Life in the shadow of a ski dance professional

When you tell someone that your father traveled a lot for work when you were a child, the person you are talking to will probably say something pleasant. Maybe about how hard it might have been for Mom, keeping house solo. Flute lessons, basketball practice, fencing tournaments, routine trips to the chess emporium. The working parts. Or maybe how it’s always best to have a stable physical presence in your life, family and otherwise. Something like that.

Or if, for another example, your mother held elected office at some point during your youth. Every two or four or six years you had to travel state- or nation-wide in a scrum, holding hands and appearing natural in photographs. Which were then distributed in the pages and online editions of every major media outlet. Your friend would probably say something about how life in the spotlight can often be harshest on those at the edge of the stage. And that’s classy as hell. That’s a nice thing to say to someone.

But think for a second. What if you told someone that your dad was a Ski Dancer’s Union (SDU) certified snow dance professional? That one particularly trying winter your father diligently prepared for the planned presence of a Warren Miller film crew at the annual 1984 Breckenridge Ski Dance-A-Palooza. That you waited excitedly to watch the segment at the premier you were sure you would be invited to. That you finally watched the sketch, eventually, on the 8-inch television in your rapidly crumbling motorhome only to discover that the filmmakers didn’t see the beautiful fusion of two elegant disciplines. They saw comic relief. That for decades your friends would be like #lol when you talked about what it was like as a family on the professional ski dancing circuit.

Guys, let me tell you one thing: a phrase like that’ll sting like a real son of a gun. People throwing around #lols like hotcakes. Like those three letters can’t cut to the bone.

Here in Shanghai, that’s all ancient history. I’ve been flying without a banner for a long time now. When I wake up, I go buy vegetables and no one knows where I came from. No one knows who I am. Or what my father did to provide for his family. Or where I’m headed in this life. I’m just some dude named Roger.

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