Remember the ’80s Nickelodeon game show “Double Dare”? I remember watching it at my best friend Sean’s house when I was a kid – he was also my next door neighbor, and his family got cable television a few years before mine. I used to dream about being a “Double Dare” contestant with Sean (contestants were in teams of two) and winning the game, giving us the chance to run the messy, ridiculous, awesome obstacle course at the end of each show.
One of the obstacles was called the Sundae Slide. First you had to climb up a slide that was covered in pudding, then slide down a different slide into a different pile of pudding. Climbing that first slide was one of the hardest stunts on the obstacle course, and it would often make or break the team: if the contestant did well on the Sundae Slide, they had a fair chance of winning the whole thing, but if the contestant stumbled, it was very hard to recover.
Agile and physically fit contestants would straddle the slide, only letting their feet touch the sides of it, and scamper up it like a monkey. They’d avoid touching the pudding altogether, because they knew that pudding + shoes = a loss of all traction. This will jog your memory – The kid at the 15-second mark in this video really struggles going up the slide, but the kid at the 1:55 mark handles it like a pro:
Watching “Double Dare” was a treat, since I couldn’t watch it at my own house, and my dream of being a contestant would keep me up at night: I could win awesome prizes like Casio keyboards, a year’s supply of gum, or (gulp!) a trip to Space Camp! I could take part in sloppy physical challenges that involved vats of whipped cream and picking giant plastic noses! I could be on TV!
There was one big problem in my dream of fame and fortune that I needed to solve, though: the team that got to run the obstacle course would alternate through the tasks, and I needed to ensure that Sean would be the one who did the Sundae Slide. This was top priority. The thought of myself, the chubby kid, on the Sundae Slide quickly turned my dream into a nightmare. I knew – I just knew – that I wouldn’t be able to get up that goddamn pudding-covered slide. I knew – I just knew – that the entire 60-second time limit would evaporate as I struggled under my own weight. I knew – I just knew – that the scampering monkey technique was beyond my physical abilities. I knew – I just knew – that I’d end up looking like a weak, pudding-covered fool. I really wanted to go on “Double Dare,” but I didn’t want to humiliate myself in the process. And I certainly didn’t want to be blamed for Sean not winning a Walkman or a pair of rollerblades. The Sundae Slide, simply put, terrified me.
So I developed strategies. If Sean and I somehow got picked to be contestants (which would be a miracle, since I never bothered to learn where the show was taped or how kids got on the show), then I’d be prepared.
- Plan 1 would be to get Sean psyched for the Sundae Slide, as if we’d already discussed that he’d be the one doing it. I’d start the second we learned we were going on the show: “Sean, you’re going to kill it on the Sundae Slide!” “Sean, aren’t you excited about the Sundae Slide?” I was ready to convince Sean that we had already discussed how he’d do the Sundae Slide, and that he must have forgotten our conversation. Sean’s no dummy, so I’d have to be careful with the mind trickery, but it was worth a shot.
- Plan 2, to be implemented simultaneously as Plan 1, would be praying daily to God that the Sundae Slide would be broken the day our episode taped. I went to Sunday school and church nearly every week from first through eighth grade, so I could even reinforce my daily prayers with major Sunday prayers.
- Plan 3 would be to avoid committing to who would go first on the obstacle course until we were in the studio, and the obstacle course was set up, right there in front of us. Then, and only then, would I start insisting on going first or second, whichever meant not doing the Sundae Slide.
Of course, none of these plans were ever actually needed, because I was never a contestant on “Double Dare.” I’m not sure I ever even shared my “Double Dare” dream with Sean, come to think of it.
Last night, I had dinner with a bunch of friends, some of whom I went kayaking with in August. It was a lovely meal and a great time, and on the drive home my mind started wandering. I started thinking about that kayak trip, and how, for most of my adult life, kayaking was out of the realm of possibility for me, a man hundreds of pounds overweight. But thanks to a helluva lot of hard work and determination, I’m changed my life, and now kayaking is possible (and fun!). I don’t remember how I mentally leaped from kayaking to “Double Dare”-related memories, but I had a nice little epiphany, and it’s this: I’m no longer scared of the Sundae Slide. In fact, I’d love to give it a whirl!
So who has a time machine, or access to playground equipment, dozens of pounds of pudding, and a direct line to “Double Dare” host Marc Summers? I need someone to help with the logistics, because I just want to sit back for a little while longer and enjoy the reminder that it’s not just about the number on the scale: my weight loss is, quite literally, rewriting my dreams.
Keep it up, David!