Skating Toward Something Big

The rookie -- Venis Envy's -- skirt points straight at the ceiling; that's how fast and hard she's skating around the rink. With the way her skirt is decorated, it looks like flames are coming out of her ass -- and her mom, in the stands, can see. "I don't have a problem with authority," another rollergirl says. "I just have a problem with people telling me what to do."

The New York Times made fun of this reality show -- A&E's new "Rollergirls," with its second episode airing tonight at 10 -- because it's just girls doing roller derby, a ridiculous sport with made-up names and crack whore outfits, and then bonding by drinking or TP-ing the other team's houses.

Don't be a hater, NYT. There are so many male rites of passage: fishing, hunting, fighting, football, drinking to the point of stomach-pumping, joining the army, getting taken to a hooker -- all activities that are physical, frequently dangerous and introduced by an older male relative (or a whole pack of male peers).

Girls, on the other hand, get shopping -- and learning how to take other people's crap (under the guise of "being nice"). Roller derby is a rare opportunity for girls to show that they can give it as well.

For centuries, men -- the ones writing the things we were reading -- have gotten us believing that women are inherent pacifists. We've squashed our aggressions down into rape fantasies, where the only victim is us. In this secret arena (we don't even tell our best friends), we can prove ourselves able to survive torture. Then we try to prove it in the real world through our relationships with damaged men; we think we can cure them with how accommodating and loyal we can be. We absorb their rage and soothe them. Perhaps it's nature's way of preparing us, both for the pain of childbirth and the sacrifice that follows.

If I sound bitter, it's not about my vagina. It's because I want the world to look like "Rollergirls," not like the New York Times.

In Rollergirl-land, not all the girls are young or pretty. I'm not sure all of them are smart. (Maybe the show isn't that great; I can't tell.) But they all have balls. Maybe it's the weather -- the show is based in Texas. Here in New Hampshire, six months of cold weather keep me and my girl pack separated, each of us huddled in our homes with our children, slowly going insane.

I didn't realize how extreme it was until I got a San Diegan boyfriend and he about shriveled up and died here after just one month. He's in the Florida Keys right now -- producing somebody's album by night, snorkeling by day. I'm home because we couldn't take the kids out of school that long.

"Rollergirls" is my Florida Keys, my world that should have been, my every time I've been hurt and loved. It's the time I rode my bike into an opening car door when I was six and flew backwards onto my ass and didn't cry, and my father was proud.

I watch "Rollergirls" and I think of "Fight Club." ("How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?" asks Tyler Durden.) I think of Jim Dodge's "Stone Junction." Both are about rudderless people outside the normal course of things, looking for mentors, looking for a pack. Looking in all the wrong places.

I think about the Beats, about punk, about extreme sports. They're about looking for freedom, enlightenment. They're about hurting yourself. Measuring yourself by how far down you can go. Anti-heros -- the only heroes possible since World War II ended -- don't have any great things to do, but still long to be some great thing.

That's what happened when, on "Rollergirls"' first episode, Lux got a derby-burn up her thigh in the pattern of her fishnets. Or when Chola did tequila shots, burped, then got her inner lip tattooed. That's what Venis Envy experienced when she was beat down instead of excused for her "virginity" the first time she skated against the opposite team.

Why is blustery, self-destructive behavior while dressed outlandishly considered romantic in men but just ridiculous and irresponsible in women?

When women overdo it, we're treated like we let down everyone who relies on us, while male "heroes" (in sports, music, movies) do drugs or trannies and they're considered rascals. They end up losing their families and people think, "The industry doesn't make faithfulness easy. What did that woman think, marrying a star?" But when Courtney Love falls off the wagon (again), everybody -- including me -- thinks, "How could she do that when she has a daughter?"

Tyler Durden again: "Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?" For women, our mothers were our models for God -- and our mothers stayed. What does that tell us about ourselves? That we must stay. Abstain. Because our mothers loved us unselfishly, and still watch us now, we are taught to become them: watching and caring.

All those damaged man-boys we love -- their gods left, therefore so can (must) they. If God didn't even love you enough to stay, you can do whatever you want -- who cares?

Ever since I was a little girl, I've sought freedom and truth -- in books, in drugs, in religion, in arguments, in thinking really hard, in walking really far -- and I've been attracted to men seeking the same. I made babies with them, and they kept on seeking, while I moved to a town with good schools and low crime rates.

Good schools and low crime rates are not conducive to achieving enlightenment. I can't help but feel that being part of a rowdy, demanding, got-your-back team of girls who, once a month, enter a dangerous arena where your teammates become "blockers" against other girls trying to maim you, well, that's got to be one little inch closer to the real thing.

One last item: A man won a raffle date with Rollergirl Cha Cha, from the team Puta del Fuegos ("Fiery Whores") -- and she told him the date was with all of the putas: a gang-date! The man never showed up.

Not disappointed in the least, the group celebrated: "We still get the limo! This is even better!" And all the girls got together to help the sole single mom find child care for her three-year-old so she could go, too. And it was a guy who did the babysitting.


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