A while ago a woman told me that she thought roller derby was bad for women. “Men knock each other down. Women are supposed to support each other.”


Well, I don’t do derby. But I’ve met a lot of derby girls over the last few months, and most of them–like most people–are supportive of one another.

I skate speed.

Refreshing things about quad speed skating–Daintiness and fragility need not show up. Competition is about winning a race, not about getting a man’s attention. Excessive politeness is a waste of time. Don’t say “sorry.” Even tonight I practice I said sorry to a woman when I had trouble slowing down in the line and had to put my hand on her back. She laughed. “No sorry,” she said.

I said sorry again.

And we both laughed. “Stop that!” she said.

Saying sorry in life is a wonderful thing in the right situation, but women say this far too often and for things they aren’t responsible for.

The hardest thing for me is the fastest-to-fast line. You get in order of your speed–just like it sounds. Fastest skater in front and so on. This requires you have a good grasp on your ability and that you don’t feel bad if you get better than your friend and move up. You don’t let someone in the line in front of you to make them feel good about themselves. And you can’t fake modesty or doubt and put yourself too far back. Really? Me? I’m going to put myself in place where I’m basically saying, “I’m faster than you.”

And if you’re wrong, it will quickly become clear.

And D– will yell at you.

The other day the line was beginning and D– looked at me. “Are you sure that’s where you should be?” she asked.

“Um, I don’t know,” I said. In truth, I thought I’d gotten a tiny bit faster than the woman ahead of me, but I wasn’t comfortable asserting myself.

The next practice I moved up a place in the line, and no one questioned me.

I have a similar problem in writing. It is still hard to say, “I’m a writer.” That sounds so ridiculous. And then to say, “Read my work” seems crazy. Rude. Egomaniacal.

Part of me must think a bit of that though or I wouldn’t be writing and talking about it in the first place.

Also, I think it is okay for women to take part in a sport where we knock each other down. It isn’t the end of civilized society.


8 responses to “Fastest-to-Fast

  1. Omigosh, you and I must be soul sisters. I’m constantly apologizing for stupid things. Like when somebody bumps into me, I say I’m sorry, like I was in the way, and it was my fault. Stupid. And a lot of writers I know are introverts who wouldn’t dream of asserting themselves or selling their work. Saying “I’m a writer” does sound ridiculous, especially when people look at you like they should know you. “Oh, can I buy your book at a bookstore?” Probably not, since I’m self-published, but I never want to go there. So I tell them my writing is a hobby, even though it isn’t. Great post!

  2. For what it’s worth, the compulsion to apologize may be classically a women’s issue… but I know a lot of insecure guys, too. (Yours Truly included!) The I’m sorry is often meant as a courtesy, but I’m also aware how cringing it sounds, if repeated numerous times in a short period. Also, it comes to say more about the sinner, and less about the real or imagined transgression — it very subtly draws admiring attention to whoever is apologizing, even when that’s not the intention.

    On the other hand, people who go through life without apologizing — blah. I can’t imagine that such people have many friends or are very happy.

    One reason I hope to go the traditional publishing route is pretty much as you hint above: I think of myself as “someone who writes,” but would be embarrassed — yes, apologetic — to claim writer-hood. With someone else representing my work to editors, and then to readers, I can continue to skulk along without making too many outrageous (to me) claims about the practice, or the results, of writing. Heh.

    • As much as I read about self-publishing these days and read many great accounts of such a efforts, I can’t convince myself that my work would have any validity (to me, never mind others) without a traditional publishing house. Maybe that will change, but that’s how it is today.

      And yes, I agree that people who never apologize are not wonderful people to be around. That famous happy medium required now.

  3. This is fantastic, Marta. I admire you so much for doing new things and putting yourself out there like that. This skating thing will undoubtedly make you more assertive and self-assure in other areas of your life, and it might even help clarify the division of your time that’s been troubling you lately.

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