The unvarnished truth is this: I have essentially no interest in team sports. I was a lukewarm spectator-parent at my sons’ track meets, swim meets, soccer games and baseball games. I can barely sit through the Superbowl or the final game of the World Series, even when it’s a team I should care about, because I don’t. And as far as actually participating in organized sports … well, the less said about that, the better.
That changed, sort of, when I met Douglas. Although he is generally ambivalent about sports, he has been an avid member of the Belfast Curling Club for 35 years. He curls in the most competitive league and serves as the skip — the captain — of his four-person team. He also enjoys the social aspects of the club and the opportunity to get out of the house a couple evenings a week during Maine’s long winter.
Two years ago, Douglas pitched the persuasive argument that it would be good for our relationship to share a winter activity we both enjoyed. Who could argue with that? Being a generally good sport about things, I signed up to curl one night a week on a less competitive team. I was grateful when Douglas joined that team, too, in addition to maintaining his longtime commitment to the competitive league.
With the forbearance of my teammates, I learned the rules of play, which, fortunately, are not too complicated. I invested in some basic equipment — a curling broom, a pair of shoes — and experimented with layers of clothing that would keep me warm on the ice but allow for quick shedding when all the hustling back and forth got me warmed up. I learned to flip a coin for first stone, to shake hands before and after each game with every member of the other team as well as my own, to clean the ice and leave it ready for the next teams, and to enjoy a friendly drink in the warm clubhouse when it was all over.
What I have yet to really master is the art of the game itself. For the past two seasons, I have shown up with optimism in my heart and confidence in my stride, determined to be a better curler than I was in my previous game. I limber up and practice my balance and head down to the ice with my enthusiastic teammates. But although I have made some respectable shots, somehow arcing the heavy stone along the ice into the position I was aiming for, it almost always feels like a happy coincidence when it happens, rather than an indicator of emerging competence.
If I cared deeply, I would commit to improving my game by attending practice sessions, watching videos and curling more often, instead of simply hoping that this occasional activity will somehow morph into actual skill. But I just don’t seem to have that drive. There are other things I’d rather be doing.
So this year, with curling season fast approaching, I have decided to take a pass, at least for the fall session. I know it’s important to spend social time with Douglas, building the foundation of our new marriage and expanding the reach of our relationship. I’ll miss our warm nighttime drive into Belfast and back, the casual new friends I’ve made at the club and the sense of belonging, even a little, to a world that exists outside of my usual orbit.
But being with Douglas is never hard; I know we’ll find another way to enjoy the Maine winter together. We both like to ski, skate and snowshoe, for example, although it can be a challenge to make time for those outdoor activities during the daytime, since we both work full time. Maybe we’ll schedule a weekly movie date, and make a point of having friends over for dinner more often.
And maybe, come second session at the curling club, when the winter has really locked in and the nights are early, long and dark, I’ll dust off my broom and try it again.