Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Love Letter to Greensboro Roller Derby

Dear Greensboro Roller Derby,

You have owned my heart for the past two years of my life. You have strengthened my spirit, challenged my patience, and broken my bones. You have made me a better woman, a prouder woman, and a fine athlete. You have awakened a part of me I didn't know existed, and you asked for so little in return. Greensboro Roller Derby, I love you. Let me count the ways.

You have united the most rag tag, hooligan, eccentric, sensitive, loud mouthed, tattooed, caring, kind, intelligent bunch of women I have ever encountered.

I love you because you look good in black & red, teal & yellow, gold & green, and blue & red. Basically, you look good in everything.

You have made me look at my body in ways I never thought possible. I see muscle, grit, bruises, and scars instead of “problem areas”. I see my body for what it can do, not what it can do for someone else. I love my body, and I have you to thank for that. Thank you for taking that heavy burden of self hatred for never achieving unrealistic beauty standards off my back. I skate much lighter now. Thank you for pushing me to see my body as mine, as a temple, as something worthy to be respected. A thousand times thank you for this.

You have connected me with my best friends, my soul mates, my teammates, my sisters. I am never truly lonely because of the women you have bound me too.

You have made me realize that I am not who I am because of what I have failed at in my past. I am who I am because of what I succeed at now, what I work for, what I stand for. I am not a compilation of mistakes-I am a compilation of things I have learned.

My heart belongs to you because you have led me to learning how to validate myself and who I am, instead of waiting for a man to do it for me. You have freed me from the burden of societies expectations of single women.

I love you because of the fights we have had, the disagreements we have dragged out, the tears we have shed. I love you more for these things because they brought us closer, united us-made us see the truth in our own words. Each fight brought us together, instead of tearing us apart. For this, I love us and am so proud to call you mine.

Greensboro Roller Derby, there is never a dull moment with you. You like to make each bout a nail biter, each hit a stomach churner, each win a hard fought battle to the last second. The intensity and closeness of each of our bouts is a testament to you and all you have taught us.

My love for you, Greensboro Roller Derby, will stand the test of time. When I am old, and roller skating with a walker, I will always look back on our times together and smile with what teeth I have left.

You are my heart, and I will love you forever.


Your Biggest Fan, Miller Lightnin'  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hip Check Against the Machine

Nothing makes me prouder than playing my best. I love the feeling I get driving home from a bout, win or lose, when I know I just rocked it. When taking off my uniform, I survey my numerous bruises, smeared makeup, and the impressions of other skater's derby numbers marking my arms and get a big, grin on my face. I'm proud as hell I play roller derby, and I even prouder I do it well. What is the point of doing anything you love if you ain't gonna go all out? For me, derby is a sport...a non-traditional, stick-it-to-the-gender-roles sport. Everything else about it-the personal reward, social statement, community outreach-is icing on the cake. I love my sport with every ounce of my soul, but I am damn sure tired of justifying it.

Roller derby is perpetually being portrayed as a woman's form of therapy, or an extreme way for the fairer sex to take out their pent up aggression. Assumptions are made about derby names and outfits, and skaters themselves say they are a “different person” when they put on skates. Our roller derby names are viewed and described as alter egos and we jokingly refer to it being someone else when were on the track giving gut wrenching hits.

Roller derby is an all-female sport, run by us and for us. Not to mention, it is a sport, y'all, an incredibly challenging feat of athleticism. Why does derby have to be anything other than what it is? Why do we have to constantly justify our reasons for playing derby? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?!

Women are complicated. We are a broad spectrum of many parts, ranging from caring and gentle to die-hard killing machines. Our society has ranked us below men, not because there are fewer of us, but because we are seen as less than men. The women's rights movement is far from over, and frankly to me has really just begun. Every day, as women, we have to prove ourselves worthy. We are supposed to be like Kelly Rippa: working women with the ability to make an excellent home cooked meal, skinny, and always perfect looking. Go against the norm of the everywoman and you are forced to explain yourself.

