“So, what do you do?”

“So, what do you do?”

I used to dread this question. I’d mumble something like, “I kind of write sometimes and I’m a semi-retired model, what do you do?” Deflecting attention off myself was a constant mission. I never wanted to talk about my life because it never seemed as interesting as what everyone else was doing. Living in Los Angeles has a tendency to make you feel worthless if you’re not constantly working on at least three super exciting projects. Also, my social anxiety didn’t help either.

If I were to respond to that question with how I really wanted, I’d say, “Me? Well today I woke up before 9am, was tempted to eat ice cream for breakfast but didn’t, went to yoga for the first time in months, did some work before I got sidetracked reading Neve Campbell’s Wikipedia page for an hour, responded to a text from five days ago, and didn’t die, so I guess that’s what I do: try not to die everyday. What do you do?”

I’ve always wanted something to be proud of– a job or activity I could talk to strangers about without throwing in a self-deprecating joke to acknowledge that I think my life isn’t that fascinating. Modeling seems like it would yield cool stories, I guess, but no one wants to hear about the mundane life of waiting in a hallway for hours to try on a dress made of ostrich feathers, or that time I started my period while doing a swimsuit shoot and tried to wash the blood out of the crotch without anyone seeing.

It wasn’t until I joined an all-women basketball team called the Pistol Shrimps that I finally felt confident enough to talk about myself.

***

My childhood was a combination of being shy and playing sports. I tried softball at 7 and ended up playing for ten years, I also played basketball, volleyball, and auto-crossed my car when I was eighteen. Playing on a team was one of the main ways I learned how to be social and form connections. I was never good at making lots of friends. I always had one close best friend. I felt content having only one important person in my life. It was really hard for me to open up to anyone, so once I became close to someone, there was no reason to find more friends. Hanging out with large groups of people always made me nervous, but I never felt awkward or uncomfortable playing sports. Not being the center of attention helped a lot.

However, like the rebellious angst-filled lip-pierced teenager I became, I gave up on sports for music, drugs, and raves. I liked being part of an odd secret underground culture. Dancing in a crowded Detroit warehouse at 4am made me sweat just as much as I did on the basketball court, so technically raving was a sport. Since then, I hadn’t played organized sports in over a decade, but always really wanted to.

After a comedy show one night in 2014, I overheard two girls talking about starting a basketball team. I had met one of the girls briefly, but jumped right into the conversation and asked, “Basketball? I used to play. Need more players? They said, “We do!” and immediately added me to their email chain. I assumed it would be like an every-other-weekend thing where we scrimmaged for an hour and got tans, but this was an actual team, with actual coaches.

I showed up to practice and didn’t know anyone. All I knew was that these girls looked very cool and intimidating. There were comedians, actors, writers, artists, an agent, a lawyer, and a Starbucks manager. The coach was a DJ, and he invited his friend, a radio show host, to coach with him. Feeling comfortable around strangers was already a challenge to me, but being around super cool women was extremely daunting. Would they like me? Would they think I was too quiet and weird? Well, no. They didn’t. No one gave a shit. I felt zero pressure to impress anyone, and it felt like we had all known each other for years.

This doesn’t happen. Not in your thirties. Who makes new friends in their thirties? Apparently I do, I guess?

Another surprising thing is that most of these girls had never played basketball, and a few had never touched a basketball. We spent the first months learning basic rules. I was so impressed by the drive that these women had to learn a new sport. The team captain’s reasoning for wanting to start a basketball team is as good a reason as any: to exercise without it feeling like real exercise, socialize with cool women, and maybe get milkshakes after.

When we went to sign up for the LA City Municipal Rec League, we were the only female team. In fact, the women’s league didn’t exist. Well fuck. The organizer said we needed 5 more teams to make a division. So we reached out to tons of girls via Facebook and the response was overwhelming. We ended up forming enough teams to create our division. It’s kept growing since then, and we now have 26 teams. I guess a lot of women really wanted to play.

It’s wonderful to see how our team has grown. Girls who could barely dribble are now making lay-ups and running plays. Seeing someone ask for the ball when they were too scared to do it during the first season is so gratifying. It’s nice to have a responsibility to show up to games and not want to let each other down. I now have over a dozen new friendships with women that I likely wouldn’t have met it if wasn’t for this team.

I’ve always felt a little out of place, and sought out unusual and intriguing things to be a part of. In high school I didn’t fit in with the girls who loved makeup and shopping, I preferred to stay home and download music via Napster instead. I listened to techno music, skipped class all the time, and went to either Chicago or Detroit every weekend to seek out people I could relate to, and where my weirdness was appreciated (although that could’ve been the drugs everyone was doing, but still…). I was nervous that I’d be the only one on the Pistol Shrimps who didn’t have gaggles of female friends and had social anxiety that made me seem awkward or uncomfortable. To my surprise, it ended up being the opposite. A few of the girls expressed the same worries I had– they hadn’t formed strong bonds with many women either, and looked at our team as a huge step in being part of a solid female community. Knowing I wasn’t alone in my self-doubt was comforting.

You could say our team is a group of misfits who found each other, but to me, none of these ladies are misfits, they’re perfectly amazing friends and inspirations.

Now when people ask me what I do, I always start with, “I play basketball.”

 

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