Saturday, August 2nd – a day I’d been anticipating for more than 20 years.
You see, that was the last time I had actually ridden a roller coaster, and then just barely. My memory is a bit fuzzy with the details from that fateful day 20 years ago, the last day I was able to ride a roller coaster. The day my weight changed from “she’s so pretty if she’d just lose a bit of weight” to “too fat to ride a roller coaster.” I think I was at Great America, squishing myself into a ride, saying a silent prayer that the safety bar would click into place. Only this time the prayer went unanswered because the bar wasn’t going to click easily. The attendant came over, about to tell me I had to get off the ride, and he must’ve seen the tears flooding my eyes and the pleading look on my face, because he took pity on me and let me ride the ride anyway. Totally unsafe, but if given the choice between getting hurt on a ride that I wasn’t completely secured in or the mortification of being asked to get off the ride because I was too fat, I’d gladly take the chance of getting hurt. After that ride, I never risked it again on a roller coaster. And I got bigger, gained more weight, and knew that riding roller coasters was a thing of the past for me.
But in all these years, I never gave up the hope that someday I’d ride them again. I put it on my #createyoursummer wishlist for ToneItUp. I have it on my bucket list. I even mentioned it to TR on one of our first dates when he asked me what my plans for my summer vacation were. The problem had been none of my friends, or even my nieces, wanted to ride roller coasters with me. It seems very few shared my love of speed, daring, and adventure. TR was one of the only people who seemed even remotely interested in joining me, and he was actually really enthusiastic about it. He even mentioned it again on the night of our goodbye phone call. So about a week ago when I realized that the days of summer were quickly disappearing, I texted TR and asked if he’d still be up for riding roller coasters with me, which he was. We figured out a date, and now I just had to wait. And you guys know how great I am with waiting.
That entire week I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about how the day would go. About whether TR and I would have fun or if it would be awkward now that our relationship was relegated to something between dating and the dreaded “friend zone.” About whether or not I’d be able to ride any of the rides. About what I was going to wear. About what the weather would be like. About every single detail. Friday night was the worst, I was giddy with anticipation and trying to sweep any doubts or dread out of my mind, until I finally just got up at 5:30am, as excited and anxious as a kid waiting for Santa Claus.
I picked TR up at 9am and we drove in the Beetle with the top down, even though it was an overcast morning. As it turned out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of our rapport. The conversation flowed as easily as ever, and I felt as comfortable with him as I always had. We made excellent time and got to the Boardwalk in 30 minutes.
After finding the ticket booth and buying bracelets that would let us go on unlimited rides (TR bought both our bracelets, which was incredibly generous of him, especially given the fact that I invited him and had been planning on paying for both of us. In some ways it made the day even more special, because it was like a gift), TR asked me which ride I wanted to start with. “The Giant Dipper!!!” I immediately responded. “Starting off with the big one, I like it!” he said. And I told him, that that’s how I like to live my life – do it big or don’t do it at all.
Because we’d gotten there so early and were among the first people at the Boardwalk, we had a miniscule line to wait in. But it didn’t stop me from being ridiculously squirmy. I was so excited, nervous, & anxious, and I couldn’t keep my thoughts from zipping around my head. Would I fit? Would the bar close? Would my heart ever stop beating so hard? Would we have fun? The list went on and on. I think I verbalized a bit of it, and TR just tried to reassure me that YES I would fit without any problems, that YES the bar would close with plenty of room. If he could read my mind the poor guy might’ve run in the other direction from this crazy girl he was standing next to. I must’ve been giving off some kind of vibe because right before it was our turn to get on the ride, the man in front of us turned around and said, “she’s more excited than my son to ride this ride!”
Finally, the moment of truth arrived. It was my turn to get on the ride and sit down. Even as I was doing it, I kept thinking, “please, God, let me fit.” Of course I fit, with plenty of room! The bar came down with no issues, and before I could even say anything, we were off, swept into the darkness of the ride, making our ascent to the top of the coaster before that first and best plummet. The ride was SO much fun, but it was all a blur because all I was thinking the entire time was, “I’m doing it! I fit in the ride. I’m small enough to fit in a roller coaster. I can ride The Giant Dipper!!!”
