Yesterday I went bowling for the first time in about twenty years. The last time I bowled was in middle school gym class — we had an option where, if you signed up for bowling, you got to walk to the bowling alley every day for gym, bowl one game, and then return to school. One of the big draws, of course, was that you could also buy candy at the concession stand while there. Blow Pops, in particular. Bowling and a lollipop with gum in the center? We were living large, let me tell you.
I was never any good at bowling, though: I never came close to breaking 100 points and once I even had an all-time low score of 19. I tried, but I just never quite got it. Since then, I have just never gone, even despite renewed the allure The Big Lebowski had given to the sport since the late 1990s. Bowling became one of those things that I just don’t do, like downhill skiing, eating popcorn, wearing pleated pants, or voting Republican.
After my twenty-year hiatus, I was a little nervous yesterday, wondering if I would even be able to get the ball going in the right direction. Things didn’t get off to a great start when I rolled two gutterballs in the first frame. Yup, I’m no good at bowling.
We had a group of eight people, so we were using two lanes, one of which was set up with bumpers — you know, the little rails they put up in the gutters for when little kids are bowling, so they never get a gutterball and can actually knock some pins down? Yeah. I was thinking I probably needed to be in the bumper lane, but of course I wound up in the “real” lane. So not fair! I mean, this is not ‘Nam; this is bowling. There are rules. I was grousing and grumbling about the injustice of it all when I went up to roll for my second frame and, lo and behold, I rolled a strike. Say what now?!
It was kind of like that all night: ups and downs, strikes and guuters. Just like The Dude says. I finished the first game in last place in our lane (and only beat one person playing in the bumper lane). The next game I came in third in our lane, and in the third game we swapped lanes so our group of four had bumpers and the others didn’t, and I still came in third. You know what, though? It was really, really fun. I managed to roll a few strikes throughout the night, actually, and until I started to get tired I was improving bit by bit.
I think the pitchers of beer certainly helped matters, as did being there with a big group of friends who were cheering each other on and generally keeping spirits high. I surprised myself by enjoying it as much as I did — I’m even thinking I would like to go back every now and then so I can get better at it. I’d like to win a game once! Maybe some day.
I think when I was younger I used to get hung up on competition and the (percieved) need to excel at things. If I wasn’t good at something with minimal effort, why do it? Why bear the indignity of medicority? I’d like to think I am getting over that limiting way of thinking as I get older — after all, I am not especially “good at” running or triathlon except insofar as I enjoy those sports and love to participate in them. I don’t have to be winning my age group to make a race fun (though I’d like to, one day), and I don’t even have to be racing to make a run, ride, or swim worth my while. The experience of the moment is fulfilling in itself, as is the sense of accomplishment gained from simply trying to learn new things.
As life goes on, I’ve realized that what I had always thought of a fixed aversions or dislikes (Brussels sprouts, games, bowling) may not be so fixed after all. I love me some roasted Brussels sprouts these days, for example. Perhaps there will be a time in the future when I will give downhill skiing another try, or discover a love of popcorn. I’m sure pleated pants will come back in style some day soon, if they haven’t already. As for voting Republican, though? Well, probably not.