Feb 222011
 

It’s really easy to write a private confessional one late night on your macbook, but making it public takes a lot of deep breaths. Breathing deeply, here’s my story, in case it’s any good to anyone:

Some girls join roller derby to become someone else, to get their flipside moments on the track; but my story is quite different.

I remember being thirteen or fourteen or so and riding beside my sweet, misguided dad in his fire red pickup truck, listening to him talk to me about my future.

“Are you really sure you want to seriously pursue a career in basketball? Can you hang in with this sport for another ten years?”

“Of course, dad. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

“But. I’m not sure as your father that encouraging you to play ball is the responsible thing to do. There are certain things you’ll be exposed to.”

Things? Like?”

“Lesbians.”

Really.

Now, I didn’t have a lot of these conversations growing up; but I did have my fair share of nightmares about being gay or people talking shit about my swag. I’d say the topic mainly existed as a terrifying shadow I refused to acknowledge. If it came up, my line was always, “I’m NOT gaaaaaaay.”

I went to my all-girls Catholic high school, did well, earned the respect and friendship of a whole lot of people, and thought, privately, that if I ever considered “letting myself be gay,” I’d lose it all. My family and friends’ affection. My reputation as a good kid. My place in heaven. Sure, I had no interest in boys. Not even a little. But I told myself it was because I was busy being a basketball player. I made it through high school without my first kiss. Because I was busy.

Well, I did pursue a career in basketball, until I didn’t. I played a year at Tulane and then quit, a failed, but respectable straight, ready for the next thing. I dated a boy a few months later til I quit that and joined a sorority til I quit that.

Since those lady things had failed, I needed something to convince everyone that I was straight.

Enter roller derby. Derby girls were pretty AND athletic, their sexuality, I thought, never questioned. I mean, they played in fishnets. I had been playing my sport for years in shorts to my shins, my hair slicked back to stay out of my face, worn as unattractively as possible. There’s no makeup, smiling, or blowing kisses to the crowd in basketball. Here was my chance to express a certain untapped femininity through my natural draw toward athletics.

A few weeks in, I realized that I hadn’t bought any fishnets; and I wasn’t wearing makeup like I thought I might. I had no interest in the dudesy refs.

Slowly, painfully, each day an ounce of self hatred leaving my body, a girl and I fell for each other. I wondered how this could have happened. I had survived all those basketball gays unscathed and unattracted. They were dykes. I was better than that. And then, just like that, I fell in love with a girl and into a pit of emo turmoil. The further I got into the relationship, the larger my secret life became. I’d one day have to reveal it to my loved ones, and I was sure they’d disown me and talk shit about their lez former friend.

But this isn’t a coming out story. Yes, I came out, and everybody still loves me. It got pretty emo and shitty in parts, but I haven’t lost anyone. I’m closer to my mom, and, though my dad died a few years ago, I know that his love for me is more unconditional now than ever.

The point is, derby helped me shed my defensive skin. While some girls become their alter egos or use the sport to escape from their realities, I really needed it for the opposite reasons. I needed to know it was okay for me to let go of the straightlaced alter ego I had presented myself as for years and truly face up to my self, the one I had been hiding all along. I needed to let go of that hold I had on myself and thaw the freeze that I had cultivated for so long, unable to love, explore, or look real hard at my questions. I found a sport and a girl who let me do that. I found myself.

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Dear Meat,

 Posted by at 10:00 am  4 Responses »
Apr 092010
 

Hi. My name is Rock Bottom, and you want to play roller derby.

Maybe you’re a washed up athlete craving an adoring fan base. Maybe you’re a hot chick looking to stay in shape while showing off your shape, or a momma in need of alter ego time away from husband and kids.

I’d like to say I was once all of these things. It would flow really well and make me seem super relatable and cool, but mainly I was the washed up, lonely athlete looking for the adoring fan base and hodgepodge of loyal teammates. Now I’m a rookie who’s just starting to get a feel for the sport, the culture, the unapologetic feminism.

Hi. This is my terribly unflattering official head shot. I was skinny.

I played a year of college basketball for Tulane University in my hometown of New Orleans, making me the fourth generation in my family to play for the university. You don’t care. I mean, I cared for a while, but then I sucked. I didn’t play, and we lost a lot. I hadn’t a spare moment to nap (and I love naps) or  to take a walk with the ducks of beautiful Audubon Park (and I love ducks). So, after a single, pathetic season of Division I basketball, the supposed Caana of aspiring athletic souls, I quit.

And then, oxygen. Chirping birds. Sunshine. Free time. Free time!

Because roller girls have to be contradictory, I joined a sorority for a bit before finding my derby love. But, after a single, average year of sorority life, the supposed Studio 54 of underage socialites, I quit.

And then, lack of purpose. Boredom. New stretch marks. Stretch marks!

When does my story get happy? When I casually emailed Violet Reaction of Red Stick Roller Derby, dragged a friend with me to Leo’s Rollerland, and found myself a new challenge.

New friends to make. A new skill to learn. A new purpose.

Now, I skate. I throw my arms in the air because I just don’t care, and the crowd feels me. I jump over hos who fall on the ground and warm up to my humble rap songs. I’m happy.

Sometimes, I notice my friends looking at each other when I tell stories about Rock Bottom and her friends. They smirk at Caitlin’s evolving wardrobe. It kills me a little to not have them back me in whatever makes me happy, but I get it. New shit is scary, and so is change; but the two can also be violently invigorating. So, whatever, I’m happy.

You, too, can be happy. Already happy? Then get ready for happier. Because roller derby is for you. It’s for any human with a vagina, two legs, a dash of swagger, and a willingness to accept incongruous folks.

It’s time you bought your skates, my friend. Find a cul-de-sac and skate it like pre-Babe Ruthless in Whip-It. Your old friends probably won’t get it, but your new friends will.

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