“You’ll be fine,” my dad said, as we waited in line for the roller coaster. “It’s not so bad.”
But the old man was tricking me.
My first clue was the screams that we heard as we waited in the enclosure. “They’re just being dramatic,” Dad had reassured me. “Some people ride these things just to scream.”
If I’d been more observant, I would have better sussed out the track before we hit the line. But it was hot out. And I was tired. Dad had asked nicely. And he knew that I didn’t really do the big roller coasters.
“This isn’t a bad one,” Dad said.
“Does it go upside down?” I asked.
“It’s not bad,” he said. I took that to mean that it didn’t go upside down. But that was not a safe assumption. Because not only did the Anaconda go upside down, it had an underwater tunnel. And it went screaming fast.
By the time I realized it, it was already too late. I screamed for a full minute with my eyes squeezed shut (my tactic for surviving roller coasters). But afterwards, I felt light. Giddy. I had dreaded it for years, but going upside down hadn’t been so bad now that I’d actually done it. It was a different kind of scary than going down a huge hill but not any worse, really.
And Dad was so happy.
So it was off to an indoor coaster, The Outer Limits. An enclosed ride with an electromagnetic launch. This one was in the dark though and not nearly so tall. So even though it went upside down four times, I enjoyed it a lot more. Not so many height scares, and I didn’t have to close my eyes.
Now, I wouldn’t step on the Anaconda again, but Dad and I went on that second ride, the indoor coaster, two more times that day.
I’m a Good Sport, Or Try to Be, and I’m Not Sure Where It Came From
I’ve always been a good sport. Especially when I’m with someone I really like. I’m a good sport with my dad. I’ve been a good sport when I go out with my friends (even if they’re taking me somewhere where I don’t normally go and isn’t in my comfort zone).
And I’ve been the same way with my husband. Up for doing things he enjoys that aren’t really my thing. Just like with my dad, I’ve ridden some pretty gnarly roller coasters with my husband even though I’m not the biggest fan of it. And I take an interest in what he’s doing with his hobbies, like when he works on and drives race cars, something he really enjoys, even though I don’t know much of the background science or automotive engineering that he and his buddies are so into. I encourage him to talk to me about it though and will often travel with him to his races. Cheer on the team.
I don’t know where I got this idea, that I wanted to be this kind of partner. That I wanted to be a good sport. Because it sure wasn’t from my mom.
My mother isn’t a good sport. She doesn’t do things she’s not interested in. Ever. It doesn’t matter how much the person she’s with wants to do something, if she thinks it sounds boring, she’ll say no.
And she’s especially opposed to trying things that scare her. Like roller coasters. Never has. Doesn’t now. Probably never will.
The most recent time my parents visited me, I mentioned to them that my husband might take some flying lessons soon, that it’s something he’s always wanted to do.
“I bought your father flying lessons as a present, but he never took them. He let them expire,” Mom said.
Dad said nothing. And I wasn’t sure if he was just avoiding the topic. Or if he genuinely couldn’t hear her. He stopped wearing his hearing aids recently. The official reason was because they were too uncomfortable, but part of me thinks he likes having plausible deniability that he hasn’t heard her (or someone else) say something. That way he gets the option of not responding if it’s something he wished the other person wouldn’t have said. Smart, really, when I think about it.
“He wanted me to go with him up in the plane, and I wouldn’t, so he let them expire,” Mom continued, arguing his part as though she couldn’t stand to hear him not refute what she just said, to not have something to push back against. But because she wasn’t really on his side, she added quickly, “Isn’t that the dumbest thing you ever heard?”
I dunno about dumb, I thought. More sweet and terribly sad.
There’s Something to Be Said For Being a Good Sport
I think a lot these days about my parents’ marriage. How Dad always seemed to look to me and my siblings to enjoy certain hobbies with him, the ones that my mother refused to participate in. Like riding roller coasters. Or playing ice hockey. Fixing cars. Watching professional wrestling. Eating spicy food.
We had a lot of collective ground to cover, but between the four of us kids, there was pretty much always at least one of us who was naturally interested in whatever Dad wanted to do. And failing that, I would step up, eager to win his approval, like I did that day with the roller coaster. (Well, after the initial betrayal with the Anaconda. Let the record show that I did step up when it came to that indoor one though.)
Sometimes I’ll hear people talk about that as being a big upside to polyamory: That if your partner doesn’t enjoy something that you can enjoy that pastime with others. And while it sounds really good in theory, somehow it’s never sit quite right with me. Maybe it’s because I saw how much it would have meant to my father if my mother had taken an interest in the things he did. How we, his children, could approximate that somewhat but never come quite close enough to the real thing, to his being able to share in those activities with the woman he loves.
And all these years, what I’ve really seen is a man who loves a woman terribly and takes an interest in everything she loves (because he really does, he knows a lot about her hobbies and what she does) but who never has her return the favor.
It’s true that different people can fulfill different needs, sure.
But on the other hand, there’s something to be said for being a good sport.