretched as things before – chiefly, flute-playing in high school, but that was with the cover of a crowd. Never before had I stood alone before a crowd and performed so wretchedly for so long. And when it was all over, they were all still my friends.

Flash forward more than a decade to a few weeks ago when a friend suggests we take the kids bowling one Saturday. I begged off the actual bowling, volunteering to mind her toddler so she could bowl. Sweet of me, huh?

The following weekend, though, there was no where to hide. I’d picked up Big Guy from a birthday party and headed back to the bowling alley where Boots’ party still was under way. “Mommy, can we bowl? Please, please, please?” he pleaded, his hands clasped under his chin and his eyes cast angelically upward at me.

I hate it when he goes all sweet on me.

Next thing I knew, I was wearing neon shoes with orange laces and picking up a ball – an eight-pounder. I’d at least remembered something from the sore wrist a decade earlier.

Then I was rolling the ball and … oh … my … God. It was striking pins. “Mommy!” Big Guy cheered. “You don’t stink!”

I tried again and more pins tumbled. I vowed to Google “bowling” when I got home so I could understand how to keep score. I vowed to return the following weekend so I could improve my game. I vowed to keep practicing until I got better, just like I tell the guys all the time.

I slapped myself in the face and said, “Stop it.” I don’t have to be a good bowler. I just have to do it enthusiastically enough for the guys to have fun. Taking it any more seriously than that would ruin it.

There’s something cathartic about the mere act of rolling a ball down an alley toward 10 pins on which I can imagine the faces of people who have ticked me off lately. If the ball happens to knock over a few pins, great.

If not, well, at least I’m no longer on the hook for massive beer purchases.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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