Mike at I Am Prepared to Give Up at Any Time wrote in a comment to one of his own recent posts about his inability to attain perpendicularity with a surfboard, “Lack of coordination is just universally endearing.”
For me, this is a good thing.
Mike’s failure to stand on a surfboard parallels the collective outdoorsy (and indoorsy) athletic failure of my life: I have at one time or another failed to thrive (by “thrive” I mean “maintain uprightness”) at snow skiing, water skiing, skateboarding, roller skating, ice skating, walking down stairs, walking up stairs, walking on flat surfaces, sitting on four-legged chairs… I have fallen face first and shaken my fists in frustration at snow, ice, concrete, and whatever it is roller rinks are made of.
But, if what Mike says is true and klutziness is in fact somehow attractive, my falling on skis, skates, blades, and shoes may have been the linchpin vital to the procurement of lifelong love and affection. Indeed, I have fallen in front of my wife more often than I care to admit. When we were in college, I tumbled to the ground at least three times in the first month of our dating relationship.
The first fall was the most spectacular. My now-wife (then-girlfriend) had been volunteering as a youth group leader at a local church, and she brought me to meet the high schoolers one Sunday morning. The church was a split-level structure. After passing through the stately doors, one could go upstairs or downstairs. When I walked in for the first time, the wife whispered to me, “Shhh. They’re praying.” Indeed, I looked down the stairs and saw a group of adolescents holding hands in a circle, eyes closed in fervent devotion to their Maker. I had barely whispered, “Ok, I’ll be quiet,” when I stepped forward to find empty space where I had expected there to be more floor. In the blink of an eye, I was hurtling down the steps, somersaulting twice before reaching the bottom of the stairs, landing on my back, head half protruding into the prayer circle. Youthful eyes popped open and jaws dropped. I stared back up. “Hi, I’m Yajeev,” I quipped, trying to be funny. They laughed, but not in a “What a funny quip” kind of way.
The second fall was the most heroic. The now-wife (then-girlfriend) and I had spent a lovely evening “studying” at Eat N’ Park. We elected to check our mail when we returned to campus. We walked into the building which housed the mail hall, and I gallantly offered to carry the wife’s laptop computer. It had been raining, so our shoes were wet, squeaking with every step. A large stairway led to the mail hall. I descended a few steps when the moisture between my shoe and the step compromised the frictional forces that typically (ok, sometimes) prevent me from slipping. My feet slipped out from under me, and I plunged straight down, rear first, to the step which should at that moment have been supporting my feet. The bruises on my buttocks might have been prevented if only I had attempted to grab the railing on my way down, but I could do no such thing: I held my wife’s computer in my hands. Instinctually, I thrust her computer high above my head, and my tush collided with one step, then another, then another, and so on. My ego may have been severely damaged, but her computer survived without a scratch.
The third fall was the most pathetic. It was freezing. The then-girlfriend (now-wife) had brought me to meet her mother (my now-mother-in-law) and grandmother (my now-grandmother-in-law). We arrived at Grandma’s house, exchanged pleasantries for a brief time in her living room, and decided to leave for dinner. My wife, followed by her mother and grandmother, walked out the front door onto the icy porch. I brought up the rear. Now-wife gingerly descended the ice-covered steps leading to the driveway. Then, Now-mother-in-law carefully walked down the steps. Next, Now-grandmother-in-law, chatting feverishly about her kitty cats, made her way down each frozen step: foot, foot, cane, foot, foot, cane, etc. After three generations of future female relatives had reached the car without incident, it was my turn. I stepped onto the first stair. That was it: my feet never found the other three stairs. I’m not sure how it happened, but one moment I was walking down the porch stairs, the next I was face-down in the snow.
Perhaps it was these moments and not my brains, charm, or good looks that endeared me to my wife. If Mike is right, it may have been my literally kissing the ground that Now-wife then walked on that inexplicably drew her to me. All those times I thought she was trying to kill me by snapping two elongated flat boards onto my feet and shoving two sticks into my hands before sending me careening down a snow-covered mountain or by affixing razor thin pieces of metal to the bottoms of my boots and asking me to travel in aimless circles on an indoor puddle of ice with throngs of other people with razor thin pieces of metal affixed to the bottoms of their boots, she might actually have been turned on by my pratfalls and encores of pratfalls.
The moment I truly won her heart must have been when I collapsed in front of a gaggle of preschool skiers and their ski instructor. I slid gracefully from the ski lift, glided a few yards, and delicately crumpled to the cold, cold ground. As I struggled unsuccessfully to return to my skis, the class of three- and four-year-olds (all infinitely more proficient on skis than me) gathered around me, staring at the floundering mess of a wannabe skier. The instructor helped me to my feet. The little ones giggled mercilessly, as did the wife. Much of the rest of my day was spent recovering from similar pratfalls.
All my life, I’ve labored to overcome my proneness to accidents of all varieties, when perhaps I should have been embracing it. It may be the bomp in the bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp that made my baby fall in love with me.
I am a paragon of gracelessness; this just might be my saving grace.