Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Mouthguard Years

There's this unfortunate photo on Facebook.  It was taken in a hotel hallway, sometime between the after party and the after after party.  The five of us in the photo, 1200 kilometers from home, are looking decidedly less than fresh.  There are bottles of booze.  There are slack jaws.  There are half-closed eyes.  There is smeary Sharpie.  There are glow necklaces and jersey's splattered with neon paint.  There is a hiding person.  There is a make-shift kung fu headband.

I love this picture.  But, no, I'm going to show it to you.   

I read someone's comment the other day on Facebook (I think it was Noah Backtalk, forgive me if I'm wrong) about going back through people's photos and being able to tell exactly when they joined derby because it will be all random photos of people they used to know.  Then it's just derby, derby, derby. 

Roller derby, as often remarked, has a tendency to hijack your entire life.  It also happens to get you photographed often. 

Derby photos on Facebook tend to fall in one of three categories.  There is the first type, the very desirable action shot by the professional derby photographer.  Love these.  As Rettig to Rumble pointed out in her article on Derbylife, you should buy a derby photographer a drink if you ever get the chance because they capture something amazing in us that will never be able to see for ourselves firsthand.

The second type is the fuzzy arena shots taken by the rest of us who can't figure out how to get a good photo in low lighting.  I have hundreds of these photos and wishing the pictures would turn out right hasn't made it so.  Still, I keep taking them and maybe one day, over a drink, a really good derby photographer might give me a few pointers.

The third type of derby photo is the after party picture.  Many of these are untagged as fast as possible.  Those that remain speak volumes of sheer amount of class derby athletes possess off the track.  Sometimes you can see much more of the athlete than you would of wished.

When pictures of me skating first showed up on Facebook I was appalled.  I am the type to hate photos of myself, especially ones where I am out of my element.  Roller skating is definitely out of my comfort zone.  At least, about a year ago and a half ago, it was.  Fresh meat photos are the worst.  Awkward stance, look of confusion and fear.  They're just painful to look at.

Since those first uncomfortable images, however, I've grown to appreciate my growing collection of tagged photos that I will probably one day come to refer to as, 'The Mouthguard Years'.  They demonstrate for me how far I've come from those first blundering strides to now.  I am still far, far away from the rollergirl I want to be, but yet, I can see, I have gotten better.  Every practice, every scrimmage, every game captured on a memory card and uploaded into Facebook illuminates the skills gained, the stance polished, the hits made and jammers pushed out.

I can see I've gotten better because my face is no longer forward but looking back over my shoulder, targeting the jammer (or searching for kidnapped Jesus). 

I can see I've gotten better because I no longer look like a giraffe reaching for a leaf on a tree but rather a giraffe squatting to dump last night's leaf binge.

I can see I've gotten better because I've stopped smiling nervously and have gotten my game face on, flared nostrils and all.

I can see myself in post game group photos, where two rival teams come together for one big sweaty group hug.  With whoo-hoos and secret devil signs.

In my photos there is the story of a derby girl in the making.  And also, as images of certain faces and booties make frequent cameos, another story about making walls, falling down, and friendship.  It reminds me of how fucking impossible it is to succeed at anything all on your own.

So thank you to everyone and anyone who has taken the time to not only take my picture, but to upload it and tag it for me to see.  It has been both a learning opportunity and a horror show. 

Photo by Papa Razzo, who has captured both the good and bad of me.  Thanks man.


  1. Thank you for this. Than you for reminding me how awesome these photos are. Our league is fortunate enough to have our very own paparazzi (ie the husband of one of our ladies is a photog.) who takes great action shots. We have lots of these fun pics too. I have changes not only to my stance in the photos over the past six months, but also my physical appearance. I haven't lost an ounce, but I've lost five inches around my waist. Hips and thighs are tighter and more muscular.

  2. Just wanted to know I've been enjoying your blog. I found it through your Indietutes blog--you are very talented! Thanks for interesting, entertaining reading. I'm afraid all I've known about roller derby has been from "Whip It."