Look around the rink at any roller derby practice and you’re bound to see women of various ages, usually mid-twenties through mid-forties, and it will be safe to assume that the majority have experienced a coming-of-age event in her life, whether as part of a cultural, religious or familial celebration, or a more casual social event. Ask enough questions at the right time during an after party and you’ll hear details of bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras, confirmations or sweet-sixteens. Dig deeper, or buy a round of shots, and you might hear about other rights of passage that might not include members of the immediate family, guest lists, or places of worship, but may have necessitated covert activity, recovery time and/or bail.
What these momentous events usually have in common is that they generally take place before the age of reason (I’d like to think that’s approximately twenty-six), and that they change the participant into wiser women, when all is said and done and the dust eventually clears. Look around the rink again. Out of the forty or so women skating, there are twenty or so who are facing yet another coming-of-age event in her life, at a later age than any of them ever expected: her first roller derby bout. In front of people. Real live people. Strangers, friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. And she’ll be wearing less clothing than she might wear to bed.