Monday, October 18, 2010

breaking up with derby

My gear is falling apart and it stinks. Duct tape is the only thing holding my wristguards together. After practice, when I peel the sweat-soaked pads from my knees and elbows, I know the smell is buried in the folds of my skin. I leave the locker room smelling like a locker room.

It's time to buy new gear, but I've been holding out because retirement looms. (Maybe). Why should I drop the cash on pads that I may only wear for another couple of months?

And why can't I say, definitively, that this is the end?

My team, Fight Crew, won our bout a couple of weekends ago. It felt pretty amazing following our previous 2010 games, which were both losses. We're still contenders for champs. And this girl had a good night-- highest scoring jammer of the evening. Not too shabby for a skater in her twilight years.

Photo by Tim the Enchanter.

I've been saying for a while that 2010 would be my last season. Then I backpedaled. Now I'm back to thinking it's time to hang up my skates. Age-wise, compared to other LADD skaters, I'm neither old nor young. But in derby years, I'm a fucking relic. I've been skating with the Dolls since 2004, and there are only a handful of skaters who've been around as long.

An infamous TXRD skater once said: "Roller derby. It was harder to quit than heroin." She'd gone in and out of retirement twice.

I still love skating games, but lately, practice has become a chore. I don't look forward to it and I rarely give 100%. I'm just not inspired. I want to be, but most of the time it feels like I'm going through the motions. There are so many amazing skaters in the league now, and rather than wanting to compete with them, I think, "let them have it." These days, I'm more excited about headstands and mastering different arm balances.

I'm lousy at breakups. For the last six years, roller derby has been the center of my life -- everything else has come second. When I finished grad school, rather than don a cap and gown and walk with my classmates, I chose to skate an outdoor flat track game at the North Hollywood YMCA in 100-degree weather (this is back when the Dolls were between venues). The announcers presented me with a phony diploma as my mother watched, fanning herself with a program. It was not the event she'd come to Los Angeles to see, but I skated a good game that afternoon, and she was proud.

Roller derby: I loved it and still love it. This sport changed me fundamentally. I still can't believe I lived 25 years convinced that I had zero athletic ability -- that I was physically weak. And thanks to derby, I've met some of the most amazing women that otherwise I never would've known. Physically and mentally, however, all signs point to letting go. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. On one hand, there's going to be a huge, gaping hole in my world when I leave the Doll Factory after my final game. On the other, I'm pretty excited about what I might find to fill it.

But don't hold me to it. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow.

7 comments:

Crystal Lee said...

There’s really nothing as thrilling as playing roller derby. I have never felt so free and wild as when I was skating a banked track. But retirement leaves room for relaxing, reading, and mini-trips. (I sound like an old broad). Also, it’s really fun to watch derby games, without the stress of skating in a game. All that said, I still miss skating so much sometimes. I would love to become more advanced in yoga though, so I will take classes with you! I do fear that we will become too competitive though.

Tabitha Esther said...

Just keep in mind how much more time you'll have to drink!

Kasey B. said...

I think that the hardest part about retiring from derby is getting over the feeling that you've just dropped off the part of your life that makes you exciting. What I found at the end of that misplaced anxiety are all the things I wanted to do with my life before derby took me on a gloriously worthwhile dog-leg. What that dog-leg did for me is remind me that I can do pretty much anything I want to, so I wasn't afraid to try anymore. I never would have written a book if it weren't for derby, but I never would have written one if I hadn't quit derby to re-prioritize my time. You'll be good with retirement, and you'll know when it's time. After 6 1/2 years, you're stuck with most of us regardless.

Adriana said...

and of course, you'll never be alone...

Pladdis said...

What!!!? After hearing your name on the radio, prompting me to look you up on the internet, leading me to my first roller derby ever (where I watched you and the Crew do your stuff), intriguing me to read your blog up and down, and thus being able to spot you and meet you in a crowd of 100,000 at the CicLAvia (all in the span of like two weeks?), you might put your skates away? Well, then, I'm happy to have caught you at the height of your glory and powers! It was fun watching you jam and win. I'm catching your next bout whether or not it's your last one. It looks like you have a large family of sisters-in-skates to keep you company in and out of the track, so no one's worried. Good Luck.

Evil E said...

When the fun is gone and your heart isn't completely in it, then it's time.

And remember you can always be my cat sitter you superstar!!

Judy Gloom said...

Thanks you guys -- I appreciate everyone's support. Except P-Tabs. I think I have the drinking covered.