About a Girl Chasing a Boy Chasing a Girl by Deb Gail

When I was in high school I chased a boy who chased a girl out to Colorado. He was tall and firm and thickly built with shoulder length wavy hair and he always carried around a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and he smoked pot and he played football and he graduated and moved out to Colorado to be a cowboy. We’d “gone out” a few times and even though I knew there were “other girls,” I thought I was special. I could make him laugh and I would remind him of that as soon as I got out to Colorado. Until I found myself on a ski hill for the first time in my life with Hot Cowboy and Ski Girl who was all Scandinavian come hither; sun-burnished skin and glossy blond hair and electrifying blue eyes and pouty lips and long slim colt-like legs. These were not humans. These were Super Humans and they had their super human limbs wrapped around one another and before I could think of something funny to say to win him back, she gracefully swooshed away and he swooshed after her down the powdery slope with utter abandon. I tumbled and slid and cried all the way to the bottom and swore I’d never ski or love again.

Fast forward many years later after I’d way gotten over Colorado Boy (I mean what a player, and I’d heard he’d gotten pudgy and was selling insurance or something like that), and my smart, funny, handsome, athletic husband-to-be and I had recently moved to New Hampshire. One night he said something like: “You ski, don’t you?” And I guess because I thought “don’t you” implied I do, I said: “Of course. I skied Colorado.” And then I prayed that skiing would cease to exist the world over. Or least in New Hampshire.

Which isn’t exactly what happened. What happened was, that winter, my husband-to-be invited two of his best friend’s from his high school ski team up to New Hampshire for a ski weekend.

We rode the ski lift up past the bunny hill, past the blue squares, past the first set of black diamonds, all the way up to the double black diamond slope called TREACHEROUS. And I fell face first off the lift and then barely inched my way over to the top of the run and glanced over the death-defying cliff and turned to my husband-to-be and said, “I can’t do this.” And he said, “Oh come on just do it,” And then he and his Olympic Ski Pals swooshed away. And I stood there sick out of my mind, wondering who invented this ski thing. Why anyone would willingly strap long slippery things on the bottom of their feet and throw themselves down the side of an icy mountain. I tried to will the entire concept away. And when that didn’t work, I took a leap of faith and swooshed after them and tripped over my skis and fell and rolled and slid and fell some more and rolled and rolled and eventually ended up in a patch of woods. I lifted my head in time to see my skis skiing themselves down the hill without me. I stood up and brushed myself off and walked the rest of the way down the mountain, sideways.

At the bottom of the slope, I reached into my pocket for the keys to the car, thinking I would go get the packed lunch we left in the car and meet everyone in the lodge and my zipper was down and my pocket was empty.

By then my husband-to-be was right up next to me. “What took you so long? Are you okay?”

“I fell and I lost my skis but I’m okay.”

“We can rent you another pair,” he said.

“No. I’m done skiing for the day. But I need to tell you that I lost the keys to the car.”

“You what? Are you kidding? How could you do that?

“I don’t know… how could you have brought me here and left me at the top of that trail when I can’t ski?”

“You told me you could ski.”

“And you believed me? Couldn’t you tell I was petrified?”

“Why would you lie to me?”

“Because… because I thought you wanted me… to be someone who could ski…”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said and stormed away.

Somehow we made it home that day and down the aisle six months later and I didn’t ski again until our second child was three and she begged me to take her for the free ski lessons at the slope nearby and I reluctantly took lessons alongside her. And now I can ski. Only the blue squares and never without fear and never with abandon.

I always thought this story was about my husband pressuring me to lie to him because he knew how ski and I didn’t and abandoning me on a double black diamond and then not being empathetic when I lost the keys and making me fearful of skiing. So that even after learning how to ski, I never really learned. That’s how it played out in my mind and in our marriage all these years.

But as I write this I realize that my pretending to know how to ski wasn’t about my husband at all. It was something old and shallow I’d dragged into our marriage. It was about me wanting to be a girl I wasn’t and trying to impress a boy who never was or ever would be mine.

23 Replies to “About a Girl Chasing a Boy Chasing a Girl by Deb Gail”

  1. Oh, Gail, I love this. And that’s a lesson most of us have had to learn at sometime (not necessarily to ski–which I do know how to do and love!), but realizing we are who we are and it’s rarely a good idea to try to be someone we’re not.

    Oh, and I also hope cute cowboy did turn into a pudgy insurance salesman. Mine did.

  2. Brilliant, Gail. Did you show your husband this or are you going to let him continue thinking he was at fault?

    I did the same thing, only it wasn’t skiing, it was Scrabble. My husband-to-be was so bright and I wanted to be. I didn’t lose by much. To this day, our matches are a lot like those Black Diamond trails. No one ever wants to play with us.

