Derby Love

Over the last three blogs, you’ve been reading about my struggles to get in BBRG, despite injuries and disappointments. Maybe you’re asking yourself. Why bother? It’s just roller skating, right? Let me tell you a little bit about what roller derby means to me, and maybe you’ll get an inkling of why I didn’t give up, and why I wanted it so bad.

As I mentioned, my body was not in the best shape—still isn’t. Cancer, pregnancy, inactivity, and let’s face it, age, had not been kind to me. Many of the girls in the league are in their early twenties—fit, healthy, and blowing me out of the water on the track. I can’t tell you how many times I get frustrated watching one of them whizz by me, all grace and speed, barely breaking a sweat, while I’m struggling to stay upright with sweat rolling down my face. One of the reasons I joined derby was to get myself in better shape. I wanted to be able to keep up with my frenetic four year old when he’s playing. I wanted something I wouldn’t get bored doing. And I wanted to feel better about my own body. I feel fat and uncomfortable with my body a lot, like many girls do. The first time I tried on a pair of the shorts I wear to practice, I almost crawled into the closet in shame. How was I going to get out there in fishnets and miniskirts during a bout?

I’m sure a lot of it is mental. At least I keep telling myself that. I went through a bad divorce a few years ago, and my self esteem took a beating during it. I look at my surgery scars and my stretch marks and sigh a lot, remembering what I looked like when I was younger. But here’s one reason I love derby: for every tiny girl on our team, there’s another one who’s big and beautiful. She puts on her fishnets with pride and happily dances along to Fat Bottomed Girls in her high heels. She can knock the living crap out of you on the track and doesn’t care that she isn’t America’s vision of what beauty should be. Her butt is bigger than you are and she uses it to block and hit and wear little booty shorts, like she’s God’s gift to men. And she is. Men fall all over themselves to be in her presence, because her self-confidence makes her attractive, not her weight or lack thereof. And derby gives you that self confidence. You get hit and you fall down. Then you get back up and hit someone else. You work through pain and injury. You keep practicing and keep getting better, and then a vet gives you a compliment on how good you’re doing and you feel amazing. You realize that you don’t have to take the crap that people are throwing at you every day. You are strong, and you can definitely stand up for yourself.

For every 20 year old in our league, there’s a woman in her fabulous 40s or late 30’s. We have a 52 year old blocker named Proud Mary, who gives as good as she gets and looks fabulous doing it. (She has a great body, by the way, but that’s just an extra bonus, like a cherry on top). Derby accepts everyone. Any shape, any size, any age—as long as you’re willing to work and try as hard as you can. Your teammates will tell you that you look beautiful and sexy, and they will mean it. I put on my fishnets and my tiny skirts for our events, and although I’m still uncomfortable at times and there is a permanent running joke that I’d rather be in a burqua on the track, I leave the house and walk with pride. I may have to remind myself of it sometimes, but my whole league is full of beautiful women, including myself, and we take pride in our sport and ourselves. When I’m out with my teammates I feel younger than I have in years. We have fun, we drink, we dance, we sing karaoke (OK, I haven’t quite built up to that one yet, but someday)! I can act silly and carefree and not worry what anyone’s thinking of me. Because my teammates aren’t going to ditch me if I get three sheets to the wind and do something stupid. No matter what, I know they’ll always have my back.

Now before I make it sound too rosy, we aren’t perfect. There are petty spats and hurt feelings sometimes. You get 50 women in each other’s faces three or more times a week and sometimes tempers fly. Especially, during scrimmages. Some girls are more likely to hang out with others at an event—it’s sort of standard practice to hang out with the group who joined when you did. Let’s face facts. The veterans have known each other a lot longer than you. It takes time to get acclimated and although everyone is nice and helpful, you grow closer to certain people before others. You gain associations like derby wives—that girl that will give you the most support, ride with you in the ambulance when you break something, give you the shoulder to cry on. And no, having derby wives doesn’t mean we’re all lesbians. But frankly, no one cares if you are a lesbian. Because it’s about support and your team, not what you do in the bedroom. And despite differences of opinion and arguments, there is a deep set loyalty and a sense of acceptance. My faults, which are many, are brushed aside when we skate. I feel a camaraderie I don’t get anywhere else. We are all so different, but we have this driving force to play derby and to be a team. And there is always someone who’s been in your situation before, whether it’s derby related or not, that can give you perspective and an open ear. Plus, we work together to win. Derby, as a whole, is a sport that supports women, no matter who you are. By the skaters, for the skaters. I’m part of something bigger than me, and it feels great.

Those are just a few of my reasons. I’m sure I could come up with many more. Not the least of which is that I have a reason to wear fishnets and miniskirts on a weekly basis. What more could a girl ask for?

Next week: Once More With Feeling