As we got off the ride, I was completely overwhelmed. A wave of emotion washed over me. I was so dizzy that I grabbed TR’s arm to steady myself, but then worrying that he’d think I was being too forward or trying to be romantic, I dropped it. Tears were in my eyes, and I was trying to explain what I was feeling. I apologized for acting so strangely, to which he replied, “you have nothing to apologize for.” He really is an amazing person. So I asked if we could walk down to the beach, to be near the waves, because the ocean always calms me. He said of course, and as soon as we sat down, I felt better. As I was sitting in the sand next to TR, I was talking a mile a minute, beginning the “ugly cry,” looking out at the ocean for strenth, and trying to capture all that I was experiencing. It was something along the lines of:
I am so excited that we just did that! I can’t believe we just rode The Giant Dipper!!! I am sorry that I’m crying, I didn’t expect to react this way. Actually, I don’t know how I expected to react. After not being able to do something that you love for over 20 years and then finally being able to do it, it’s just crazy. More than any number on a scale, more than any size I’m wearing, doing this today is amazing to me. It’s something that I thought about, wished for, and wanted for so long. And I can finally do it! I’m finally a NORMAL person. I know it’s crazy to you that I thought I wouldn’t fit. But even now, after losing all of this weight, I still don’t always see myself as I really am. I’m surprised by how small I am now. I’m surprised when I see pictures of myself in the same way that I used to surprise myself by how big I looked in pictures when I was heavy. My head is still catching up to all of these changes. And I guess that’s why with you I showed so many insecurities. I’m such a confident person in every other aspect of my life, but I’ve always been insecure about my weight. And even now that I have lost all this weight and I’m so proud of myself, I’m still getting used to this new body. To this new person I’ve become. From the outside, no one might know that I’ve lost all this weight, but underneath my clothes, there are still issues. Things that I wish looked better, were tighter, or whatever. I’ve worked so hard, and I wish all that hard work really showed and that I didn’t have any loose skin to feel weird about. And this whole dating thing is so new to me. I didn’t date for so long, and then I find someone like you that I like so much, and it’s so great. And I totally understand where you’re coming from with the whole kids thing, so don’t worry. I heard you. I just wish it could be different, but I get that it can’t. And that’s ok. I’m so glad that you’re here to share this with me today. This was awesome.”
And TR was really great about my little meltdown. He said it wasn’t a meltdown, and that now he understood that I wasn’t afraid to actually ride the roller coaster, but that was nervous about fitting in the seat. I told him it was never about being scared of going too fast on the roller coaster – that it could never be too fast or too high or too wild for me – that I loved all that. And he got it. He also said that we all have insecurities and that I never came across to him as insecure, which was really sweet of him to say, although I’m not sure how true it is. While we were sitting on the beach something pretty incredible happened – two dolphins were right near the shore, swimming around. They probably shouldn’t have been there, it was probably dangerous for them to be that close to the shore, but I took it as a sign. That the day was going to be amazing. That TR was exactly the person I was supposed to be sharing this experience with. And that I could just calm down and enjoy it. Which is what I did.
Although at the next ride, the UnderTow, I did have a few moments of worry creep back in. There was a sign saying that guests should check to make sure they could fit in the seats, because they were bucket seats, and smaller than on the other rides. I asked TR if I should check if I could fit, and he said, “you can if you want to, but you’re going to fit. With room to spare. You don’t have to worry.” So I didn’t check ahead of time and just took it on faith that I’d fit without a problem. And you know what, I did. Plenty of room. No worries at all. It was at that point that I really just let all the insecurities and doubts go and just enjoyed the day.
We rode the Giant Dipper four times, the Under Tow twice, and the Log Ride once. I relished the fact that I could ride ANY ride on the Boardwalk, I could fit into ANY seat. That nothing could keep me from these roller coasters ever again! It was such empowerment, such freedom. As if I could fly. It was a remarkable feeling.
TR said that he was inspired by my accomplishment and wanted to conquer a bit of his own fear – a fear of heights, so he agreed to go on the gondola ride with me. Which was so impressive and endearing. I give him so much credit for doing it, but the ride crept along at a snail’s pace and he was pretty shaky and white-knuckling it the whole way across. “We won’t be taking that one again,” he said, and I completely understood. That’s the thing about our dynamic that I think is so rare and so incredible – we can be completely open and honest with each other, revealing our vulnerabilities, and appreciating each other all the more because (rather than in spite) of them.
Spending the day riding roller coasters was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped, and probably moreso than I could have ever imagined. It was thrilling, exciting, and incredibly fun. The day was fantastic in a way that I can’t find the words for. It was day that I will never, ever forget. It was living my dreams and fulfilling long-held desires. It was the highlight of the summer of 2014. It was perfect.