While it is little noted in history books, torturers during the Spanish Inquisition, when nothing else would work, made their prisoners go ice skating.

Having just returned from my family’s annual holiday ice skating excursion, I can quite painfully attest to the incredible seasonal combination of agonizing torment and tormenting agony that ice skating offers.

We do this each year, go ice skating around this time, because it’s a wonderful, embracing, affirming family holiday season tradition that also includes sarcasm, snarkyness and a condescending air of superiority.

That’s because my family gets great pleasure in watching me struggle to get my skates on, wobble toward the ice, cling terrified to the sideboards of the ice, fall to the ice and generally moan in high anguish because the skates are killing my feet. It all brings us together as a family.

A word here, by the way, about my feet. They are flat. They have no arch at all (parenthetically, if I had arches, I am convinced I would be 6 feet 2 and could have played basketball in college or at least in middle school). My feet, consequently, are not designed for skates. They are barely designed for shoes.

When I put skates on, my feet start cramping up right in my arches, until they painfully realize that they have no arches and so why are they doing that?

Ultimately, I finally get the skates on, having tightened them four times with a skate key — yes, we are a family with a skate key, although we use it mostly for a corkscrew during the rest of the year. It’s excellent with a pinot noir.

I head to the ice, screaming to the people already on the ice that they’re on the ice and it’s slippery and hard and cold and they could fall down and please, tell me, how are you able to do that gliding thing?

It’s called skating, it appears. Three-year-old children are doing it. Elderly invalids are doing it. People are doing it without even knowing that they are doing it. Everyone is doing it, skating forward, skating backwards, twirling around and occasionally eating beef jerky.

Some are doing figure eights. I am trying to do a figure one.

As I glide onto the ice to join all the graceful skaters — well, glide may not be exactly the right word here; stumble might be more appropriate — my ankles begin to fold outwards. My heels wobble. My toes curl up and die. So far, I’m doing better than last year.

While everyone — including my family — is flowing effortlessly by, I hold desperately to the side wall, silently promising myself that if I ever get through this, I will never watch another Republican primary debate.

An hour or two later, after finally having made it one time around the entire rink, I am exhausted, and done. Off I glide — again, perhaps, not quite the right word; stagger might be more appropriate — to sit down on the nearest bench. Then comes the absolute best part of the entire year.

I take off my skates. My feet thank me.

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