When Damali Ayo was 12, her parents sent her to day camp with 20 white kids. The kids were fascinated by the way Ayo’s hair maintained its texture in the pool. Even after she deliberately dunked her head in the water, they were convinced that black hair doesn’t get wet.
This experience stuck with her as she launched her art career in the predominantly white city of Portland, Oregon. Ayo often felt she was the token black person relied upon for opinions and advice precisely because of her skin color.
Talk about old school. In skating rinks around the nation, saucy dames are getting together and strapping on old-fashioned quad roller skates to jam, block, and pummel each other. The roller derby revival is on. More than two dozen leagues operate across the country, with an average of 30 to 40 active skaters each (some leagues even boast as many as 60), and many more are in the works.
See that blonde weaving through the strip on Rollerblades?” writes Details magazine in a March 2005 article. “Please puff up her denim miniskirt just enough for us to drink in the full length of her long, bronze legs.”
No, this isn’t a fluff piece on the latest centerfold hottie. It’s Details’ self-proclaimed “extraordinary” article on professional golfer Mianne Bagger, whose biggest challenge this year was winning the right to step onto the green with other women. In her quest to find acceptance in professional competition, Bagger has overcome the resistance of both golf’s governing agencies and other female pros who worried that Bagger would have an inherent physiological advantage. That’s because, although Bagger has played golf since she was 8 years old, she only turned pro in 2003—10 years after what she calls “a transsexual past.”
It didn’t matter that the outcome was predictable, that Beth Hogan would invariably be crowned Miss America. We competed fiercely, as if we expected to win. A year earlier, when we were in fifth grade, we held séances, but now we staged beauty pageants as if our lives depended on it, as many as four or five a night.
I’m not an athlete. I’ve always disliked team sports, with their conformist, vaguely fascist associations. While as a child I longed to be a tree-climbing tomboy, I had to admit a preference for tea parties, dress-up, and long afternoons at the library.
Then one summer night, three years ago, I played my first game of bike polo. It’s an elegant game: With mallets in their right hand, players ride their bikes up and down the field trying to whack a grapefruit-size ball between two orange cones. It was instant love.
The Sims is a game that consists of little more than creating characters and pushing them through the day, making sure they eat, sleep, stay clean, make friends, advance in a career, and buy stuff. The bodily functions are tedious and the rest is everything I hate about life in a capitalist society. So how to explain why I own all seven expansion packs for the first game, as well as Sims2 and its expansion pack, University?
Each semester in my American popular culture class, my students and I spend a night playing board games. I start them off with games for small children, like memory cards or Strawberry Shortcake adventure games. They play self-consciously, giggling at the losers who can’t master a game for preschoolers, but loosen up enough to start looking beyond the activity for the deeper meanings.
The year my oldest daughter turned 4, her little sister was born, and that spring, in desperation, I let her play more or less unsupervised in the neighbors’ yard. When I came up for air from the endless diaper changes and nursing sessions, I’d catch a glimpse of her through the family-room window. Sweaty, dirty, and wild-eyed, she ran behind the neighbors’ pack of crazy, good-natured, and mostly unsupervised boys.
Kate Clinton has been called the lesbian Jon Stewart. Her fans, however, prefer to think of Stewart as the straight Kate Clinton. Her career as a political humorist spans several White House administrations, but the current regime has offered her, like most liberal comedians, endless material for both her onstage comic monologues and her monthly columns for the Progressive and the Advocate.