I have bruises. Substantial bruises. Bruises of some substance. They are located on both my right and my left upper arms. The right arm is by far the most artistically done, bruises seemingly watercolored on my arm with deep blues, greens, a bit of stipled red, violet. Dotted on like a series of swirling islands covering nearly my entire upper arm from shoulder to elbow. The left arm may be less magnificent overall, but what it lacks in grandeur, it makes up for in location and creativity. A brilliant purple and green bruises is located on the underside of the arm and curls around the outside. It’s shaped as if someone had tightened a rope around my flesh and tightened it. I cannot fail to mention the massive, unholy yellow bruise on the ball of my shoulder.
I show off my bruises. They have a life of their own, while they are with me. They are an ice breaker, so I can talk about how I got them with people I don’t know. My coworkers look at me differently, not necessarily because I am bruised (often women are bruised), but because I grin and I am proud that I am bruised. I know It’s not common for a woman to show off her bruises-usually, they are kept hidden, a dirty secret, considered ugly. Not mine. I earned mine and I am proud. I have a pride about me as I marvel at how my body reacts to stimulus, blooming with color and pain. Nothing in my life could have prepared me for loving my bruises or loving the pain they bring. I am a roller derby girl. Sometimes, when I am feeling saucy, I refer to myself as a roller derby queen, which is a completely unearned title, since I am a new derby girl. I am only 5 months in and it has been a rollicking ride. I thought it would be something I would just do-roller derby, I mean-like a softball league or a sand volleyball team. You know, you just show up for games and the random practice. I thought I could compartmentalize it into my life to fulfill my exercise need and my companionship need. Sweating my ass off? Check. Female bonding about non-work, non-family stuff? Double check. It didn’t happen that way. It didn’t play out like that at all. This shit infiltrated my life.
The women on this team literally force you out of complacency and involve you. When there are bout production issues and we need to go get another cooler of ice for the away team’s water cooler, you bet your ass they are pushing some girl out the door to go get it. Feeling like you should quit during the 45 minutes of intense endurance skating? There’s a senior skater there singling you out to work harder. Need tickets sold? Need to find a team sponsor? Sell ads for the bout program? These things have to be done because we are not owned nor are we coached by an Other, an outsider- male or female. We are always reminded that if we want to roller derby, we have to do it: participate, help, create, donate or step up and fucking lead! Normally, I reject being pushed. You push me and I push back. The other Derbies (an affectionate term for roller derby girls) pushed me to challenge myself-to take myself to task and be responsible for being happy and proud of who I am on the team. They urged me from a place of female support and sisterly love that, I am saddened to say, has been absent all my life. They encouraged the individual, unique, square-peg part of me that doesn’t fit into any of the round-hole roles of that I play-wife, mother, coworker. And I push back, mirroring this fantastic support and love for my derby family. My derby family and I, we’ll all be having a great time, whether at practice, an afterparty, a bout, fundraiser, or jersey making party and we’ll look each at the others-the student, the hairdresser, engineer, phlebotomist, the mom, grandma, 18 year old, the 40 year old, the lawyer, the waitress the accountant-and we’ll wonder, with a pang, “What if I hadn’t found this?” What if I hadn’t seen these girls at the Whip It premiere? What if I hadn’t met that girl skating on the levy in her hot pants and fishnets, or come across the Red Stick Roller Derby website? Who would I be today? Clearly not me. Certainly not the wonderful me that I am now.
These women, they are helping me to become a version of myself that is galvanized; a more concentrated, incited version of myself that I wasn’t sure existed. I have chosen to be this galvanized version of Kayla Aylward who has transformed into the balls-out blocker Ms. Kittie Fantastik. I choose everyday when I put on my skates and pads. When I go one hundred percent during endurance-not ninty, one hundred percent!-even though my legs are trembling with exhaustion. I choose to be the me that is Ms. Kittie when I religiously check our team forum to be up on what I need to do for derby. I choose to be myself. The best version of myself. When I put myself out there to practice hitting and blocking and especially jamming, even though I am reasonably sure I will look like an idiot and fall and generally be terrible. On faith I do these things, so that I can continue to grow and revolutionize myself.
At the bout this past Saturday, (my first, by the way)I got my beautiful sleeves of bruises. I probably got them from being hit by Rock Bottom, or Heidi Volatile or especially Tricky La Rouge, not from me hitting them. I’m ok with that. My bruises are an outward sign that I’m in the game, taking the hits and giving ‘em when I get a chance. I’m not coasting, I’m not compartmentalizing, I am working my ass off for something that I don’t even know what the end product will be-if there will even be one. There are few things in my life that I have simply approached on faith. Derby is my most unexpected experience with faith. Faith is that thing you can’t see, but you know it’s there, you just know. That’s what I see when I see my bruises and grin. Faith. Faith that from now on, I will always be in the game, mixing it up.