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Making Friends on the Playground

January 4, 2011

Some people think of roller derby girls as tough-as-nails, careful-or-they-might-eat-your-baby kind of girls.  You have to be kind of a badass to push other women around in your underwear.  I didn’t really know what to think when I started taking an interest in this sport.  I’m kind of an introvert and don’t spend much time on the town or being the life of the party.  I mean, I like people and I like being social, but it takes some pushing out of my comfort zone not to come home and curl up with my pets every night.  Over the past few years, I’ve spent more time doing family stuff and exercise stuff than friend stuff.

As a result, I was really intimidated by roller derby girls.  They’re strong, beautiful, and confident.  Confidence seems to be a necessity to skate well.  My husband assured me that roller derby is just about the punkest thing a girl can do, and punk/rockabilly girls tend to be some of the nicest and dorkiest girls out there.  He told me I’d fit right in.  I had to take his word for it because it’s all new to me.

Fortunately, it’s hard to focus on how awkward my social skills feel to me when my skates feel that much more awkward.  I’ve spent the last eight weeks so determined to skate that I almost forgot how self-conscious I feel.  And in that process, I’ve made friends with girls who may be just as awkward and self-conscious as I am, but we’re all too busy skating to care.

Sometimes I do care though, usually at the skating rink.  When I get there, I always do a quick assessment of who else is there.  Mostly families, kids, teenagers, but there are always a few roller derby girls.  I try to focus on what I’m doing instead of focusing on what a newbie I feel like.  It was worse at first, when I was showing up to the rink wearing my gear like a real roller girl, but skating like a novice. Several people asked if I played with a team, and I was always quick to answer that no, I’m just learning.  I made a comment that I felt silly wearing all my gear when I wasn’t much of a skater yet, and a derby girl pointed out that since we’re trained to fall on our knees, it can be a big mistake to go without our pads.  I felt better knowing that I had some real justification to dress the part.

On Sunday, I went to the rink by myself.  I was feeling grumpy about the rain, grumpy about assessments being postponed, and above all, grumpy about my skills.  There were other derby girls there and, as usual, I felt self-conscious.  Then one of them introduced herself to me.  She has been training with another team and recently passed her assessments.  She offered to practice skills with me and give me tips on the skills that have been pissing me off the most.  I don’t know if she realized it, but talking with her and skating with her was incredibly helpful for me to be able to shift my focus off of how much I suck and instead pay attention to how much I have in common with other girls who choose to put themselves through this grueling physical and emotional meat grinder.

I left feeling much better.  Not only did I get to sweat out some of my frustration, but I also was reminded that being a better skater is not my only reason for doing this.  I have met some amazing women in boot camp and am often surprised by how much we have in common.  Yes, I would like to join the team, but I’m also doing this to feel more confident, have a social life, and find some camaraderie among other girls.

I’ve often wondered how grown ups meet new friends outside of work.  We used to go to the playground, see another girl on the swing set, and instantly know we have something in common.  We both like swings!  Oh, you like to build things in the sand too?  We should be friends!  Now the track is my playground and I have at least one thing in common with every girl on it–skating!

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2011 7:44 pm

    Making new friends and getting out of my shell was one of the reasons I finally manned up and decided to learn to play derby. I’m still pretty awkward (I never think people want to be my friend, especially ‘cool’ people) but it is great knowing that if all else fails, I can talk to these ladies about skating.

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