February 28, 2013

Coming out of the Roller Derby Closet

My parents are wonderful.  They’re incredibly kind, supportive, and have made huge sacrifices for me in order to help me succeed.  I love them so much, but I will be the first to admit that they are 10 times more conservative than me.  No, they’re not members of the Westboro Baptist Church, but there are certain things that make them uncomfortable; like loud music, piercings, and tattoos.  Roller derby contains a lot of counter-culture, so I knew telling my parents was going to be a big step.

My sisters are both experienced athletes will skills ranging in soccer, volleyball, basketball, and track.  I was always the odd one out; singing in the school choir, acting in school plays, or doodling all over my notebooks during class.  I loved the arts and sports always made me want to die.  I actually remember faking sick and hiding behind the park restroom when I was a teenager in order to skirt my out of a kickball game.  Kickball.  Quite possibly the easiest sport ever.
So when I started roller derby I knew that I wanted to succeed in it.  But how?  Don’t you have two left feet, Skank?  Don’t you hate it when people watch you?  Aren’t you perpetually out of shape from eating too many cupcakes?  Yes.  But I was determined to overcome my obstacles and become the person I have always wanted to be.  I came to practice, worked hard and after 6 months, my chance to bout finally came.  Then it hit me; do I tell my parents about this?

When I picked up the phone to call them that familiar feeling of imminent dread consumed me.  Couldn’t I just live this secret life where my parents don’t know how cool I am?  Can’t I live in blissful anonymity?  It seemed incredibly enticing.  I was a second away from hanging up when my mom picked up the phone and I knew my fate was sealed.  I decided to tell her with confidence and poise but I still found my voice to be a little shaky.  She found it surprising, but was excited for me.  I think she knew how much it meant to me that I had found a sport where I wasn’t the clutz of the team and wasn’t looked down upon for not being as good as my sisters.  She had also noticed that I was losing weight and smiling more, and was proud of me for trying something new.  I felt relief rush over me.  Why didn’t I think my own mom would understand?  She’s my mom.  Frankly I felt kind of stupid for being so worried. 
When my dad got on the phone I got a very different reaction.  He seemed utterly bewildered that I would even think about doing something like roller derby. He kept huffing and puffing and I could just see him shaking his head all the way from Denver.  His exact words were, “Roller derby? That’s - not you.  That doesn’t seem like something you would do.”  My immediate thought was, “Dad, you must have no idea who I am.” And it was so heartbreaking to realize that this was true.  My father had this perfect idea of who I was and anything that didn’t fit into this persona he had simply chosen to ignore.  It was hard to know that my own parent hadn’t really paid attention to who I was in years.

Well, because telling my parents had been so successful, I decided to tell them something even more ridiculous; that were coming to one of my bouts. Ha! Boy, do I have a sense of humor. The funniest part is, they actually ended up coming.  Seeing my parents try their hardest not to stare at short skirted, tattooed ladies in fishnets was totally worth it.  My mom found it interesting while my dad found it out of his realm and a little barbaric. I didn't know if they were going to come back.

It was a year since my first bout that I had really realized all that I had accomplished. My parents had come to every single one of my bouts and as I took the track for my first jam I heard my dad yell, “Go, Skank! Go!”  When I turned around I saw him wearing a SkankBank t-shirt, waving a cowbell around and cheering.  He had shown up, without my mother, ready to get loud for me.  That year I had sweated and toiled into becoming a real roller derby girl, but what I actually accomplished was changing the way my father saw me.  I forced him to see how strong and determined I was.  I made him see me the way that I see myself; as someone who doesn’t live life with her head down.  Telling people that you do roller derby will spawn all sorts of different reactions.  Some people will judge, snicker, be impressed, or not even care.  Whatever reaction you get; stand tall.  Your parents, friends, teachers, co-workers; these people will think that you’re crazy for playing roller derby, but you know better:) You would be crazy if you ever let them stop you.

The Original Skankster

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