May 13, 2012

Cool attraction: Maine author explores figure skating

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

When Erica Rand hit her 40s, she decided to do something that would probably make most adults recoil in horror.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Erica Rand, a Bates college professor, learned figure skating in her 40s, and although she loves the sport, she is critical of some aspects of it.

Photo by Alexis Lyon

She learned how to figure skate.

And she found that she loved it.

Rand, a professor of art and visual culture and of women and gender studies at Bates College in Lewiston, did more than just learn a few tricks on the ice. She immersed herself in the world of showy little skirts and professional blade sharpeners. She competed in the Gay Games and at the U.S. Adult National Figure Skating Championships.

In her new book, "Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice" (Duke University Press, $23.95), Rand explores in short essays themes such as gender issues in sports, the economics of skating competitions, and the need to make figure skating more inclusive. There's even a chapter explaining in detail the complicated scoring system used by figure skating judges.

Rand, 53, lives in Portland and enjoys watching television and playing puzzle games in her free time.

But mostly, you'll find her out on the ice. 

Q: Why did you want to learn to figure skate? Are you one of those people who can't miss watching the skating competitions on TV?

A: I love watching skating competitions on TV. I skated a little bit as a kid. Really, it was partly about moving to Portland. I had an idea that I was going to keep going to the Y in Auburn, where I had a nice community of people I exercised with.

One day something just made me think, "I want a pair of skates." I had my old childhood pair of skates, and when I moved to Portland I finally threw them out. And I don't know why, but one day I just thought maybe I'll buy skates. And I went and bought skates at Play It Again Sports. I said "Where's a rink?" and they told me about the Portland Ice Arena, which is four blocks from where I live.

I went, I skated around, I loved it. I started taking these adult classes, and it was just grown-ups. It wasn't like you were trying to learn how to skate with little kids. It was just a great environment, and I got completely hooked. 

Q: Have you won any competitions over the years?

A: No (laughing). I've racked up very few awards. I came in third out of four at the Gay Games, in my age group and level. That was in 2006. I'm not the best competitor. I wanted to compete in the Gay Games, and then I kept competing partly for research. Some people thrive on competition. I do not thrive on competition, but there are things I really enjoy about it. So this year I competed at the U.S. Figure Skating Adult National Competition. 

Q: Wow. 

A: Before you say wow, I'll just tell you that at my level, I skated at the lowest level that competes there. I skated in the 51-60 age group. The group after that is called 61 to death, basically. And at my level, you don't have to compete your way up. When kids compete in a national competition, they've beat all these people and are the 12 best people in the country. In the adult competition, you just decide to go.

I came in eighth out of 13. It was very exciting. It was good for me to make it up to the middle of the pack. I'm just not a very good competitor. My jumps and spims don't work as well as they do at home. 

(Continued on page 2)

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