A few months ago I “turned” 50. I celebrated by throwing a big party, well supported in various ways by my derby sisters. This week, a belated birthday present arrived which celebrates both my birthday and my experiences as my derby alter ego, Blue Ruin. This puts me in a reflective mood. And I am supposed to write a blog for my Furies team… perfect timing.
It all started out as a joke. While dating a man from Kansas, he started calling me “Snot Rocket”, the name of a Kansas City derby girl. We kidded each other that I could be a derby girl but I really didn’t know what I was talking about; I had never skated much as a kid much less watched roller derby.
Then we tried to go the Fall Brawl, the first Emerald City Roller Girls bout. Sold out. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I caught a glimpse of my future as we left the venue, walking through a gauntlet of derby girls. A few weeks later I saw a flyer for tryouts and I thought I’d go, just to take the joke one step further. So I went to what the league called “open recruitment” where you could join the team if you could stand up on skates and pay $30 a month. I was 47 at the time.
Not quite 3 years later and I’m still crazy in love with roller derby. It is a physically and intellectually demanding sport that gets played in a socially and interpersonally complex, and woman-centric community. I have never been so consistently challenged… sometimes it is strictly physical – can I make it through this practice? Why does my knee hurt so bad? At some moments it is emotional – how do I cope with that girl trying to hit me and knock me down without taking it personally and wanting to hit her back because I’m mad and not because it will help my jammer? There are times when I get so frustrated and throw myself a pity party because I can’t grasp the next level of strategic elements of the game. And then of course, there is dealing with winning and loosing… at times gracefully and other times not so much.
What does this have to do with being 50? In so many ways, my age has absolutely nothing to do with the game; and that in and of itself is one of the greatest pleasures of roller derby for me – my age & general experience really doesn’t offer me any particular advantage or disadvantage on or near the track. I get to work and struggle to succeed at this crazy sport just like every other woman on the league, an amazing group of smart, talented, savvy, creative, tough, caring women.
I’m not sure roller derby has saved my soul but it has certainly made at least three years of my “mid life” very very interesting.