This week US Figure Skating's Adult National Championships take place outside Chicago. In her new book Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice, Erica Rand describes how she came to be a competitive figure skater in her mid-forties. As Rand writes, "adult" in the world of figure skating does not refer to sexual content, but rather "to people skating after an age when they might reasonbly expect to become the next Brian Boitano or Peggy Fleming." Rand attended several Adult Nationals both as a competitor and as an observer of the rules, gender conventions, fashions, and behind-the-scenes friendships. Here's an excerpt from her chapter on how she challenged some of those conventions at the 2009 competition:
"I made a little splash at the 2009 Adult Nationals. It wasn’t for skilled skating. Besides competing in the lowest freestyle level at an, I botched most of my spins and jumps. Instead, I stood out for violating the unwritten rules of music, dress, and gender presentation for women. My music, harder edged than most, came from the Pink Floyd song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as well as an instrumental version of Nine Inch Nails’s “Closer,” which is better known by its primary lyric 'I want to fuck you like an animal,' although people familiar with the song might not have placed my excerpt. Unlike my competitors’ costumes, which involved skating dresses and skin- colored tights, my costume featured black leggings under a short, pleated black skirt from Hot Topic that had silver- colored studs and chains. Besides accenting the music with a bit of mainstreamed bondage fashion, the metallic elements provided the requisite skating- costume sparkle ordinarily met by jewel- like stones. My hair, instead of the common bun or ponytail in natural, or natural looking, hair color, had red chunks dyed into a relatively short bluish black.
I hadn’t considered the costume or music to be so outrageous; neither had my coach. So I was surprised when people sought me out later to praise my refreshing deviation from the norm. 'We don’t think the judges liked it,' someone tracked me down in the parking lot to say, 'but we did.'"(page 117)
For a chance to win an advance review copy of Rand's book, leave a comment here or on our Facebook page about why you love or hate (or love to hate) figure skating. We'll notify the two winners later this week.