  3. Yes, it is an important lesson, one I preach to my children endlessly and only sometimes forget for myself… and yes, he did turn into that (or so I’ve heard).

  4. I did show my husband and I watched him reading it and the first time through he didn’t “get” what I was saying, he just nodded through and smiled and said, “That’s good.” And I said, “Do you understand?” And then he reread it and his face totally softened and he said, “Wow. Thank you for saying that.” Now I’m hoping I’ll actually enjoy skiing this winter!

  5. Gail, I just read this out loud to my husband and he laughed so hard he got tears in his eyes and nearly choked. He learned to ski in Saskatchewan (ice and mud, totally flat) and was taken out to learn snowboarding a few years ago by some super-skiers–it was a painful day.

    And I can certainly relate to trying to be something one is not, having spent far too much energy doing that over the years.

    Great post with many layers, many things to ponder, as usual!

  6. Thanks Danielle and Hubby! I still wonder what I was thinking when I said I COULD ski. I mean downhill skiing isn’t something you can fake… and even though I’m not trying to be anyone but me now, I wouldn’t mind getting a handle on that Scandinavian come hither look…

  7. Gail,
    this reminded me of two stories about a girl I knew who was the long lost sister of the ski goddess you described. Her father owned a condo in Vail and although we live in the Deep South, her family–as do many others who enjoy tax cuts and complain they still pay too much but manage to have plush condos in ritzy resorts, but I digress–prided themselves as Southerners with Snow Skills. Sara (yes, she would have to have a name starting with S…Sara the Sexy Snow Skiier) could schuss with the best of them. I wasn’t in her league. Now that I think about it, I really WAS in her league in the ways that count, but that’s not what I was thinking about at the time. Skiing is not democratic, fair or anything but ruthless exhibitionism of raw athletic ability.

    Anyway, I managed to avoid skiing with Sara during the winter. She invited me out in the summer, so I was safe. Then she challenged me to a race in the swimming pool. I’d forgotten about her swim team championships growing up until her lithe figure cut into the water, barely splashing as she torpedoed to the gunite finish line, a gauzy film in my eyes from half a pool length back as she slapped the side(that’s what happens when you’re spluttering during a swim meet against the woman in the ridiculously perfect bikini).

    There’s another story but it’s equally humiliating so I’ll leave it at that, and thanks so much Gail for reminding me why I’m not alone and that today we can laugh at ourselves for being less than honest, with consequences that hopefully teach us something about us…and relationships.

  8. Another wonderful self-realization post from you, Gail, and — from the comments — everyone can relate. Except I wonder “why” it’s necessary to fool someone in the first place? After all, differences/opposites attract! 😉

  9. Eileen, I have to admit that isn’t the only time I’ve lost the keys in my marriage.

    Jim, thanks for sharing your stories. I’m not a very good swimmer, either. In fact I’m pretty sure I took up running because it didn’t involve any “raw athletic ability. Just one foot in front of the other.

    Not Cannon Mountain, Kim. Where is that? It was the Dartmouth Skiway where my two oldest grew up skiing. Thanks for the “poor thing!”

    Larammie, excellent question (as usual) and one I still find myself puzzling out in my marriage.

  10. Cannon is up 93 (not 89) near Loon Mtn. I spent a lot of time at Killington too, closer to where you must have lived. The lacrosse boy I was so eager to impress with my cradling skills went to Dartmouth and had a house in Quechee. I did ski NOT on double black diamonds slopes. I’m a blue square kind of girl. I married a golfer. Go figure! LOL!

  11. I’m a blue square girl too. Killington is nice because you don’t have to get off the lift since most are gondolas. Good for klutzy getting off the lift skiers. Never been to Cannon. But have you been to Stowe? We went there a few years ago. Great town, icy skiing. Terrific pizza…

  12. Haha!! Oh Gail, you’re hilarious. I love how you told this story. I still remember how terrified I was just trying to figure out the SKI LIFT. And I can SOOOO relate to the whole “molding yourself to impress some dumb guy” thing.

  13. Hi Gail! coming late to the thread–loved this piece–funny, touching and well-written. I hate double black diamonds and twice have–by default only–had to go down (on my butt) them. Torture. Sheer torture.

  14. What a story, Gail; I’ve been on skis twice, both times trying to impress people… Somehow I learned my lesson (not how to ski, but how to be true to myself) without breaking a leg!

  15. I’ve never learned to ski. I hate being cold. But I love this story for your always-terrific writing, your insight and especially your willingness to share the revelation your writing brought you.

  16. Oh my goodness, Gail, this made me laugh out loud.

    The first time I went skiing I was with my husband, uber athlete who can do anything. It went so badly that at one point I actually sat down in the snow on the side of a trail and said, “How long would I have to sit here before the ski patrol guy will come get me with his snowmobile?”

    I did eventually learn how to do it, but I’ll always be better at cross-country….

    : )

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