Saturday, September 9, 2006


Stacey Greenberg

I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. And surprisingly my two and four-year-old aren’t to blame.

I’ve been lying in bed thinking of taglines for the Memphis Roller Derby logo, rink names for some of my new skater friends, and drills to try out at our next practice. Sometimes I just lie there and imagine myself jamming through a row of blockers while the announcer screams, “Smashimi scores again!”

A few short months ago, I didn’t even know what roller derby was. My husband called me from his dig in Missouri and said, “Hey check out ‘Rollergirls’ on A&E.” “Rollergirls” is a reality show that follows the Texas Lonestar Rollergirls throughout their bouting season. The Lonestar Rollergirls play the game in short skirts and striped socks, focusing more on athleticism than staged drama. (Although there is a lot of drama in the show.) Warren and his fellow archaeologists had been watching it in their motel room and he (rightly) thought I might like it.

I basically grew up at the roller rink. I had no idea that grown women could skate AND make it look cool. After watching one episode, I called Warren back and said,

“We have to move to Austin immediately!”

“Uh, okay,” he said, unsurely. He had been trying (in vain) to get me out of Memphis for years. “Why don’t we just take the kids skating this weekend?” Warren very pragmatically suggested.

Skating is a lot like riding a bike. Once I laced up my Skateland rentals (something my inner hood was mortified by), I was speeding around the rink just like I did in the eighties (but for much shorter periods of time with much more perspiration). My four-year-old cheered as I whizzed past him. He was impressed with my skating abilities and was determined to keep up with me. My two-year-old wasn’t so interested, but agreed to wear skates as long as he could hang out by the video games and concession stand. Warren and I raced each other and even spun ourselves around in circles until we felt like puking. I told everyone I knew how much fun we had skating, and before I knew it, we had pretty much populated the rink with friends and family.

I had an insatiable desire to skate as much as possible. I decided to get some outdoor skates and try skating on my own a few times a week to see if that would keep me satisfied. I started thinking like a teenage boy with a skateboard—I was eyeing parking lots and pathways all over town. (The Zoo parking lot and the Harbor Town riverwalk are my top picks.) Before the UPS man could deliver my skates, I found out that three other women in Memphis had gotten together and decided to start a roller derby! I was thrilled.

The first informational roller derby meeting was on a Sunday afternoon at the same time that I usually took the boys skating. Already I was conflicted. Sunday afternoons at Summer Skateland with my family had become the highlight of my week, and I didn’t want anything—not even the roller derby—to mess that up. I emailed the derby organizers and told them I was interested, but that I wouldn’t be able to attend meeting.

On the Sunday of the meeting, we went skating as usual. I was a little mad at myself for skipping the meeting. I knew that I was letting my shyness get the best of me, and that I was using my kids as an excuse to mask my fear of change. While I helped my four-year-old around the rink, Warren noticed two women come in to talk to Skateland’s owner. He skated over to me and said, “Hey look, I bet those women are with the derby.”

They weren’t in short skirts or striped tights, but they definitely looked the part.

“I bet you’re right,” I said, as I took a deep breath and skated over to them.

“Are you with the roller derby?” I asked the taller woman with dyed red streaks in her hair.

“Yeah, I’m Elle Tempered,” she said.

“I wanted to come to the meeting today, but I always bring my kids skating on Sundays,” I said.

“That’s cool,” she said. “I’m a mom, too. You can sign this sheet. Our first practice is in two weeks.”

A mom! I cheered in my head as I added my name to the long list of names—several of which were familiar to me. Suddenly, all of my earlier hesitation was gone and I knew that I was meant to be a rollermama.

Since joining the derby in February, I’ve been amazed by all of the cool women I’ve met, a lot of whom are also mothers. We often joke about what things will be like once “we start beating each other up in November,” but as the weeks pass and I get to really know the other skaters through practices, committee & league meetings, and at social events, I know that competing in bouts will only make our friendships stronger.

When I became a mom, I met and became friends with a lot of other mothers by default at the playground or at school. I knew them as “Lucian’s mommy” or “A mama from Mothersville” before ever knowing their real names. In derby, I’m getting to know women by their rink names before ever discovering they have kids. Instead of talking about poop or sleep schedules, we discuss marketing strategies for the league, the best place to buy kneepads, or how to get affordable medical coverage. It’s a whole new world—one where I meet women with similar interests rather than just meeting women with kids of similar ages. Not only that, the derby allows me to involve my kids in my interests instead of vice versa.

Now each week, when we have practice, I have an evening all to myself. I get to exercise, hang out with cool women, and learn a fascinating new sport. On other days, I get to take my kids with me to derby meetings and special events. I feel strong and happy. And when mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

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