“Got more splits than a girls locker room”

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February 25, 2008 by 8junebugs

The title is a direct quote from the mother of the first boyfriend I ever had. We were bowling, you see, and not well. This may have been when he was no longer my boyfriend but was still on our team, and it may well have been a tournament. Who knows? I didn’t even get it until later.

All this to say I bowled the other night with some friends and maintained my dignity. I still have the ball and shoes from my league and tourney days (Mom has the trophies, though I told her to chuck them). I also have the sort of trapezoidal leather bowling bag that I should really dispose of, but it makes me feel so terribly vintage.

It would probably be more chic if I turned it into something else. How would I know?

I at least broke 100 each game and was able to respect myself in the morning. However, I am nowhere near my former bad-ass-backswing, back-up-ball glory. My ball goes mostly straight now, partly because I have more control and partly because they put a bazillion gallons of oil on every lane. Where was I when bowling became less of a sport and more of a cheap thing to do when you’re under age?

And don’t tell me it’s not a sport, or I’ll show you every aching muscle.

They turned the lights off and I cursed a few times–this is why serious and formerly serious bowlers don’t bowl on Saturday nights. I started bowling when I was about 10 or 11. It is impossible for me to not look for my mark when I’m up, and that’s just not how it works on Saturday nights, in the dark. No mark in the dark. As much as I could, I tried aiming for the pins. I felt skill-less, but I rolled with less concentration and that, absurdly enough, helped my release.

I do miss it, though, bowling. I was never a superstar, but there’s a precision to it and an element of luck/lane oil that appeals to me. I still coach it better than I do it, though. I seem to have retained volumes of useless bowling strategy, but don’t ask me to name the U.S. presidents in order anymore. Most of them got shuffled to the back of my mental card file. (Take that, Coolidge, you grouch!) It’s hard, sometimes, to bowl “for fun” and to refrain from helping someone who totally doesn’t care to bowl better.

I did help one of my friends. He was starting to get that pre-whistle tea kettle look on his face because he was sucking, so I suggested he back up and give his approach more space. He was doubtful–he already felt like he was taking too many steps. (I have never known a grown man who didn’t start his approach from the back dots. I should have told him he was using the ladies’ tee. That would have resonated.) The reason he felt like he was taking too many steps is because he wasn’t giving himself enough room for a natural stride and a comfortable backswing. If you’re worried about ending on the correct foot, you’re not thinking about the ball and you end up rushing the release, pushing the ball, and watching it go into one gutter or the other.

But then he tried it, and in the last game I only beat him by one pin.



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