I recently had a conversation about insecurity. It boiled down to this: I am the type of person who feels reasonably secure in who she is. I know what I like. I know what I am good at. I know my weaknesses. I am 30 years old and don’t have any kids. I don’t do things I don’t want to do. Where I struggle is with other people. I have a very difficult time feeling secure in those relationships. It’s easier for me when other people pursue me. I never really think that people like me, so I hesitate to extend invitations. Also, I make a lot of jokes so people will think I am funny.
Charlotte, in this book, is kind of the opposite. Her husband moved out after five months only to move back in a month later. While Charlotte is dealing with the emotional whiplash, she decides that she needs some time and finds her own place. She also finds herself incapable of making any kinds of decisions. Except decisions about things like, “Should I buy a new TV?” The answer to that is, yes, buy one that leaves no doubt that it is her own shiny new TV. Fill the pantry, fill the bathroom, fill the living room. Charlotte buys the things that allow her to make a new place for herself, but it is clear as the book moves on that she has no idea who she is. With or without the relationship. And it doesn’t matter if (unlike me) she was secure in her relationships before, because her friendships were defined by her being with another person, and that’s not happening anymore, either.
Enter Francesca, who introduces Charlotte to roller derby. Over the past few years, I have read Pamela Ribon’s own roller derby journey. It has clearly been very meaningful to her in her life, and she writes about it with such enthusiasm that I can’t help but be excited with her. Even though I would never want to do it myself. Come on, I know that none of you can see me in roller derby gear, either. I probably wouldn’t have gone to see Whip It, which, I repeat, I loved, without the roller derby knowledge that I obtained from her blog. So when I heard that this book would be, in part, about roller derby, I was intrigued. I don’t actually want to go to see roller derby. But I can handle reading about it. As Charlotte works out who she is and what is important to her in therapy and in roller derby, she continues to avoid the question of what, exactly, she is going to do about her broken marriage.
I have read all three of Pamela Ribon’s books, but this was, far and away, my favorite. I can’t necessarily relate to Charlotte. I have never been divorced, I don’t want to try roller derby, and I feel grounded in who I am a little bit more than she does. But I know what it feels like to let other people define you. I like what Charlotte learns, through roller derby, about what it means to be on a team together. I think there is a point in marriage where you realize what it means to be on the same team. I remember that it was as if a switch went on in my brain, that I had finally learned how to trust Mike enough to feel safe that he would make decisions with us in mind and that I could do the same. And when it comes to insecurity, there’s nothing that lets you believe in who you are and what you are good at like knowing that someone is in your corner. Though she takes some of them for granted, Charlotte has people in her corner, and roller derby helps her corner become a whole room. And that is why I enjoyed this book so much.