I was dressed, in my car, and stopped at a red light, halfway to practice. Two of my friends had come over to my place before I left to hang out with my boyfriend (and me–they’d tried to convince me to skip practice). The plan was to sit by the pool and drink. I was reviewing a conversation I’d had the day before:

“How’s stuff with roller derby going?”

“Fine. I still don’t really have any friends.”


“Well, the girls are really into each other and a little bit clicheish. It’s like what Town&Gown must look like to outsiders, except we’re more open to new, cool people coming in. That’s assuming I’m ‘cool,’ though. I could be the Eric Davis of roller derby and have no idea.”

There was an unexpected, awkward pause, then someone mumbled, “woah.”

My friends were quick to assure me that things couldn’t be that bad.

There I was, stopped at a red light, thinking about this conversation, when Born this Way came on the radio. It occurred to me that I could die the next day, not because I was doing anything particularly dangerous. The art of living is known to be hazardous. Were I to die, I would have spent my last night alive doing the exact thing I didn’t want to do when I had woken up that morning.

I turned my car around.

My parents raised me not to be a quitter. It’s gotten me through a lot of tough times. The problem is, in my later  years, I’ve stuck with certain activities (that are supposed to be fun) long after they’ve made me miserable. No outside person would have thought of quitting competitive swimming after 10 years as being a quitter, but I did. It wasn’t until I was so miserable that hated the one sport I had loved more than anything that I actually switched to cross-country.

On this team, until you’re deemed ready to hit other girls or be hit by other girls in roller derby, you wear a blue shirt. You remember being picked last in PE? Well wearing a blue shirt at roller derby practice is like being in a permanent state of picked last in PE. Not only are not allowed to participate in half of the practice, but no other girl wants to work with you on the drills you can do. And why should they? You’re really just wasting their time.

I also skipped a practice after I failed check-offs. The day I went back was the closest thing to a walk of shame I’ve ever had. Every girl on the team said hi to me, and most of them told me (for the first time) they were glad to see me. They had thought I’d quit. The one worse thing than failing a test in front of the entire team is everybody actively pretending like you didn’t. But their intentions were good.

A teammate that I’d spoken to once before came up to me that day, as I was getting ready:

“Um, ____ was just telling me that you’ve missed a lot of practices. Come and see me after practice to talk about what we can do about this.”


“Are you mad at me?”


“Would you tell me if you were?”

I take a moment to consider the question. She leans in closer to me.

“You wouldn’t, would you?” She shakes her head at me in a pitying manner, and stares at me. Eventually she goes away.