I was a very active child. Do not make the mistake of thinking that means athletic. Organized sports never made sense to me. What I did enjoy was climbing trees, riding my bike, and exploring the woods of my neighborhood.
As I got into middle school, I still enjoyed getting outside and doing things, but something had changed. I noticed my girl friends started doing less and less. They were more interested in sitting around between classes, talking about boys and celebrities, hair and makeup. That just seemed boring. So I made friends with some of the guys in middle school who played kick-the-can and flag football during breaks at school.
It was great! I had new friends. I was being active. And most importantly, I wasn’t bored. Well, I had all that until one particular teacher ended it: Mrs. Garver. (I still remember her name. I even remember how her breath always smelled of stale cigarettes and how she kept an endless supply of Tic Tacs in her pocket in a vain attempt to cover up the smell.) She told me that I had to stop playing with the boys. She told me that I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and that I needed to grow up and interact with girls my own age. Playing kick-the-can wasn’t very ladylike.
I was always a good girl. To borrow from Against Me!, even at my worst, I’m still better than most. Mrs. Garver was an authority figure, and I was expected to listen to her. If the version of me now had been the version of me then, I would have told her where I thought she and her opinion could go. But no. I was a good girl, so listened.
More than 10 years later, I stumbled into roller derby and found what that 13-year-old girl could have become. She could have been happy and healthy and confident as she grew from a little girl into a woman.
It took me a long time to build the confidence I was missing for most of my formative years, and joining roller derby played a big part in that. I still have manners. I understand what is and isn’t an acceptable form of behavior. But don’t ever confuse that with being ladylike. I speak my mind. I don’t back down when I feel I’m right. And I’ve never been happier.
I’m not a lady. I’m a woman, and a pretty kickass one at that.