“Why I love roller derby” writing contest finalist:
“Frightening Giants” by 9lb Hammer
Why do I love roller derby? Because my legs are stacked like a professional wrestler’s, and I can do fifty pushups at once. Because I am barely five feet tall, yet my presence frightens giants. Because I am allowed to—even supposed to!—thrust my shoulder into girls’ chests and knock them over.
Because before roller derby, I had never been part of a team.
Before skating, I spent my lonely life studying, playing with my three cats, and wondering if there were any surprises left. All my friends read the same books, talked about the same theorists, and drank the same bottles of wine. Every morning, I woke up, put on some mascara, and taught the same composition classes over and over. In the afternoons, I would let the din of the Game Show Network background my reading of Victorian literature and trashy magazines. At night, I would scour the internet for indie music shows and balk at the mileage.
I would curl up on my futon and wonder if God existed. I would get bored and cut my own hair (a bad, bad idea). I wondered if I would make close friends (or find a cute boyfriend) in this college town of sorority skirts and Ray-bans.
Before derby, I lived life for myself, and I lived life for nothing.
When I started skating, I didn’t befriend my teammates immediately. I didn’t go out after practice, and I didn’t facebook tag pictures of my volcanic leg bruises. I tried to keep my distance. This roller derby thing was just something to fill up two hours on a Monday and Wednesday night.
And then everything changed.
At the request of my future derby wife, I started going out with the team, especially if pizza was involved. When I played my first scrimmage in mental-rentals, I kept up with the pack. I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. When I accidentally tripped our team’s jammer, she forgave me immediately.
My teammates told tales of motherhood, drug abuse, and broken families. When my chin bounced off the floor one practice, a teammate told me that it was okay to cry, as long as it wasn’t from a hit. I got to know and to love girls I would have never met off skates.
Before derby, I could not have told anyone that my doctor tested me for kidney disease, and the test came back positive. I would have never told anyone that having diabetes for twenty-three years has led to a daily Prozac habit.
But after getting comfortable, I had a team to confide in. I had girls who drove me to the emergency room when my bladder stopped working. I met people who loved me for the mess that I was; I met people who believed in me.
I love derby because now I accept what I have always been: a short girl with a proclivity for literature comprehension, high blood sugars, and the Game Show Network.
I love derby because now that short girl has legs as strong as wolverines.
I love derby because our team has a hair studio sponsorship that prevents me from making bad late-night style decisions.
I love derby because now I know that God exists, and she is definitely wearing a pair of pink Riedell roller skates.
I love derby because skating has taught me how to frighten the giants that once frightened me.