International Women’s Day – Be Bold for Change
International Women’s Day – Be Bold for Change by Lynda-Marie Taurasi
Do you allow your physical appearance to prevent you from becoming active or doing something you’ve always wanted to do?
Have you not gone to yoga class because you haven’t shaved your legs?
Do you feel the need to wear a full-face of make-up before you hit the gym?
Have you not started running because you felt you were too heavy?
Did you not swim laps because you hadn’t had a bikini wax or washed your hair?
Do men worry about shaving or grooming before engaging in physical activity?
How does this relate to Roller Derby? Well, allow me to explain.
It started when I was 13-years-old, and overnight developed D-cup breasts, ceasing all the physical activity I once enjoyed in my childhood: running, climbing, dancing, cycling, and even cheerleading. To delve into the emotional trauma that was being “overdeveloped” at such a young age would take another essay, but needless to say, physical activity was added to the myriad causes of my insecurity.
Now, as I enter the twilight of my 30s, or as I like to refer to it “My Zero F**ks” phase, I still find myself hung-up over stupid stuff like skipping yoga because my legs are hairy. I mean, like, ‘How am I supposed to look super cute in my lululemons when I’m sprouting a rainforest on my right leg?’
I’m kidding. My butt is too big for lululemons.
But nonetheless, there I was, the morning of my Auld Reekie Roller Girls Taster Day, second-guessing my attendance because I hadn’t shaved my legs. All of a sudden, the confident woman I’d become, the one who gave up a cushy university job in the states to fulfill her lifelong dream of living in Scotland, was reduced to the puffy-faced, 13-year-old, crying hysterically over going up a bra size, she thought she’d outgrown.
I had been in Scotland less than three months, and I was well into my first semester of graduate school. It was my year of “Yes”: doing the things I always wanted to do and saying yes to every opportunity that came my way—like the ARRG Taster Day event that scrolled down my Facebook feed.
Roller Derby was something that, for years, I wanted to try. I liked and respected the ethos behind the sport. I longed to be part of a team, learn a new sport, and be fitter. Plus, much like riding a bike, roller-skating taps into your youth, and I wanted to feel like a kid again. Yet for numerous reasons I never tried my hand; the primary reason being that I could not roller skate.
Unlike the roller derby league in the American town I moved from, ARRG offered a beginners training programme—no skate experience required. So instead of caving under my anxiety, I walked my hairy ankles to Meadowbank that cold, rainy day in November 2015 and entered a gym of women who, no doubt, pushed through their own clouds of insecurity to be there.
Not only did you not need to know how to skate, you didn’t even need to own or rent gear. ARRG veteran skaters had kindly lent their personal gear for those who had signed up for the taster day.
So there I was, sat in a circle, strapped in borrowed, derby gear, not knowing a single gal, and feeling all kinds of insecure when I began to really notice the other women. I wasn’t sizing them up. I wasn’t comparing myself to them. I just took them in.
I was sure I would be the oldest, but I was not.
I was sure I would be the heaviest, but I was not.
I was sure I would be the clumsiest, but I was not.
And I was sure I would be the hairiest, but I was not.
I smiled in relief when I saw lots of hairy legs before me. Some women wore make-up. Some did not. Some had worn cute workout gear; others had not. Most importantly, we didn’t feel pressure to look a certain way to be active. None allowed insecurity to prevent them from attending. All of us wore the same brash look of determined uncertainty: we didn’t really have a clue what we were doing, but we were going to do it any way. We didn’t care how we looked doing it.
It was so much fun, and even though I fell on my butt, I came away feeling accomplished and excited to try again. I actually relished in not being good at it because I didn’t have to be good at skating, at least not right now. I could enjoy the process without the pressure of striving to be the best. I could be part of ARRG and be crap at skating—because frankly, I was and am absolutely crap at skating. And that’s okay, I was told. “Lots of us were”, some said—even those who now skate for Scotland. In our competitive adult world, especially one where women are forced to compete with and best each other, it’s nice to be crap at something and know your sister lending a hand is doing so with no ulterior motive.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to strap on skates for another year. Life had gotten in the way. By the time the following skate skills session opened, I was in my second semester of graduate school and unable to find the time. Then when the summer skate training rolled around, I was well into my dissertation writing. Then, a whole year later from my initial Taster Day, another skate skills intake announcement landed in my inbox. This time, I was a recent graduate, hitting the job market, and unable to front the £180 for the needed derby gear. I began to wonder if that November day was just a one-off. But nope, it wasn’t.
Thanks to Awards for All Scotland and the Big Lottery Fund, ARRG received funding to purchase loaner kits for new skaters unable to initially invest in the equipment. It gives women the opportunity to try something bold like Roller Derby and gain the confidence in having done so without the financial burden.
For me, it meant not having to sit out another skills skate intake, and finally joining ARRG, in whatever capacity that winds up being. For now, it simply means having fun, not allowing my looks determine my physical activity, and being surrounded by supportive women who are there for the same reasons.
Inspired by Lynda-Marie’s story? Be bold! Come along to our next Taster Day on the 9th April and start your own roller derby journey.