America needs more skateboarding.
What do I mean by this? Well, we Americans increasingly find ourselves sorted into tribes and teams. We live in neighborhoods, ZIP codes, and even states of like-minded, like-skinned, and like-educated bubbles. City dwellers mostly interact with city dwellers. Country folks mostly interact with country folks.
I am as guilty as everyone else. I’ve long recognized this, but it’s really become clear since I started skateboarding again.
I skated pretty much every day from 1986 until about 1994, with a brief resurgence in 1996. Then I quit for 20 years. I went to grad school, started my advertising career, moved around a bunch, got married, bought a house, had a kid, and all the general adult stuff.
From grad school on, I mostly interacted with people from very, very similar backgrounds: college-educated, middle- to upper-middle class, upwardly mobile, blah blah blah. Once I entered the workforce, this became even more pronounced. Most of my friends also worked in advertising. It wasn’t a conscious choice; it’s just when you’re young and putting in crazy hours, you meet most new people at work.
It changed a bit when I became a dad. I met people from different backgrounds, with different careers and interests, and it’s been great. But as the group of new parent friends self-sorted, we became somewhat homogenous as well: mostly white collar, doing well but not rich financially, non-religious, comparatively liberal. We may have some small differences, but broadly, we agree on most stuff. It’s good, and I love this group of friends.
Then one day, my son and I were watching TV and happened upon the Vans Pool Party. We watched it together and it was rad. A spark ignited. Some friends and acquaintances still skated, and the spark got stronger. I was about to turn 40, and I decided to start skating again. I’ve been going pretty strong since.
In doing so, I have made a lot of new friends and people I’d categorize as friends, but are primarily acquaintances I like and see infrequently. And here’s the thing about this new group of skater friends: we’re all really, really different.
Among our ranks include stay at home dads, unionized iron workers, wealth management advisors, futures traders, UPS drivers, designers, IT managers, auto mechanics, barbers, small business owners, bike messengers and hair stylists.
We live in cities, suburbs, and exurbs. We’re dads, DINKs, and bachelors. Some of us are progressives, some of us are conservatives, some of us are libertarians. There are gun enthusiasts, conspiracy theorists, total pinkos, and down-the-line Average Joes. (There is a woman or two, but let’s face it, skating is still very dude-centric. Particularly at our age.) There are straight-edgers, drinkers, smokers, and drug enthusiasts. Some of their Facebook posts make me think, “Wow, I never knew XXXXX was one of those guys. Huh.” Obviously, I’m not talking about anything truly objectionable like bigotry. That’s a deal breaker, period. But I just move on, and when we skate together, we don’t dwell on our differences, we just skate.
The beauty of this is that we don’t care about any of the other stuff, because it’s frankly not that important. We’re individuals, and we don’t have to agree on everything. We just either like skating with each other, bond over that shared like, or we don’t.
At a time when our country seems more divided, siloed, and sorted than ever, Americans could really benefit from more things like skateboarding.
Thank you, skateboarding.