"You must be feisty," a guy said to me yesterday when I told him I had joined the local roller derby league. I just gave him my half-cocked smile.
"You're the last one I'd expect to do derby," another person told me.
Making of a Roller Derby Girl: Super Freak?
I joined the league for various reasons. After seeing my first bout in Tallahassee last year I knew it was for me: the speed, adrenaline rush, attitude, empowerment and ultra cool factor.
Based on their reaction, I'm sure my parents would have preferred I took up knitting or bocce ball rather than a sport requiring a helmet, elbow and knee pads, wrist guards and a mouth guard that needs to be boiled in water and molded to the mouth, just like in high school. I was a field hockey chick back in those days and a force to be reckoned with thanks to the years of growing up playing street hockey with the neighborhood boys. I'm guessing those blocking and dodging skills will come into play once I hit the track. But I digress…
Once people learn of my extra-curricular activity, I get a certain look and it's as though I've earned some unattainable coolness level. It's also interesting to hear the conversation change towards more personal topics, ones that make a true lady blush. This usually happens with guys and honestly I don't mind piquing their curiosity.
I haven't had anyone say this but I can tell by the glimmer in their eyes -and let me clear this up - roller derby girls aren't freaks. I'm not a freak! At the same, I'm not the total ultra-conservative chick I need to portray in my professional life so if roller derby busts that misconception, hallelujah!
Derby girls are no freakier than the next person. Everyone has their quirky hang ups. Sure, on the outside a lot gals don't look like mainstream society. Some have gorgeously elaborate tattoos, multiple piercings and wear their hair like pinup icon Bettie Page. I’ve been too chicken to get a tat due to indecisiveness (although I've thought about the same Celtic design for the past five years), my only piercings are in my ears and I can't get my hair to do the Bettie Page thing because it's too darn curly.
It's what's on the inside of a derby girl that counts (I know, should've warned ya about the sappy, sugary trite phrase) and I can honestly say these girls I've been skating with are some of the most genuine and nicest I've met in quite a while. Usually when a bunch of women get together there's competition, cattiness and bitchiness but I haven't seen nor experienced this (yet). Roller derby is a team effort.
It's also a culture and I’m slowly learning, embracing and loving it. I feel comfortable in the derby setting probably because for the first time in a long time, I'm not being judged by my character but by my skills, my insecurities are washed away and am accepted as I am. No matter what our reasons for joining, we have the common tie of roller derby.
Making of a Roller Derby Girl: All About the Name
And if you haven't heard, my derby name is "Yankee Tripper." Somewhat of a play on "Yankee Clipper," its true meaning is a connection to my Buffalo heritage. While I don't necessarily feel out of place in Southwest Florida, while living in Tallahassee I was definitely a Yankee. Tripper is two-fold. It's "trip" as in travel and the obvious, being a tripper on the track (not one who trips!).
Next practice is Wednesday night but I may head up to Sarasota tomorrow to get some skate time in at a rink promoting Christian Family Night. Not sure what that means because if they deny me entry for being single, I wouldn’t find that very Christian.