There’s no one reason I can point to and say, yes, this is why I wanted to try out for roller derby.
It’s a weird sort of relationship I’ve had with the sport. I can remember watching it when I was a kid. At the time I was between a tween and a young teen when they used to show matches on the UHF stations in Chicago. Back then the teams were mixed, both men and women, and were about as fake as they got. I mean, it was obvious to just about anyone watching that the hits were fake, the falls were staged, and the wins were determined in advance. My grandmother believed it was real, but I didn’t.
The thing is, I knew that there Had Been something real about the sport years before. I’d read stories about things that happened in the 50s and I later found pictures, mostly of women who look like they’re having a great time and often appeared in photos a bit bruised and sometimes bloodied.
To me, a kid who was both sexually and gender confused, it seemed like a lot of fun.
But through the 80s, 90s, and early 2000’s it was impossible to do anything concerning the sport. Reason being? I wasn’t quite myself, at least not the self I am today. I couldn’t even watch Whip It, the ultimate fan girl movie on roller derby, until I could load it up from Amazon and watch it when I had a free afternoon. In fact, I may do that again this week.
So ever since coming out as myself I’ve had an interest in roller derby, as in actively participating in the sport. Big problem, however: I’m no longer a young person and my fear was I’d be competing with a lot of people who were in their mid and late 20s. I don’t have the endurance I once had, I don’t have the agility, and I certainly don’t bounce back from an injury like I use to, so I was somewhat bothered that I’d be a flop.
But what I do have is an understanding that a lot of my past life has been built around failures. And, frankly, I’m tired of being a failure. I’m tired of having the same things happen to me again and again, and after failing so many times, you crave for that moment when you can place a check mark in the win column.
Now, because of my association with a certain person during the Clinton campaign, I was aware that there was a derby team in the Harrisburg area. I also knew that this woman was on the team. So on couple of occasions when we met I expressed an interest in trying out for the team, which she encouraged. I mean, she knows my age, so her saying I should come out and see what it’s like, that meant I should. Of course, my biggest fear was I’d come out looking completely stupid–I even express that sentiment to her in a PM the day of tryouts. She assured me that I should at least give it a shot and if it wasn’t for me, no big deal. But if it was…
I know. I’ll never find out if it’s for me unless I come out and see if it’s for me.
So that’s what I did: on 30 May, 2017, I got out my leggings, threw on a T-shirt and something like a sports bra, and headed out to the roller rink the Enola, Pennsylvania. I strapped on protective gear, put on my skates, and got out on the rink–
I’m not gonna lie: I sucked. I was out of shape; I needed to lay down; I was gasping for air at times; and it was nearly impossible for me to do anything. But I stuck with it the best I could.
But you know how they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well, I didn’t die that night, and there was a practice the next evening–a legitimate practice. And if I wanted to continue I needed to show. So I got myself together, headed out to the rink again, strapped on my gear and got on the rink. And you know what? I didn’t suck quite as bad. I did take three hard falls and had to lay down once, but it made it through practice.
I was not only alive but I was sore as hell and had to ice down my right shoulder the next night. I imagine ibuprofen and ice packs are going to be my friends for some time, as I have decided to continue with this. I have a month to decide if I want to go from pitching in my five dollars every practice to becoming a full-blown, dues paying member and work towards improving my abilities and even getting my own gear.
I’m away in Indiana this week and already I’m feeling a little guilty that I couldn’t hit practice last night. But I will be back next week and for sure I will show up at Tuesday night and Wednesday night practices. And the following week I’ll be at the Monday and Wednesday night practices.
And I’m going to keep writing about it, because if there’s one thing I learned it’s that keeping a chronicle your adventures are a good way to remember how you went from zero to hero. And if I were a certain ginger kid from Cardiff I could imagine an incredibly old spirit telling me that a new chapter of my life had begun, but it was up to me to write that chapter. It was up to me to put in the words that described the experience.
Good thing for me I can do that.
After all, writers are good at starting chapters…