Roller derby is a symbol of all that is incredible about women. I am not just referring to the athletic ability of skaters, I am also talking about the organization of leagues: bout production, pr, uniform design, recruiting, training, etc. We literally do it all, which really just mirrors our work and family lives as well. We do EVERYTHING.

So, why do we call roller derby our therapy? Why is Miller Lightnin' suppose to be my alter ego, instead of an extension of who I am? Is skating the one thing keeping me off the clock tower? Frankly, it's insulting when asked to justify why I play a sport just because it isn't traditional and it involves contact. You need to know why I do something I love? Easy answer, bro: because I LOVE IT.

Roller derby is one of the many parts of me that makes me the awesome person I am. I am not who I am because of derby, but I am a better person for being a part of Greensboro Roller Derby (my league, in particular, rules really hard). Miller Lightnin' isn't my “alter ego,” it is a part of me I didn't know was there. I am Susan, Susie, Miller Lightnin, loyal friend, sister, granddaughter, feminist, student, teacher, believer, writer, child, adult, daughter, and teammate. I am woman, hear me roar.

So, sisters, remember. When asked why you play derby, don't immediately feel like you have to justify your reasons. In life, as a woman, you have two options: feed the patriarchal machine or challenge it. Feel free to choose the latter.

XOXO Miller Lightnin'  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Derby?

For those of you who play derby, I'm sure you have heard this question in some form once you've told someone this is your sport of choice.  Everyone who answers this question has their own reasons and their own paths that lead them to this glorious sport.  Surprisingly enough, however, many of them are very similar.  For anyone reading this who doesn't play derby or for those that are curious, I offer you my reasons.

Currently, I am in my second round of fresh meat.  I guess that makes me not-so-fresh?  Anyway, I'm not surprised, really.  If you had told me three years ago that I would be trying to make it onto a roller derby team, I would've laughed in your face.  You see, I was not a skater, not in the slightest.  I didn't grow up skating on the weekends, in fact, I avoided it.  Having skates on my feet was the most unnatural feeling ever.  I'll take my nice, flat shoes without wheels, thank you.  I would go to the occasional birthday party at a rink and once I went with my girl scout troupe.  On that trip I actually started to feel a little more comfortable on the skates, then one of the girls came around and teased me about being slow.  Way to show some girl power, friend.  So roller derby was out of the question.  Until about two years ago when I received a random invite to an interest meeting for another team.  For some unknown reason, the universe said I should go.  My daughter was born 4 months before and it seemed like it might be a fun way to get out of the house and exercise....on skates.  What am I, crazy?!  Anyway, I gave it a shot and actually started to enjoy skating.  Fast forward to this year in February, when I went to the interest meeting for the first "official" fresh meat class for Greensboro Roller Derby.  I wasn't a skilled skater but I was better than when I started.  Next thing I knew, I was doing things I never thought I could do.  Jumps, stepping, weaving, crossing over and so much more.  I was amazed and still to this day I'm amazed at how I grow and learn more about skating.  Now, I can't imagine my life without it.

The second part of the it's-crazy-to-think-I'd-play-roller-derby equation is it's an all girls sport.  Well, there are teams for men and even co-ed bouts but predominantly women play it.  You see, I was never a "have a lot of girlfriends" girl(See above story about fellow girl scout teasing me).  I never thought I would be, either.  I just figured I have my few close friends and that's cool.  Then I came into this group and met some of the nicest, diverse, crazy, funny, and supportive women(and men) ever.  It was then that I realized roller derby was magical.  How else could all these people be attracted to this one force?  It's like I grew an extended family and I love it!  These are women who want you to succeed, believe in you when you think you don't have anything left and whisky slap you at an after party(out of love, of course).  When a member of the team is injured they cook meals, bring movies, beer and a laugh.  They're a shoulder to cry on and a cheerleader when you make it over that hurdle you've been struggling with.  Simply put, a derby girl is awesomeness embodied.

For me, this is why I chose derby or maybe derby chose me.  I don't know for sure but I do know I'll never be the same because of it.

Derby <3,
The Worst Noel