A few months ago, I wrote a post about being an example, in good ways and bad, to my children, particularly my daughter and specifically about issues around appearance and femininity. She and my son often pepper me with questions like, “Why do you always have to put on make-up before we go anywhere?” Or, “Why do you have to be so fancy all the time?”
At first, I would give them some vague and, frankly, bullshit reply about how it’s okay to always want to look your best and that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. But, eventually, I decided to tell them the truth: that I am insecure about my looks and- well- that I’m often insecure in general. I explain that taking extra care with my clothes, hair, and make-up eases that insecurity just a little bit. I don’t go into detail about it all, but you know… it’s a thing- a thing they notice about their mom.
As a parent, and a woman, it concerns me that I am modeling behavior that seems to imply that what matters most is what is on the outside. I hate to admit that I am one of those women who, if surveyed, would say that she would trade 10 IQ points for a weight loss of 10 pounds. I would rather hear the words, “you look pretty” than “great job on that project”. I am not proud of any of this, but I am honest about it. And, having conceded to myself that this is true, I’m on a mission to change it.
And, I think I am making progress. I am pretty sure I’ve found the answer: a cure for my poor body image problems. I have discovered a solution to my issues with vanity and insecurity (which are really flip sides of the same coin, I think). After years of searching for the answer in a therapist’s office, or in the stacks of self-help books at the library, I’ve found the answer in an old school gymnasium that’s been converted into a roller skating rink.
You see, I’ve become a roller girl. A player of roller derby. A member of a team. And, after just a month, it’s changed me in ways that are pretty darn amazing.
I’ve had a hard time this week finding the words to start to describe this turn of events. There’s so much roller derby stuff to write about: how I’m taking time for myself; learning something new; playing a competitive team sport for the first time ever; overcoming fears (of falling, of failing, of being laughed at); working within a team; and just having FUN. It’s almost overwhelming to the point of paralyzing, writing-wise.
But, the thing I want to say most- and first- is that roller derby is changing the way that I see myself. It’s given me a confidence that I’ve always lacked. I mean, I’ve gone to a bar with my teammates in my sweaty practice clothes! Without fixing my make-up or flat-ironing my hair!!! Maybe it’s ridiculous for that to mean something, but it’s huge for me. I’m more concerned with my performance during practice than I am with what someone would think if he (always a he) could see me looking clumsy and grimy. I care about what I can do, not what I look like doing it!
I’m pretty sure my kids have already noticed the change. Genevieve came to practice with me last night and said, “Um… are you gonna do something about that hair?” To which I replied, “Who cares? I’m going to put my helmet on and have some fun!”
This morning she told me that she and my boyfriend had come up with her derby name: Genevievel Knievel. (She’s only 8, but she’s totally bada$$!) I hope this sudden interest in a derby name means that she is loving what she sees in me!
*My team, the Chemical Valley Roller Girls, are having a YARD SALE tomorrow to raise funds for our first home bout in September. The sale is from 8-2 at 1506 Lee Street on Saturday, July 16. PLEASE come out and see us and support your local roller girls! (Or, I’ll send Genevievel Knievel after you!)
** Also, it must be said that I haven’t changed so much that I don’t get excited about cute derby apparel. I totally do.
(This post was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog, although the word “bullshit” was originally “bullcrap”.)